Emotional memories for D-Day veterans

AN emotional D-Day event brought back poignant memories for Second World War veterans in Suffolk.

Rebecca Lefort

AN emotional D-Day event brought back poignant memories for Second World War veterans in Suffolk.

Saturday's commemoration in Bury St Edmunds brought tears to the eyes of many of those who had taken part in the Normandy Landings 65 years ago.

The service involved standard bearers, a trumpet player, the town's mayor, Patricia Warby, laying a wreath, and a minute's silence.

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Tom Sharpley, 86, who was a member of the Royal Marine Commandos on the day, helped arrange the anniversary event, which he said reminded him clearly of the fateful day 65 years ago.

“They say times heals,” he said. “And it does and it gets distant, but that's until these days and everything comes back to you.

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“I was remembering the whole thing. It feels like a dream and it felt like one then.

“How many of us then expected to live the next 24 hours? Certainly not 65 years. I very much feel I have been on borrowed time since.

“I went in as a boy aged 17 and came out aged 24 as a man. It's as simple as that.”

Grandfather Mr Sharpley cast his mind back to leaving his boat and making his way to Juno beach.

He said: “We were bobbing around like a cork. I felt scared. Then I was waist deep in water and home seemed a million years away.

“There was a lot of bravado among the boys; they were betting who was going to date the first French girl.

“In the back of my mind I had a thought that I was a highly trained Royal Marine Commando - they wouldn't dare shoot me. Then you get on the beach and you see wounded and dead you change your mind.

“As I left the landing something hit the chap I was with and he went over the side of the boat. Fifty years later I found his grave. It killed him on the spot and a yard my way whatever it was would have killed me.”

After the war ended Mr Sharpley left the forces and later in life ran petrol stations. But he said he always regretted leaving the forces and was pleased to be able to join his old comrades on Saturday.

He added: “A lot of people cried, there were a lot of tears, handkerchiefs and tissues.

“There is a sense of togetherness which is very difficult to explain. Although we were all different regiments we all went through it.”

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