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D-Day heroes relive horrors of war at Stars of Suffolk awards ceremony

PUBLISHED: 07:57 10 November 2019

Judges Special Award winners were James Perry, Tony Pyatt, Francis Grant and Douglas Smith - who are pictured on stage with Ellis Barker, from Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines  Photo Brittany Woodman

Judges Special Award winners were James Perry, Tony Pyatt, Francis Grant and Douglas Smith - who are pictured on stage with Ellis Barker, from Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines Photo Brittany Woodman

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Four heroes who risked their lives for their country during the Normandy Landings have relived the horrors of war at the Stars of Suffolk Awards.

Tony Pyatt acknowledges the crowd, who gave him and other D-Day veterans a standing ovation  Picture: Brittany WoodmanTony Pyatt acknowledges the crowd, who gave him and other D-Day veterans a standing ovation Picture: Brittany Woodman

There was a long standing ovation for the servicemen who shared their stories with the audience in an emotional ending to the annual awards ceremony at Greshams Ipswich on Thursday. The four took home the Judges' Special Award.

There wasn't a dry eye in the house when James Perry, Tony Pyatt and Francis Grant took to the stage as 98-year-old Douglas Smith shared his harrowing story.

The ex-Suffolk serviceman had served as a bomber alongside his crewmates, undertaking 33 night flights. He was one of the 260 veterans who returned to Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary this year.

However, he told the audience how fate had played a part in one tragic mission.

Mr Smith said: "I was due to go out on a bombing raid in Hannover one particular night, but unfortunately I had to go into hospital as I had tonsillitis.

"The rest of my crew went and sadly to say, they did not come back. I'd like to pay tribute to those guys, as it stands they are in a cemetery in a place named Rheinberg."

Also in the group was former Royal Marine James Perry, who spent two to three days injured on Juno Beach waiting for medical repatriation, and former Ipswich Star editor Tony Pyatt, 103, who served as a signals officer.

The fourth, Francis Grant, was part way through his training for the Royal Marines when he was seconded to become one of the first deployed in a landing craft.

Inspired by the openness of more recent veterans like Nigel Seaman, who took home the Armed Services Award that night, Mr Smith echoed the call for ex-servicemen and women to talk about their problems.

Mr Smith was among more than 250 veterans from the landings to go aboard the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Voyage of Remembrance, which he said helped him open up about what he saw on the fateful day.

Mr Smith added: "The thing is, lots of us don't talk about our experiences and that is where we made a big mistake."

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