Trip back in time for 95-year-old war veteran

Boudicca on the high seas. Picture: JUSTIN DE REUCK

Boudicca on the high seas. Picture: JUSTIN DE REUCK - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk man is set to be one of 300 former Normandy veterans to sail on a specially chartered ship across the Channel to France to retrace their steps for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Alan King. Picture: BIG WAVE PR

Alan King. Picture: BIG WAVE PR - Credit: Archant

Alan King is linking up with his comrades for the trip to Normandy, in June.

The 95-year-old will board the luxury cruise ship, the MV Boudicca, at Dover, to take in the UK commemorative events in Portsmouth and Poole before arriving in Normandy exactly 75 years after the D-Day Landings.

Mr King, who was a radio operator in Sherman tanks on D-Day, said: “I’m looking forward to marking the anniversary. It provides me with the opportunity to meet other veterans and also ensure I can visit the grave, as I do every year, of my tank commander who was killed in action. I place my beret on his grave and salute him.”

The Royal British Legion has chartered the ship and the voyage will take veterans who helped liberate France during the Second World War, plus a relative or carer, to a series of commemorative events on both sides of the Channel.

Alan King at the French war cemetary on a previous visit. Picture: BIG WAVE PR

Alan King at the French war cemetary on a previous visit. Picture: BIG WAVE PR - Credit: Archant

The journey is being funded by the RBL’s LIBOR grant, in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence and Arena Travel.

The Legion, in partnership with the Ministry of Defence, is leading the UK’s commemorations in France to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Most Read

The full programme will be announced in the New Year and will involve a series of events in the UK and Normandy including at the Bayeux Cathedral and the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, in Bayeux. Portsmouth, where much of the landing force sailed from in 1944, will be the focal point of the Ministry of Defence-led UK commemorations, along with a service of Remembrance to be held at the National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire.

Bob Gamble, the RBL’s assistant director for Commemorative Events said: “Seventy five years ago, the largest seaborne invasion force in history set sail for France on a mission to liberate Europe. Alongside their American cousins, nearly 160,000 men from Britain and the Commonwealth landed on the beaches of Normandy. Today we stand in awe of their achievement and salute their bravery and sacrifice. We invite any of them who wish to attend the events to commemorate their achievements to get in touch with the Legion and join our journey back to Normandy.”

Veterans interested in travelling on the ship are invited to contact the Legion via the website for an application form, which needs to be completed and returned by Monday, February 4. Each veteran will be entitled to travel with one guest or carer.

Peter Deer, commercial director at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “We feel honoured to be part of the Royal British Legion’s commemorations, marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy, in what is set to be a very poignant and moving voyage for these veterans and their loved ones.

“The voyage will follow the same path as the ships involved on this momentous day and we hope that Boudicca will provide a comfortable setting in which to retrace those important steps which brought peace and reconciliation to mark the Second World War.”

The vessel will depart from Dover on June 2 and travel to Portsmouth and Poole before crossing the English Channel arriving in Normandy on June 6.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter