D-day 80 years on

Told through the eyes of Londoners

Photo Credit: Via Flickr https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flickr_-_DVIDSHUB_-_Reflection_on_D-Day.jpg

Photo Credit: Via Flickr https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flickr_-_DVIDSHUB_-_Reflection_on_D-Day.jpg


Thursday 6th June 2024 marks the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe by allied forces.

The operation, known as Op OVERLORD saw 150,000 allied soldiers cross the English Channel and was the largest invasion in human history.

Its success came at a cost, with over 4,000 men losing their lives on that day alone, with many more lost throughout the eleven months that followed.

"I am speaking to you today from the beaches of Normandy, standing in front of an army of heroes."
Sir Winston Churchill - June 19

This piece, aims to tell the story of that day through the eyes of four Londoners whilst assessing how the act of remembrance might alter once the few remaining veterans move to their final RV.

The account is based on extensive research of historical accounts, diary entries, post-war interviews and visits to the battlefields of Normandy.

It is important to note that these four stories are just a snapshot of the millions of stories that could be told of that day.

Whilst the focus of this piece is predominately on combat forces on the ground, it in no way seeks to diminish the role played by others in one of the most impressive feats of logistical planning in human history.

From the Royal Navy clearing the channel of mines, the Royal Air Force beating back the Luftwaffe to provide air cover, the young private soldier marshalling traffic to allow troops on the frontline to be resupplied quickly to the dock workers of East London who defied Hitler’s bombs to sustain the nation and prepare the ships for sailing, each part played was crucial in the success of 6th June.

Though some of their stories might not have been confined to record and their names long since forgotten, their legacy lives on through the freedom we enjoy to this day.

This is the story of D-Day through the eyes of Londoners.

Photo Credit: Via Wikimedia Commons License https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/

Photo Credit: Via Wikimedia Commons License https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/

Photo Credit. Via Imperial War Museum

Photo Credit. Via Imperial War Museum

2130 - The night before D-Day

Major General Richard 'Windy' Gale stood in front of his men of the 6th Airborne Division at Tarrant Rushton airfield knowing that many of the eyes staring back at him would never make it back home to England.

His men, all of whom had volunteered and met demanding physical standards had been given the unenviable task of being the first allied soldiers to land in Nazi-occupied France ahead of the main invasion in order to prepare the battlefield for those pencilled to storm the beaches.

Gale had been born in Wandsworth on 25th July 1896 and was a career solider who persevered in his ambition to join the Army, even after his initial attempts to sign up had been rejected due to poor academic grades.

With the outbreak of the First World War, he had finally been admitted into the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1915 and had he commissioned into the Royal Worcesters, where he saw combat with the Machine Gun Corps at the Somme and Ypres.

The inter-war years saw Gale continue to serve and in 1941, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier where he had been instrumental in raising and training the first parachute brigades in the British Army.

Following promotion to Major General in 1943, Gale took command of the newly formed 6th Airborne Division and had devoted much of the year since, to training and preparing his new Division for this very mission, although many of his men were spared the details until days before.

As Gale watched his men prepare to board aircrafts that would fly them over the English channel he was confident that the hard, physical training his men had endured and excelled in over the previous two years, would mean that if anybody could achieve the mammoth tasks he had given to his subordinate commanders, these boys could.


Major John Howard was the Commander of D Company, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment which had been incorporated into Windy Gale's 6th Airborne Division.

A tough, demanding leader his drive to ensure his company was the fittest and most capable fighting force in the 6th Airborne Division, had seen him given what his Commanding Officer described as “the spearhead of the invasion.”

Howard’s mission had been given to him in April, following a divisional exercise commanded by Gale, where Howard’s men had impressed with their ability to capture bridges quickly, efficiently and effectively.

Gale told Howard: “What you gain by stealth and guts, you must hold with skill and determination”, words which stayed with Howard as he prepared and deployed on Operation TONGA, the British component of Operation OVERLORD.

Howard's mission would see him lead D Company to capture and hold bridges over the Caen canal and river Orne that would be crucial in preventing the Germans from counter-attacking the beaches and in allowing allied forces to push further into mainland France.

