D-Day Anniversary: Hornchurch navy veteran recalls HMS Ajax experience
16:42 06 June 2014
On June 7 1944, navy officer Bill Churchill was relaxing in his back garden. The day before, he was watching a German aircraft drop bombs from his position on the upper deck of HMS Ajax in Normandy.
Then 18, Bill was a seaman in the communications centre on the bridge of the light cruiser that bombarded Gold Beach.
“We arrived on the second front a couple of days before and anchored off shore,” said Bill, of Hornchurch. “Just before it started the German’s bombarded us. At one time a German aircraft flew over the top of the ship and dropped a bomb right in front of it, we could have been blown out of the water.”
Bill, 92, served in the navy for seven years, and on HMS Ajax for three. He remembers vividly his view from the ship on that fateful day 70 years ago.
“It was all smoke, bullets and noise from the upper deck,” he recalls. “I was quite lucky to be there because I wouldn’t have seen anything if I wasn’t.
“We opened fire and expended all ammunition as soon as possible, then came home. I was in my back garden the next day talking to my neighbours in East Ham. I was 18 and single. It [The war] was all over for me, unfortunately everybody else had to go ahead.”