D-Day memories flood back

"WE were scrambling to get off the beaches and I saw him caught up in the wire, dead."I'd already seen bodies as there was a lot of dead and dying when we arrived but when his corps badge caught my eye the fear routed in.

"WE were scrambling to get off the beaches and I saw him caught up in the wire, dead.

"I'd already seen bodies as there was a lot of dead and dying when we arrived but when his corps badge caught my eye the fear routed in.

"That's my lasting memory of the landings."

These are the thoughts of Dennis Alder today on the eve of the 60th anniversay of the D-Day landings.

Thousands were today gathering along the French coast to mark the historic event.

Mr Alder, from Stowmarket, has this week been transported back 60 years to the the moment he stepped onto the beach in Normandy.

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The young sergeant felt excited and prepared for action - fear for what lay ahead didn't enter his mind.

But it only took a split second for the reality of what the troops were facing to hit home - seeing a fallen comrade is enough to knock any soldier for six.

Dennis, now living in Stowmarket, said: "I first put my foot on French soil at 8am on June 6.

"I remember it clear as day.

"Men were kissing the ground in front of them as they were so glad to be off the ships but I wasn't tired, I was ready for action."

Mr Alder was serving with the Royal Corps Signals and had a strong loyalty to the regiment having dedicated seven years of his life to it.

And it was this allegiance to his unit that left him feeling shell shocked at seeing of one of the corps dead - draped bleeding over a barbed wire fence.

"I don't know who that man was or where he was from but seeing him there brought the whole thing home," he said.

"We were scrambling to get off the beaches and I saw him caught up in the wire, dead.

"Sure we had lots of success, the day went down history after all, but I cannot get that image out of my mind. It shocked me then and it still shocks me now."

Mr Alder's eagerness to fight showed at an early age when he lied to get enrolled as a teenager.

"I signed up when I was 15, a year under age, but the army know all about that," he said.

"I walked into the sergeant's office and gave him my details and he sent me away because I was too young.

"I went back in two minutes later and lied and he smiled and let me in - he even worked out my fake date of birth for me."

His D-Day story began several years later when he was more than old enough to serve his country and had been made a sergeant two years previous.

The journey to Southampton took a month and for a fearless sergeant boarding the landing craft couldn't have come sooner.

"I suppose deep down I was frightened but at my age it felt like an adventure.

"I wasn't old enough to realise the seriousness and couldn't wait to get moving. It was a pain when we had to stop because of the weather conditions."

He added: "The journey over there was an event in itself.

"I shared a compartment with a man who was extremely seasick.

"We were in this little cabin with no light and I watched him go through all the shades of green.

"We were told that if our compartment was to get hit we had to lock ourselves in and drown for the sake of the rest of the boat not sinking.

"That was a frightening thought but we were too busy trying to make this poor man feel better."

Now 83, Mr Alder moved to Suffolk after leaving the army in 1946.

He married twice, had two children with his first wife Theresa and enjoyed a career with the Post Office.

Watching the D-Day coverage has brought back a sense of pride but he is also angry as he thinks some soldiers have been forgotten.

"The thing that aggrieves me is that this week also marks the 100th anniversary of when troops left Dunkirk but all we here about is D-Day.

"I served in Dunkirk for 180 days and watched the nucleus of the British army die - they can't be forgotten."

See inside for the Star's special D-Day supplement

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