Born in a two up two down in Camden in December 1912, Howard was not the stereotypical, public-schooled, well to do inhabitant of an Officers’ Mess.

Howard, had served in the Army prior to the war as a corporal but despite his supreme fitness, had been rejected when attempting to gain a commission, perhaps on the basis of class, and left the service in 1938 to become a policeman.

Reenlisting at the outbreak of war, Howard had risen quickly through the ranks before finally being commissioned. His convoluted route to becoming an officer gave him an ability to emphasise with those under his command in a way that other officers often struggled to.

Spurred on by what he saw as ridicule and disdain from his peers, Howard had been determined to “show those bastards” that he was a better officer and often would train and drill his men whilst other officers were away at shooting parties and golf weekends.

At 22:40 on 5th June, Howard gave instructions to his men assembled at RAF Tarrant Rushton in Dorset to synchronise their watches, whilst platoon sergeants such as the good-looking Londoner Peter Barwick inspected faces to ensure appropriate levels of camouflage had been applied.

One of those doing so was Private Wally Parr from Lewisham, a popular and well liked member of the unit.

After the war, Parr would affectionately describe Major Howard as a fanatic, intent on making his company the best in the entire division.

As the men boarded, Howard went round to bid farewell and to wish them luck, trying hard to disguise the lump that had formed in his throat.

As he arrived back at his glider, he can't have failed to notice "Lady Irene" and "Lewisham Special" written in bold letters on the outside, the handiwork of private Parr as he paid homage to his wife and borough.

Howard closed the door behind him and sat beside his friend Lt Den Brotheridge as the glider, at precisely 22:56, became airborne and headed for Nazi-occupied France.

0010 D-Day

As midnight struck on June 6th, 19 year old Trooper Fred Walker found himself anchored in the waters south of Southampton, having left Portsmouth at 17:00 on the previous day.

As they departed, the reception from the mass of ships preparing to travel to France in the days following the invasion had left many of his comrades in tears as the tooting of horns and the banging of metal on metal made the boys of 3 Commando Brigade feel as if they were running out of the tunnel at Wembley.

The send off emphasised to Fred the scale of the task that the brigade were embarking upon and had the desired impact of igniting the adrenaline of the young men.

Years later, Fred's friend, comrade and fellow Londoner Roy Cadman remarked: "If my Grandmother had come past me at that moment with a German tin hat on, I think I'd have killed her."

The vast armada of ships preparing for the invasion of Nazi-occupied France cannot have failed to make the teenage soldier apprehensive at what was to come, not that fear was a feeling he often gave into.

Fred grew up in Kings Cross and lived there throughout the Blitz and he remembered the words of his mother at the height of the Luftwaffe attacks as she refused to enter a bomb shelter insisting "Freddie, if I get it, I get it" and he no doubt sought to harness that attitude as he faced what was to come.

Earlier in the war, he had volunteered for Commando selection, despite the warnings of a Brigadier who taunted that he would not last long. "I'll take my chances" he told the officer; the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

A veteran of the Dieppe raid, Walker had experienced action before and knew that whatever resistance the allies faced as they invaded, it would be Commando forces, known for their expertise in amphibious assaults, who would be relied upon to meet it head on.

Gale's Missions

Photo Credit: Via Commons.wikimedia Pwagenblast

Photo Credit: Via Commons.wikimedia Pwagenblast

The neutralisation of Merville Battery.

The Battery had been identified by reconnaissance as being able to cause havoc to the troops coming ashore on Sword Beach.

The Garrision was made up of four concrete buildings containing suspected 105mm guns, surrounded by mines, barbed wire and trenches, with an estimated 180-200 German soldiers protecting it.

Photo Credit: Via Flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Photo Credit: Via Flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

The Seizure of vital bridges over the Caen Canal and River Orne

The seizure of these bridges in tact would be crucial to the allies’ ability to get off of the beaches and to push men and equipment deeper into occupied territory.

This task would fall to D Company of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment commanded by Major John Howard.

