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"I'd Never Been So Far Away from Home", Dorset Remembers D-Day Heroes on 70th Anniversary


2:36pm 6th June 2014
(Updated 3:57pm 6th June 2014)

Dorset has paid an emotional tribute to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day and remember those who fought and died during the massive invasion of Northern France.

Veterans, dignitaries, politicians, serving members of the armed forces and relatives of fallen war heroes, all turned out for ceremonies at Dorchester's Military Keep Museum and Victoria Gardens on Portland.

The Keep had its biggest D-Day turnout in years with dozens of people saluting the thousands of British troops who left Dorset on ships and boats for the Normandy beach landings on the 6th of June 1944.

Over four hundred thousand American troops, who were based on Portland during preparations for the Allied invasion, passed over the island and were treated with doughnuts and coffee before boarding ships in Weymouth. Loads of heavy duty US military vehicles were taken over the English Channel from Portland Port too, and a memorial stands in Victoria Gardens where all those young soldiers passed by before marching to the ships.

89 year old Roy Slade from Charminster was in the Navy in the Second World War and told us what he remembers about D-Day from his position as a gunner on board one of the huge ships

"The night before D-Day I was on a cruiser, you could see Portland we were about a mile or two just off the coast, waiting for the landing craft that were all aligned. Then we had a terrific gale but of course we were alright on a big ship, but I did feels sorry for the chaps on the crafts because they didn't quite know what was going to happen ... Not many of them ever did I don't think."

"It was all so new to us, I lived in Charminster and I'd never been very far away from home before I was in the Navy."

As a teenager Poppy Butcher was working in the dockyard on Portland and remembers D-Day and the build up to the invasion well:

"The Day before D-Day we went up to the top of Portland and saw all the planes going overhead towing the gliders and funny thing is, my cousin was in one of those gliders on his way to Pegasus Bridge, who was only 17".

"We knew something was happening but we didn't know what but it was amazing to see all these planes go. They had all these ships in the harbour and then when I went to work on D-Day the harbour was nearly empty, then we heard about the invasion on the news. When you're younger like that you just take it all in your stride."

Portlander Terry Wye paid tribute to his father at Victoria Gardens, who was one of the first soldiers to touch down on the beaches of Normandy as part of Three Commando the Pathfinders who led the way for allied troops on D-Day:

"We've recently found his diary which explains how he went through North Africa with the Commandos, how he joined up, and all about D-Day when he landed on the beaches, path finding through all the danger for the troops behind him."

"We only know anything about his time at war because of the diary. He never talked to me about the war at all and he's not written about who he was in contact with and who he fought against, they just didn't like talking about it did they .... I'm very proud of him."

An emotional Terry said remembering people like his dad and all the other brave souls who launched off Dorset on D-Day, is something he hopes no one will ever forget - you can see a picture of Terry and his wife Isabelle below.

D-Day was the largest seaborne operation the world has even seen and it took 2 years to plan and a full scale dress rehearsal of the massive invasion was played out off the Dorset coast, at Studland where the British Prime Minister was joined by Supreme Allied commander Dwight D. Eisenhower and King George VI to watch proceedings.

By the end of D-Day on 6 June 1944, the Allies had established a foothold in France - an event that would eventually help bring the war to an end.


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