Veterans' Stories

D-Day 80th Anniversary - A Naval Veteran's Story

May 30 2024

On June 6, 1944, the world witnessed one of the most pivotal and harrowing events in modern history - D-Day. 

For many it marked the beginning of the end of World War Two, but for veteran Eddie Gaines, it was a day etched in memory with vivid details of fear, courage and loss. 

Eddie was a Stoker, 1st Class, in the Royal Navy and was among the near 62,000 British troops to arrive in northern France on June 6th, 1944.

"We just knew there was going to be an invasion...we didn't know it was D-Day," Eddie recalled. 

The soldiers were aware that an invasion was imminent, but were unaware of the scale and significance of the operation. 

The full scope of the mission, and the monumental challenge they were about to face, was not clear to them. 

They were about to land on what would become known as the 'killing beaches of Normandy.'

As the landing crafts approached the shore, the magnitude of the battle became apparent. "All the battle wagons, British and American, were in a massive great semi-circle right around the whole of the beaches, shelling," Eddie continued. 

"The air was thick with smoke, and the sound of gunfire was deafening."

The soldiers disembarked, moving forward with a mix of determination and dread. "We had to go in stern first with a ramp on the stern," he explained. 

The sight that met them was one of horror—bodies floating in the water, the fallen comrades who had perished before reaching the shore. 

"You didn't know whether they were alive or dead," he said.

Eddie also spoke about the overwhelming sense of loss and futility. "At the time I didn't care if I took a bullet and was joining them." 

War correspondents flying over the beach the following day described it as if 'a scythe had cut them all down.' 

The scene was one of utter devastation, with bodies strewn across the beach. 

Eddie reflected on what he'd experienced: "Well, it's beyond sadness."

"It's beyond that, it's... taken a bit of understanding really, how many human beings can be wiped out."

Eddie’s account brings to light the brutal reality of war. "The word war almost sounds horrible," he said.

His reflection serves as a poignant reminder of the true cost of war—countless lives lost, futures extinguished, and the enduring scars left on those who survive.

Eddie sadly passed away on the 21st April 2023. 

Lest We Forget.

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