Unsure of the difference between a Company, Battalion, Brigade and Battalion? Find out more here

Photo Credit: Via Flickr by Donna Barber https://www.flickr.com/people/10316250@N02

Photo Credit: Via Flickr by Donna Barber https://www.flickr.com/people/10316250@N02

The destruction of bridges over the river Dives

With the allies conscious of the fact that the Germans would surge assets forward to engage the invading troops, the destruction of these bridges was crucial to ensuring they were severely limited in their ability to do so.

Photo Credit: Via Wikimedia Commons. https://renopenrose.getarchive.net/amp/de/media/d-day-british-forces-during-the-invasion-of-normandy-6-june-1944-b5065-94b6b5

Photo Credit: Via Wikimedia Commons. https://renopenrose.getarchive.net/amp/de/media/d-day-british-forces-during-the-invasion-of-normandy-6-june-1944-b5065-94b6b5

Secure the left flank

With the allies conscious of the fact that the Germans would surge assets forward to engage the invading troops, the destruction of these bridges was crucial to ensuring they were severely limited in their ability to do so.

There were no guarantees that D-Day would be successful and allied planners had planned for failure, with the Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower going as far as to write a press release ready for publication in the event of an unsuccessful landing.

Saul David is a military historian, novelist and broadcaster who has written accounts of both the European and Pacific theatres of the Second World War.

He believes that failure on D-day would have set the allied forces back six months at the very least but the consequences would have been much more drastic for post-war Europe.

Saul said: "The long term consequences would have been quite significant in allowing the Russians much deeper into western Europe.

"The real consequence of not succeeding on D-Day is not so much that there was a risk that the war could be lost, its that post-war Europe would have looked very different."

His latest release 'Sky Warriors' tells the story of airborne forces throughout the Second World War, including D-Day.

For Saul, the importance of Gale's 6th Airborne Division's mission cannot be underestimated.

Saul said: "The Germans are masters at counter-attack.

"If you can't defend the flanks, particularly the open left flank, then there is a danger that the allies would be forced back into the sea."

Photo Credit: Via UK Ministry of Information http://www.moidigital.ac.uk/

Photo Credit: Via UK Ministry of Information http://www.moidigital.ac.uk/

Lt Den Brotheridge and his wife Margaret. Photo Credit: Margaret Brotheridge

Lt Den Brotheridge and his wife Margaret. Photo Credit: Margaret Brotheridge

Photo Credit: Via the US National Archives https://catalog.archives.gov/

Photo Credit: Via the US National Archives https://catalog.archives.gov/

Photo Credit. Via Imperial War Museum

Photo Credit. Via Imperial War Museum

Photo Credit: Via the Imperial War Museum

Photo Credit: Via the Imperial War Museum


The flight over the channel had been full of song, Howard's men keen to be heard singing in the hope that their display of confidence would ensure that their commanders watching the take-off felt certain that they had chosen wisely when selecting D-Company for the mission.

Howard reflected as the glider made its way towards the bridge over the Caen Canal which would become known as Pegasus Bridge owing to the brigade insignia worn by airborne forces

As the glider was pulled towards France, he thought of his mission, he thought of his men but mostly, he thought of his wife Joy and Margaret, the wife of his friend Lt Den Brotheridge, who were both expecting their first children imminently.

The singing stopped as the coast of France was spotted with total silence required as the glider was released from the bomber pulling it through the night sky.

Flying silently over the French countryside, Howard thought to himself how much it felt like England and the numerous training exercises they had conducted.

The glider came to earth hard and landed with such a noise that Howard briefly believed that the stones bouncing off the side were incoming fire.

Briefly knocked unconscious on landing, Howard was relieved when coming round to notice the glider pilots had landed them exactly where he had asked them to and that his men were moving and mostly unharmed.

Having grabbed his Sten gun and made his way out of a broken doorway, Howard was relieved to see that there was no incoming fire; their attempt to catch the defending enemy by surprise had worked.

Howard instructed Brotheridge to take his platoon and "get cracking" as the London born officer, led from the front, despite sustaining a serious leg injury on landing that caused him to limp.

Seemingly oblivious to the pain, he and his men charged the bridge and quickly overwhelmed the confused German defenders.

