Clayhall veteran looks back at Second World War service as 70th anniversary marked
- Credit: Archant
A silence descended on the world 70 years ago, as the deadliest war to ever ravage our streets came to an end.
More than 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians died during the Second World War, which drew to a close in 1945 after six years of fierce fighting and hardship for those left behind on the Home Front.
Communities and countries have come together this year to mark the 70th anniversary, a poignant occasion for veterans such as Len Brace.
The 91-year-old, of Heathcote Avenue, Clayhall, served in D-Day and in the Netherlands during the run-up to its liberation.
For the past three years Len has visited the city of Arnhem with other veterans for the country’s annual commemorations, but he believes this will now come to an end.
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He said: “We are getting so thin on the ground.
“Most of us are in our 90s.”
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Len, who now has seven children as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren, enlisted aged 19.
He served with the 11th Air Formation Signals, part of the Royal Corps of Signals, which were deployed to support the Royal Air Force (RAF).
Len and his comrades were involved in preparing safe landing strips for airborne forces.
One of the most significant actions he was involved in was D-Day, June 6, 1944.
The veteran landed on Gold Beach in a jeep, having been launched by an American tank landing ship.
He said: “You don’t realise until you go through it.
“When we were approaching the shore all the ships behind us were being bombed.
“I saw some people who were nervous and others who weren’t.”
Len left Normandy unscathed, but had a near miss when he drove over a mine.
He went on to fight in places such as Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, now in Germany but at the centre of years of conflict between the country and Denmark historically.
The veteran completed his Army service in 1946.
To remember both the fallen and those who came out the other side, Len visited Arnhem for five days in May with 159 other veterans.
This year’s annual trip, run by the London Taxi Benevolent Association for War Disabled, saw 80 taxis take the group on what could be their final trip.
They attended a service and parade, as well as visiting museums and a veterans’ home, with the experience proving “very emotional” for Len.
Looking back on his war years, he said: “Sometimes I see it [Second World War] on the television and can’t believe I was there.
“I suppose I feel the most lucky that I have survived the war and survived the years.
“When I was a young man there were people from the Boer War and the First World War.
“We all have to go sometime.”