VETERANS stood alongside school pupils to honour the mastermind of the daring glider raid which secured vital bridges for soldiers in the D-Day landings.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the allied assault on the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944, the Oxford branch of the Royal Green Jackets Association invited former soldiers and members of the local community to gather at Clifton Hampden church.

In the sunlit graveyard, for the sixth year running, a service was held at St Michael and All All Angels Church to remember Major John Howard, who devised the daring glider raid on Pegasus Bridge to assist soldiers in the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944.

Oxford Mail:

The wreath-laying ceremony for the inspirational leader first took place at the church near Abingdon in 2014, to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

READ AGAIN: Veterans gather to honour D-Day hero Major John Howard

Veterans from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the Royal Green Jackets gathered at St Michael and All Angels Church to remember the former Oxford city policeman who led 2nd Battalion D Company to secure the two vital bridges over the Caen Canal.

Oxford Mail:

Terry Roper, chairman of the Oxford branch of the RGJ association, said he was saddened that a number of D-Day veterans from the county died last year.

But he added he was delighted that more than 60 people gathered for the service, including representatives from the US Air Force at RAF Croughton, and children from the village primary school.

Oxford Mail:

Mr Roper added: “I’m very pleased that so many people have come - the Americans are here for the first time - we couldn’t have done D-Day without them.

“We will be back next year - we will carry on for as long as we can.”

READ AGAIN: Pegasus Bridge ceremony marks first key battle of D-Day 75 years on

Frank Hall, 96, from Stonesfield, near Witney, was the only D-Day veteran able to attend.

A private in the Ox & Bucks, he arrived on Sword Beach shortly after John Howard’s men secured the bridges.

He said: “I knew Major Howard very well - this brings back memories - it doesn’t seem like 75 years ago.”

The service was led by parish vicar Michael Lakey, with Ox & Bucks veteran Brian Cox, 84, from Wheatley, laying a wreath on Major Howard’s grave.

Oxford Mail:

He said: “I’m honoured to lay the wreath - my company commander was one of the platoon commanders at Pegasus Bridge and he would often tell us about it.”

Dave Scott, 57, from Milton Keynes, who served with the Royal Green Jackets territorial unit from 1980 to 1995, said: “I wanted to be here to pay my respects to Major Howard on the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Oxford Mail:

“In the 1980s I went once with Major Howard to Pegasus Bridge - he was very humble, almost embarrassed by his fame.

“Major Howard was a real father figure - years of training went into the assault on Pegasus Bridge - he was a brilliant leader.”

Another D-Day commemoration took place at Harwell Campus on Wednesday night, including a flypast.

Harwell played a major role in the preparations for the invasion of Normandy in 1944.