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John's story: Avoiding mines at Gold Beach

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John was an instrument mechanic, maintaining the equipment of the 7th Armoured Division of the famous Desert Rats when his unit was sent back to England to join the D-Day invasion.

"We were in enclosed camps near Felixstowe and, just prior to the invasion, boarded the landing crafts at Felixstowe and sailed the English Channel overnight.

“The actual destination of the landing was kept very secret, which was why we were in sealed camps before we eventually embarked. The only contact we had was getting rations in, and that sort of thing.

"Some of the troops actually were quite annoyed at the fact that they weren't told where they were going to land, but I wasn't. It was very, very important because we'd been waiting to go on the second front for years. When it did come, of course, we realised we had to get a foothold on D-Day itself."

They laid anchor off the beaches and waited for the order.

“Approximately 150,000 troops actually landed in Normandy. Of course, they couldn't all disembark on the first day, so some of us had to lay to for some time before we could get ashore, which wasn't very comfortable when we were under fire from the Luftwaffe Air Force.

"But it was an epic sight actually, to see so many ships in one area that one had the feeling you could almost walk from one ship to another - there were actually over 1,000 craft in the Channel at that time. And eventually we did embark on what were known as LCTs, or big landing craft.”

John when he joined the army in 1939

As a driver, John had to safely navigate his vehicle up Gold Beach. 

"We landed quite safely, although the beach was under fire from snipers and artillery further back in the German lines.

"We had to drive our vehicles off the ramp of the landing crafts up onto the beach in a marked lane. There were lanes laid out that had been cleared of mines, so we had to be careful and keep the vehicles within the lines to get off the beach.

“We managed to get up off the beach without any casualties. The troops had cleared several miles of the enemy, so we were able to get a few miles inland. We ended up at a place called Bayeux until there was a big battle at Falaise."

Listen to John talk about D-Day

Under fire but still an epic sight - how D-Day was for John.

"Wars do no good to anybody. All they leave behind is misery and grief."
Blind veteran

John later wrote about his wartime experiences.

When he first got home after the war, all he wanted was to forget about it. It was the 75th anniversary of D-Day that brought it all back to him. He went back to Normandy with other D-Day veterans and kept a diary of his experience.

When COVID-19 and lockdown came along, he didn't want to feel he had nothing to do. So, at the age of 101, John decided to write about his wartime days, and it turned into a book that was printed - and sold out. John gave part of the proceeds to Blind Veterans UK to say thank you for the support he's received.

Blind veteran John, sitting at a table with piles of books stacked in front of him
Blind veteran John at the launch of his new book
"They provided me with a reader which reads books for me. I'm never bored."
Blind veteran

John was inspired to write his memoirs after returning to Normandy in 2019

John by a memorial in Normandy
Sword beach - D-Day 75
Sword beach is now known as Hermanville-sur-Mer
A flotilla reenacting the invasion
Watch John tell his D-Day story

You can help blind veterans like John.

Without the charity's support, John's recollections might never have been turned into a book - one volunteer typed up everything for him. "A very helpful lady emailed it back to me so that's been very, very helpful."

More importantly, the project kept John busy and entertained during lockdown, a time that was incredibly difficult for people with sight loss.

He is now 103 and has remained completely independent. Please donate today, and ensure more veterans like John have the support they need.

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John using his iPad

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