Howard set up his command post with his signaller Lance Corporal Ted Tappenden as he watched the second and third glider land at roughly one minute intervals.

The third of these gliders landed at an angle, throwing the pilots out of the cockpit and submerging Lance Corporal Fred Greenhalgh in shallow water. Unable to free himself, he drowned and became the first casualty of the D-Day landings.

Minutes later, Howard heard the flash of machine gun fire from the other side of the bridge but was unaware that one of these rounds had fatally wounded his good friend Den Brotheridge.

Lt Brotheridge was the first allied soldier killed through enemy action on D-Day. His daughter, Margaret was born a fortnight later.

The other three gliders, under the command of Howard's deputy Captain Brian Priday were to land at the second objective, the bridge over the river Orne and did so with varied degrees of success. Priday, in the sixth glider was landed 8 miles east of his objective. Unaware, he took control of the wrong bridge before realising his mistake and then the journey to rendezvous with his unit a day later.

But the unrelenting, brutal training Howard subjected his men to meant that his forces were able to adapt when the plan went astray.

Seldom do airborne operations go as planned and although in their infancy, experience throughout the war thus far had demonstrated the need for commanders to be able to 'step up' when leadership was killed, missing or wounded.

At 00:26, ten minutes after Howard's glider had touched down on French soil, both bridges were intact and in British hands.

Howard instructed Tappenden to give the code word that informed the chain of command that the mission was a success. Tappenden did so and after five minutes of no response he frustratingly picked up the radio once more: "Ham and Jam.

"Ham and bloody Jam!"


With one of his missions accomplished and another soon to get underway, Maj Gen Windy Gale parachuted into Ranville to help oversee his Division's attempt to set the conditions for a successful seaborne invasion hours later.

After spending months planning every aspect of the airborne invasion of Europe, the lack of control he must have felt now the action was underway must have been jarring.

Relying on radios and link men (soldiers sending messages on foot), his ability to influence the battle at this stage was negligible, making his choice of Commanding Officers to lead each of his missions in the months prior, crucial.

In order to neutralise the guns at Merville Battery, Gale had chosen the 3rd Parachute Brigade's 9th Battalion and its Commanding Officer (CO) Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Terrance Ottway to undertake what the Brigade Commander called "a grade A stinker of a job".

A stinker of a job was putting it mildly. Heavily fortified, with mines, trenches and barbed wire in all directions and an estimated 200 German defenders with more potentially in a nearby town, the battery presented the 9th Battalion with an almighty task.

To add to the difficulty, the guns had to be neutralised by 04:50 but due to lack of available airframes, the earliest any of his men could be dropped was 12:20 and even then, this would be on a landing site approximately a mile and a half away.

In short, Ottway was given a small timeframe to complete a mammoth task.

Command of a parachute battalion was something that Ottway had worked towards for years and the size of his first mission and the danger presented was something that filled him with excitement rather than dread.

Planning for the mission had taken many months, with Gale authorising the building of a replica battery in Newbury for the troops to practise the march to the target and the assault, such was the importance of the mission.

Although his mission was complex, his plan was relatively simple, as good plans often are.

Advance parties would drop and conduct reconnaissance, before the bulk of the battalion would silently land and make their way to the RV point. As they opened fire with a diversionary attack, the first of three gliders would land directly inside the battery.

Of his plan to fly directly in, Ottway said: "It seemed daft to fly over the Atlantic wall, the heavily defended French coast only to drop outside another fortress.

"So I decided to see if I couldn't, well, put troops directly inside."

A combination of errors and unfortunate events however meant that on the night, the battalion were scattered across a wide area, with some elements landing up to 20 miles east of their intended drop zone.

Unperturbed, Ottway weighed up his options. Despite his lack of manpower, with every section under strength, Ottway knew that his unit's fitness, planning and their maintenance of the element of surprise meant that all was not lost.

Airborne forces raison d'etre is to sow chaos and confusion for the enemy whilst being supremely capable of thriving in the same conditions.

Throughout their training, Ottway had ensured that all men could do the job of another, use other people's weapons and operate one rank up from the rank they held to allow them to step up in the event their superior was rendered unable to continue.

