Veteran journey back to wartime memories
D-DAY veteran Peter Morley Brown is today hoping that later this year he will once again visit the French beaches where the great invasion took place.But while many have criticised the government's lack of enthusiasm for a major celebration of the 60th anniversary of one Britain's most important war-time events, he believes celebrations are not in order.
D-DAY veteran Peter Morley Brown is today hoping that later this year he will once again visit the French beaches where the great invasion took place.
But while many have criticised the government's lack of enthusiasm for a major celebration of the 60th anniversary of one Britain's most important war-time events, he believes celebrations are not in order.
In the current world climate, it is an anniversary which should be marked, but not one for national celebration.
"It is very difficult but I have not been one pressing for a major celebration. Most of us were 20 to 23 years old and we had a very different mindset and were different people then," said Mr Morley Brown, now 82, of Roman Way, Old Felixstowe.
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"It was very different to war today. We have people out in Iraq fighting but it's a long way away and we don't really understand what is happening.
"Back in 1944, it involved the whole country and affected every part of everyone's lives."
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But the 60th anniversary has brought memories flooding back.
Mr Morley Brown is helping to promote a special commemorative day at Landguard Fort, Felixstowe, on June 6 when the resort's important but often-forgotten role in D-Day will be marked.
In June 1944, there was a constant stream of military convoys arriving at Felixstowe to take part in the invasion. The Felixstowe-Ipswich road was closed to the public and people were only allowed into the resort with a special pass.
Troops boarded a flotilla of ships which joined the armada of 3,000 landing craft, 2,500 other ships, and 500 naval vessels – escorts and bombardment ships – for the invasion of Europe.
Mr Morley Brown was part of a little-known special unit called RAF Servicing Commandos whose role was to re-arm and refuel the 13,000 planes sent as part of the invasion from landing strips within occupied France.
His team sailed from Gosport on June 6 and during the journey was attacked by German torpedo boats. One member died and others were injured.
After landing on Gold Beach they had to follow white-taped tracks where mines had been removed to a field inland.
"It had been occupied by Germans who had been overcome. There were dead bodies about and what I remember particularly were their tents where inside the porridge was still in bowls on the trestle tables and the radios still playing," he said.
"That first night ashore we had to defend our area. I spent my first night in Normandy in a ditch with a 303 rifle.
"Alongside me was a dead German who had been split in half by a shell and whose face was looking up at me between his legs. I didn't envisage this when I had joined the RAF three years earlier."
Because the dust coated the team's blue RAF uniforms and turned them grey, the English Army often mistook them for Germans and they had to wear a bright yellow neckerchief to avoid the problem.
The Landguard Fort Day will run from 10.30am to 5.30pm on June 6 and will include re-enactors, war veterans talking about their memories, a hurricane and spitfire flypast, and other displays and activities.
n Do you remember Felixstowe's D-Day role? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk