‘I look back and there’s a certain pride’: Clayhall D-Day veteran returns to the beaches
- Credit: Archant
A D-Day veteran returned to the beaches last week to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the iconic landings.
Len Brace, of Clayhall, drove a jeep down Gold Beach as Operation Overlord commenced on June 6, 1944, the sounds of bombs blasting ships echoing behind him.
The now 93-year-old made it through the Normandy campaign unscathed – serving in the army until 1946 – and has attended many commemorations over the years, including a ‘Back to the Beaches’ trip held from June 4-8, organised by The London Taxi Benevolent Association for War Disabled.
“It’s another wonderful memory,” said Len. “There were 150 veterans, we had some who were 96, 98.
“I have got to know most of them by their names. We’re getting a bit thin on the ground.”
Len, who met the British ambassador and the mayors of Caen and Portsmouth, visited Bayeux Cathedral, the Merville Battery, Caen Memorial Museum and more, with the veterans joined at Ranville War Cemetery by schoolchildren, who read poems to the group.
Students were also present at the museum visit, and had plenty of questions.
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“You don’t realise a lot of the youngsters are very interested in the war,” he said. “They wanted to have their photo taken with a veteran, so many came up and had selfies with me.”
Len, who served in the 11 Air Formation Signals, Royal Corps of Signals – and is a member of the East London branch of the Royal Signals Association, Gordon Road, Ilford – was presented with a commemorative medal, engraved with ‘Ville de Caen’, as were his fellow veterans.
He will return to Normandy in September for another tour, but this time with two of his 15 grandchildren. He also has seven children and seven great-grandchildren, who all “think the world” of his achievements.
Len himself is modest, but pleased to have served his country.
“Sometimes I’m watching it [D-Day footage] on the television and can’t believe I was there, it seems a dream.
“It’s sad to reflect on people being killed, but I do feel proud of being in the army, I did what I wanted to do. I look back and there’s a certain pride.”