All of this meant that despite the perilous situation, a withdrawal was never a likely course of action for Ottway and his men and as his men geared up to launch the assault, they were spotted and fired upon. Ottway ordered his men to return fire and yelled: "Get in, get in".

This they did and the unprepared German defenders, made up largely of young men with no combat experience and older veterans proved little match for the airborne troops charging the battery in possession of aggression, surprise and months of tough, detailed training.

How aware Gale was of the issues his brigades were encountering is unclear and it might well be the case that the first he heard of the missions success was by seeing the yellow smoke fired by the battalion to inform others of the battery's neutralisation.

At this point, Gale's two main objectives had been achieved. The seizure of the bridges would hopefully slow down, if not stop, German attempts to counter-attack, whilst the silencing of Merville Battery would potentially save countless lives on Sword beach in the hours to come.


Marie Scott had not known quite what to expect when she began her shift as a switchboard operator on the morning of 6th June.

Born in South London, her formal education had ended at 13 as her city endured the blitz.

Years later, she had volunteered to join the Women's Royal Naval Service who learned of her experience as a switchboard operator for the Post Office and quickly snapped up her skills by posting her to Fort Southwick in Portsmouth.

As she started her shift that morning, she was told that she would be relaying messages directly to commanders on the beaches.

As she relayed the first one, she was shocked at the sounds of blasts and bullets on the other end, the reality of war invading her consciousness in the relative peacefulness of Portsmouth.

Scott said: "I was terrified.

"I obviously knew we were fighting but you were suddenly aware of the full horror of it."


The journey ashore was dreadful, with men throwing up and German shells hitting landing craft all around.

As the landing craft came to a halt, Fred Walker launched himself from it and into four feet of water.

In a sense, he was lucky, many had fallen into deeper water and weighed down by their kit, drowned before seeing enemy action.

Fred's experience and training told him one thing; you have got to get off of the beach and with his rifle in hand, he made best speed up the beach towards the waiting German defenders.

Fred joked: "I ran so fast, I would have beaten Jessie Owens that day, I suppose I was frightened out of my life.

"You've gotta get off of that beach or else you're brown bread."

His friend and fellow Londoner Roy Cadman had not been so direct. After coming across a soldier from another unit attempting to dig himself into cover in the sand, Roy had grabbed the man by the scruff of his neck and dragged him across the beach.

Roy said years later: "I shouldn't have done that but I couldn't just leave him."

3 Commando's mission was to reach the bridges captured by Howard and his men six and a half miles from the beach.

Their advance was slowed down by small arms fire, tactical necessity and large areas of swampland caused by the Germans deliberate flooding of the area.

The flooding, designed to disrupt paratroopers and landing crafts had an unintended consequence. Fred noted: "They saved us, the mortars were dropping in the swamp and sank before they went off."

Photo Credit: Via Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

Photo Credit: Via Defense Visual Information Distribution Service


Howard had known that taking the bridges was only the beginning of his mission and had immediately ordered his forces into defensive positions on the east of the bridge, with the remainder of the 7th Parachute Battalion, under command of Lt Col Pine-Coffin to his west.

What Howard could not have relied upon was the inability of the Germans in the area to organise battalion level counter-attacks, given their difficulty in ascertaining whether the attack were a diversion, as well as the absence of key leaders on "personal business" in Paris and beyond.

The result was that throughout the night and early morning of D-Day, Howard and the 7th Parachute Battalion fought off eight separate company level counter-attacks launched by the Grenadier-Regiment 736 and others, in addition to constant smaller skirmishes, but were spared a concerted effort to reclaim the bridges by a larger force.

Despite the German confusion, by 10:00, the regiment had sustained heavy casualties and Lt Col Pine-Coffin was forced to consider his options with his battalion "pitifully weak in numbers".

Lt Col Pine-Coffin later reflected: "The actual number available in all ranks was not quite 200 but the plan worked well."

Lt Richard Todd, who would survive the war and become a Golden Globe winner was starting to worry. Not only were the battalion short on men but they were starting to become low on ammunition, problems common across every company in the Battalion

With 3 Commando yet to arrive and worries growing as to how long the lack of large-scale German counter-attack would continue, many men began to question whether they would ever turn up...


