Search

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]

Archant

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 News Stories

Rubbish on a Abellio Greater Anglia train from Shenfield to London Liverpool Street earlier this year.

Rail passengers claim they have been bitten by fleas while travelling on Abellio Greater Anglia trains.

Members of the public use NatWest cash machines.

Residents have reacted with anger and disappointment at the announcement that NatWest bank in Seven Kings is to close.

Yesterday, 18:00
Karolina Adamonyte, 19, and her dog Tina were attacked in Christie Gardens Park - a minute away from her home - by two dogs. Tina was bitten in the face and Karolina was bitten on her thumb while trying to protect Tina.

A traumatised teenager has spoken of her “bloody” ordeal after she and her dog were attacked in a park.

Yesterday, 16:41
Iain Duncan Smith MP meeting parents at Churchfields Junior School in Churchfields, South Woodford, on Friday May 22 Credit: Ken Mears

Iain Duncan Smith MP has wasted no time in getting involved in community issues by meeting with campaigners fighting to repair a playground after his reelection.

Most read news

Competitions

The sell out 2014 event 32 Londoners, returns to the Coca-Cola London Eye!

The Coca-Cola London Eye is proud to announce that 32 Londoners will be returning this June, following last year’s sell out event. The event will feature 32 talks, in each of the London Eye’s 32 capsules on 32 extraordinary Londoners.

You could take in stunning views of London over brunch at the Sky Garden

Celebrate lighter, brighter days with the chance of winning an indulgent brunch for two with a bottle of bubbles at Darwin, the cool and casual brasserie 36 floors up at Sky Garden.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Ilford Recorder e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder