Clayhall D-Day veteran: ‘We had no time to be scared’

10:24 06 June 2014

D-Day veteran Len Brace. [Picture: Beth Wyatt]

D-Day veteran Len Brace. [Picture: Beth Wyatt]


A war veteran wishes he had had a crystal ball to reassure him of the luck he would have during his time securing beaches in Normandy under fire on D-Day, 70 years ago.

D-Day in Numbers

70 years since the Allied invasion of France

6,939 vessels approached the Normandy coast

156,115 Allied troops landed in Normandy on D-Day

10,000 estimated Allied casualties on D-Day

2,500 estimated D-Day deaths for Allied forces

23,400 Airborne troops sent out on June 6

9,000 estimated German D-Day casualties

425,000 casualties in total during the Battle of Normandy

20,000 estimated French civilians killed during the battle

127 D-Day aircraft lost

Len Brace, from Clayhall, was a 19-year-old conscript in the 11th Air Formation Signal Regiment involved in preparing safe landing strips for airborne divisions.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Len set sail from Southend where a flotilla was moored. “As we got nearer it started to get a bit noisy,” he said. “Later on we heard this great big bang three miles behind.” It was a battleship opening fire.

Len landed on Gold Beach in a jeep from a US tank landing ship in the late afternoon, to chaotic scenes. “When we got there there were so many ships firing inshore,” he said. “It was very, very noisy. It was exciting. I don’t think you had time to be scared.”

The landings saw Len and the rest of the Allied troops invade German-controlled France by air and sea. About 7,000 sea vessels with soldiers from Britain, America and Canada raided beaches after airborne divisions bombarded surrounding areas. More than 150,000 Allied troops were involved in the day’s events, which allowed the Allies to gain a foothold in western Europe.

Len, now 90 and a father-of-seven, was told to write out a will in the early hours of D-Day. “There was so much going on we didn’t have time really to reflect on it,” he said.

Len, who later worked for Ford, remembered setting up camp in the Normandy village of Villiers-le-Sec. He said: “That was our home, we stayed there for about nine or 10 weeks, we were living on biscuits.”

Len, who narrowly avoided death after driving over a mine in Normandy, said: “They [German forces] mined a lot of places, they mined everything, we had to be careful where we went.

“If I had a crystal ball 70 years ago that said I would be talking to you in 70 years, I would not have been so frightened.”

He added: “I suppose I am very lucky.”

Latest Ilford News Stories

Travel delays (credit: BBC/Google)

The A127 in Upminster is closed westbound at the junction of Hall Lane and there is queuing traffic London-bound between the M25 J29 junction and the Hall Lane junction, because of an accident.

50 minutes ago
The Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford.

The performance of one of the borough’s most loved arts institutions is to be discussed by Redbridge Council tomorrow night.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan with Ilford South MP Mike Gapes and Redbridge Council leader, Jas Athwal at Newbury Park station in July.

Members of two community associations have welcomed the news that an open letter calling for step-free access at a tube station has been penned.

Waltham Road in Woodford Green (credit:Google)

A man in his 50s was rushed to hospital after two men allegedly threw an “unknown substance” in his face in Woodford Green.

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read news


Show Job Lists


£3,000 goes a long way at Boots

Cosmetics, toiletries, vitamins and more. Boots is the number one choice when it comes to purchasing daily essentials.

Kit yourself out and go Apple mad!

If you’re obsessed with Apple or just love a good gadget, this is a prize that will blow you away! An incredible £3,333 to spend on Apple goodies! How would you like to be the proud new owner of the Apple Watch?

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Ilford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now