As the clock struck midday the defenders of the bridge had run out of grenades and with no knowledge of how the rest of the invasion was unfolding, they wondered how much longer they could hold out.

Minutes after midday,s the noise of gunfire gave way to the strange sound of bagpipes as Piper Bill Millin, on the orders of the eccentric commander of 3 Commando Brigade Lord Lovat sound tracked their arrival.

John Howard greeted Lord Lovat at the bridge and exclaimed: "Its about bloody time."

Lord Lovat, conscious that his brigade was two minutes late for their midday rendezvous apologised for his tardiness.

"Sorry we're late, we got a little bit held up."

Fred Walker laughed as he saw the airborne defenders cheer in excitement from their shell scrapes and wave their maroon berets in the air.

Fred said: "You had to cross the bridge a bit lively because they had the machine gun rattling away at it."

Roy Cadman looked across the bridge and saw a young girl waving a French flag from the first floor window of a building on the far bank.

The girl, Arlette Gondree, lived in the café situated next to the bridge. Her parents Georges and Therese were members of the French resistance and regularly passed on information to the British.

The family became the first French family to be liberated by the allies and Arlette is to this day, a regular feature at D-Day commemorations.


Howard looked to the sky to see gliders from the 6th Airlanding Brigade coming in to land bringing vehicles, guns and equipment.

Since the mid-afternoon, the now reinforced bridge had seen the amount of attacks and their ferocity reduce and his men had even been able to enjoy a champagne toast, thanks to hidden bottles being dug up and distributed by the Gondree family.

As the 7th Battalion were relieved and made their way to become the Divisional reserve, Howard might well have reflected on the cost of their success.

His friend Den Brotheridge had been killed minutes into an event he had trained for years to take part in and in total, the battalion had lost 3 officers and 16 men with a further 41 wounded.

But their achievement had been crucial to the overall success of the invasion of mainland Europe. By that evening, troops and equipment were able to use the bridge to cross and push deeper into Normandy in their attempts to liberate the city and gain a foothold on the continent.

The lump in his throat as he had bid his men farewell before take-off, had perhaps been an indication of his consciousness that not all of the men who boarded those gliders would return home.

Howard had developed these men through his sheer will of personality into one of the fittest and most effective fighting forces in the allied ranks and his affection for those under his command was evident in the many post-war interviews he gave.

Thursday 6th June marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day, a pivotal moment in the Second World War and a monumental undertaking that had never before been seen in the history of mankind.

The British Legion, founded in the wake of the war, to help veterans and their families have planned a number of events to commemorate the day in Britain and France.

Royal British Legion Director of Remembrance Philippa Rawlinson said: “The legacy left by the Second World War generation lives on in the freedom and democracy we have today.

"To mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the Royal British Legion is proud to be delivering a series of commemorative events across Normandy and the National Memorial Arboretum.

“These incredibly moving and poignant occasions will be our last opportunity to host a significant number of D-Day and Normandy veterans, to pay tribute to their bravery and sacrifice."

With the passing of the final living veterans, does the way in which we conduct remembrance and the way in which future generations engage with it change?

Al Murray is a well known comedian who in recent years has become just as famous as a Second World War enthusiast and author thanks in large part due to his successful podcast 'We Have Ways of Making You Talk' with Sunday Times bestselling historian James Holland.

He believes that rembrance is changing, although he argues not as much as we might have expected.

Al says: "When Harry Patch died, the last First World War veteran, it felt like that conflict was now going to be allowed to turn into a piece of history.

"But that hasn't really happened and people still have views of the First World War that you could argue are ahistorical and the Second World War is going to enter that moment."

His fascination with the conflict stems from a childhood where the shadow of the war which claimed the life of his Grandfather and Great uncle loomed large.

Murray doesn't believe that his family is alone in being touched by the conflict for decades after, due in large part to the introduction of conscription during the First World War, a practise not seen in previous wars.

It is this, that alters the way in which the war is remembered by future generations in a way not synonymous with previous conflicts such as Waterloo and it is this connection to historical conflicts that ensures that remembrance will continue to be an important facet of our, and many other countries', national identity.

