D-Day Anniversary: Upminster veteran has ‘amazing’ reunion with shipmate
- Credit: Archant
Two seaman who went against skippers’ orders to help a wounded marine hanging from a propellor off Swords Beach found themselves reminiscing about the experience during an “amazing” chance meeting 56 years later.
Ron Wilson, 89, of Upminster, arrived off the Normandy coast on board the LCT 571 landing tank on at 7am on D-Day.
Their duty was to help soldiers on to the beach in their vehicles, but it did not go to plan.
“The first vehicle sank straight into the sea,” said Ron, who was 19 at the time. “We had to get closer to the beach. The water was very rough. To this day I wonder if those men survived.”
Getting off the beach was more difficult. Under fire from German gunners, the vessel was being “smashed” by another unmanned tank.
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“There were aircrafts covering the sky. I’d never seen anything like it before. We were close to getting hit.”
Then came a tense experience, that Ron admits he was lucky to escape from.
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“We had somebody hanging on the propellor, this young man,” he said. “I think he was a Royal Marine.
“Another chap named Eric and myself tried to get him around the side and get him on board. The skipper was saying to leave him. If a German gunner got in range it would have been curtains.
“Eric hung on to me and I dangled a heaving line over the side. We helped him round and got him on board. We took him to another ship with medical care and had to leave him.
“Then, in 2000 I was going to a christening in Buckinghamshire. Somebody said someone had written a book about the Second World War and he was on LCT 571, I said ‘what’s his name?’ He said ‘Turner’ and I said ‘Eric?’ It was amazing. I got in touch with him and we had a wonderful chat. The first thing he said was ‘do you remember the skipper was going to shoot us because we were absent from our stations?’”