Search

VIDEO: Veteran twice shipwrecked while delivering troops to the beaches returns to Normandy for poignant anniversary

13:26 12 June 2014

Frank Warren, was on the landing craft taking troops into Normandy on D-Day.

Frank Warren, was on the landing craft taking troops into Normandy on D-Day.

Archant

A D-Day veteran who twice found himself swimming for his life from ships struck by enemy devices returned to Normandy last week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the battle that changed the tide of World War II.

Frank Warren, was on the landing craft taking troops into Normandy on D-Day.
SS Empire Broadsword, Infantry Landing Ship, built in 1943 and sunk by a mine in July 1944.Frank Warren, was on the landing craft taking troops into Normandy on D-Day. SS Empire Broadsword, Infantry Landing Ship, built in 1943 and sunk by a mine in July 1944.

Frank Warren was a coxswain with the Land Craft Assault 653. On June 6 1944 aged 18-years-old he was aboard the doomed SS Empire Broadsword headed to the beaches of Normandy.

Travelling in rough seas the carrier ship would deliver approximately 650 soldiers to the beaches of France before it was sunk by a mine as it manoeuvred to return across the channel.

Last week Frank, now 88, returned to Normandy with fellow members of the ill-fated ship’s crew to sit alongside dignitaries at a service commemorating the largest sea-borne invasion in history and the men who died on the beaches.

Frank, of Ilford, attended the ceremony with 88-year-old Ted Webb, bowman aboard SS Empire Broadsword, and officer lieutenant John Langdon, aged 93.

During the weekend the three attended several events to mark the anniversary however Frank said the most poignant moment of his trip was the reaction of the French people.

He said: “People came up to say thank-you. That was when the emotions set in. We were walking down the High Street after dinner and everyone burst out cheering spontaneously. That was when it was most poignant.”

Speaking about the events that prompted their response, Frank said: “I was only 18 and it was all a big adventure - until we hit the beaches.”

The journey to France had been far from plain sailing. Frank recalls rough seas and a lucky escape as a Norwegian carrier ship escorting the SS Empire Broadsword was struck by a torpedo.

He said: “All of a sudden there was a terrific explosion and by the time I had got up on deck we could see the bow and stern sticking out of the sea.

“What we realised later was that if it had not have been there, it would have been us.”

The luck of the landing ship was not to last and Frank recalls the moment that it hit sea defences and was destroyed by a mine.

“We hit one of the obstacles which tipped the craft and we all had to swim for the beach, We swam and waded up the beach.”

The beach was strewn with burning machinery and the bodies of those who had gone before them. Frank and three of his comrades sheltered among the sand dunes amid the fire of battle ships until they were able to board another ship.

The orders given to Frank by the beach master were ‘you must get out of here as soon as you can’.

Frank continued making the trip across the channel until July 2 1944 and this was not his only shipwreck.

While on a trip from France to England the ship he was in was hit by mines and sunk. For the second time Frank found himself abandoning ship and swimming for his life.

Frank said that last week’s memorial was a poignant occasion.

He said: “I think it’s important for these events to be remembered and treasured. I think it will go on until it becomes part of history.”

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Ilford Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Ilford Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Ilford Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 19:03
Heron Mews, Ilford. Picture: Google Street View

A fire above a shop is being treated as suspicious as firefighters and police continue to investigate its cause.

Yesterday, 17:38
Diamond Wedding anniversary of Ernie and Sheila Seager wedding copy pic

They met at a Christmas party in 1954, and, according to Ernie, he took future wife Shelia home that night.

Yesterday, 16:33
A Greater Anglia train

Updates on disruption to roads and train services:

Yesterday, 15:31
Leaflets warning Muslims not to vote on cars in Kingston Road, Ilford

Police have said they are “aware” of leaflets distributed in Ilford warning Muslims not to vote in tomorrow’s election (Thursday).

Most read news

Competitions

Limited edition Opihr Gin goodies up for grabs!

Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin is a unique style of London Dry Gin created at G&J one of the world’s oldest gin distillers, using exotic botanicals, herbs and spices.

Pop on the most stylish eyewear around from Specsavers.

London eyecare specialists Specsavers are offering London24 readers the chance to win a £150 voucher to spend on stylish eyewear in the city.

Digital Edition

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


Our trusted business finder