Al says: "Remembrance is in itself a 20th century product of population war and I think if nothing else, remembrance has to be a way of reminding us that there was once this calamity that touched everybody that is exactly the kind of thing that is happening in Ukraine right now.

"I think remembrance is incredibly important but it has to be more than commemoration, it has to be the act of remembering, remembering what happened, what it meant and why it happened."

Major General Richard 'Windy' Gale - Wandsworth

Windy Gale was promoted soon after D-Day and finished the war in command of 1 Airborne Corps.

Transferred to the pacific theatre of operations following the surrender of Germany, Gale was planning the recapture of Bangkok when the Japanese surrendered.

Richard Gale was knighted in 1950 by King George VI and continued to serve in the Army for the remainder of the decade, succeeding Field Marshall Montgomery in 1958 as Supreme Allied Commander Land Forces Europe, a role he carried out until his retirement in 1960.

Sir Richard Gale died at his home in Kingston upon Thames in 1982.

Photo Credit: Via Wikimedia Commons License https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/

Photo Credit: Via Wikimedia Commons License https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/

Photo Credit: Christie (Sgt), No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit - This photograph B 5352 comes from the collections of the Imperial War Museums

Photo Credit: Christie (Sgt), No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit - This photograph B 5352 comes from the collections of the Imperial War Museums

Major John Howard - Camden

John Howard's war ended in November 1944 when injuries sustained in a car crash forced him to return back to the UK for treatment.

In 1946, he was medically discharged from the Army and began work as a civil servant for the Ministry of Agriculture.

Howard returned to Normandy each year to lay a wreath and visit the grave of his good friend Lt Den Brotheridge.

In later life he met and befriended Hans Von Luck, a senior German officer who commanded forces that attempted to retake Pegasus Bridge.

In a quirky twist of fate, Howard was portrayed in the 1962 film 'The Longest Day' by Richard Todd, the young lieutenant who had grown worried at the battalion's depleting levels of ammunition and men prior to the arrival of 3 Commando Brigade.

Howard retired to Oxford and later settled in Surrey with his wife Joy.

He died in 1999 at the age of 86.

Photo Credit: Joy Howard

Photo Credit: Joy Howard

Marie Scott - South London

Marie Scott was just 17 on D-Day when she played a crucial role in relaying messages to the commanders on the beaches.

While the role of women is often consigned to factories and fields during the conflict, the work of women such as Marie and the skill required to operate clearly and effectively should not be downplayed.

Unlike then, women have been able to serve in any role, including combat roles, in the British Army since 2017. Whilst no doubt long overdue, women such as Marie are trailblazers for the thousands of women serving in multiple roles throughout the Armed Forces today.

Marie went on to play a role in future remembrance commemorations, including marching past the Cenotaph on remembrance Sunday.

In June 2019, the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings, Marie travelled back to France to be awarded the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest honour.

Marie lives in Kingston upon Thames.

Photo Credit: Marie Scott/Garcia

Photo Credit: Marie Scott/Garcia

Phot Credit: BFBS/Military Taxi Charity

Phot Credit: BFBS/Military Taxi Charity

Fred Walker - Kings Cross

Fred Walker fought through France and into Holland where he has injured in confrontation with fanatical German defenders at Linne.

In 1946, his first wife died from TB, an illness she is believed to have contracted when sheltering in the London Underground during the Blitz.

He later married his second wife Annie and they lived together until her death in 1993.

Following the war, Fred held various roles in London councils and briefly worked as a bus inspector.

In later life, Fred became a well recognised face of the veteran community through his work with the Chelsea Pensioners, together with his good friend Roy Cadman and the pair proudly appeared in uniform at the Royal Albert Hall and the Cenotaph.

Fred was generous in the time he devoted to discussing his experiences and made his last visit to a D-Day commemoration in 2014, the 70th anniversary.

Fred passed away in October 2015.

Photo Credit: Military Taxi Charity

Photo Credit: Military Taxi Charity

Photo Credit: Military Taxi Charity

Photo Credit: Military Taxi Charity