Ship's cook relives D-Day experience

PUBLISHED: 13:28 05 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:10 10 May 2010

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AS VETERANS across the country prepare to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings on Saturday, the Reporter spoke to one man who took part in the mission to liberate Western Europe. Codenamed Operation Overlord, on June 6 1944 the Allies be

AS VETERANS across the country prepare to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings on Saturday, the Reporter spoke to one man who took part in the mission to liberate Western Europe.

Codenamed Operation Overlord, on June 6 1944 the Allies began the largest assault landing in history to end German occupation and set up victory in the Second World War.

A printer by trade, John Haynes from Saffron Walden had few qualifications to serve in the Navy, but at 19-years-old he signed up as a ship's cook.

Now 86, Mr Haynes, of Mill Lane, is one of the town's few surviving veterans involved in the Allied invasion of Normandy 65 years ago.

"Our first crossing was actually quite humorous," said Mr Haynes. "We were in a big American landing craft which got caught up on a sand bank and swung around so it was facing back out to sea. We had to wait for the tide to go out before we could get the tanks off."

The then 21-year-old cook was working on a tank landing ship known as HM LST-80 which ferried tanks, troops and other military equipment across the channel during the invasion.

The operation was fraught with danger and the landing ship made more than 30 trips across the Channel delivering vital supplies and taking back injured troops and German prisoners.

"On one occasion we were hit by a torpedo from a German submarine," said Mr Haynes. "An American vessel pulled up beside us and said that our crew could jump aboard, but I had hurt my back from the attack so I had to stay on the boat and wait for it to be towed back to Britain."

The invasion involved more than 160,000 troops landing on a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coastline in one day and Mr Haynes said it was something that he could "never forget".

Thousands of soldiers died during the operation including Mr Haynes' brother, who also served in the Navy and was shot down by an Allied plane that mistook his boat for a German E-boat.

After the war Mr Haynes left the Navy and continued his career as a printer. He married Thelma and they have two children and lots of grandchildren.

The vessel HM LST-80, which was one of the largest landing crafts to be used during D-Day, was sunk when it hit two mines off the coast of Belgium in March 1945.

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