Upminster veteran recalls saving young soldier’s life as he commemorates D-Day’s 75th anniversary in Normandy
- Credit: Archant
A 94-year-old armed forces veteran from Upminster who was in the first wave of the D-Day landings will stand alongside the Queen and American president Donald Trump on a Normandy beach today to mark 75 years since that fateful day.
Ron Wilson, of Highview Gardens, was just 19 years old when he took part in the largest seaborne invasion in history as Allied forces began their liberation of the continent during the Second World War.
He is one of around 300 veterans of that action who are today returning to France to mark this historic anniversary.
And Ron has made his way there in much the same way he did back in 1944 - setting sail from Dover onboard cruise ship MV Boudicca on Sunday, and travelling to Normandy in northern France by sea.
The ship was sent off with a moving ceremony that saw cadets of today pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the veterans that came before them.
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The cruise ship had been chartered by the Royal British Legion, and when asked by the Forces Network how it felt to be once more sailing back to France, Ron's replied simply: "Emotional, of course."
Ron joined the Royal Navy aged just 18 back in 1942, and was aboard the Landing Craft Tank LCT-571 when it was hit by enemy fire and bady damaged as it made its way towards the beaches.
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And in a moving interview with the Forces Network website, Ron recalled saving another young man's life - even going against his captain's orders to do it.
Ron saw the "young lad" go overboard, and despite his captain threatening to shoot him if he abandoned his post at the landing craft's door, he leant overboard and managed to pull the scawny fellow teenager back into the boat.
He never found out the boy's name - the soldier was taken on board the LCT-571 to an Army depot near Poole in Dorset, from where he would no doubt have been sent back to Normandy.
Ron said: "He must have been kitted out and sent back again. That's what they did in those days.
"If you survived, they got you ready, gave you new kit and sent you back."