D-Day veterans recall sad memories as they gather at invasion planning HQ

D-Day veterans recall sad memories as they gather at invasion planning HQ

Veterans have spoken of their “sad memories” as they gathered at the headquarters where D-Day was planned, to mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

About 40 veterans met at Southwick House, near Portsmouth, which was the headquarters of Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower.

A giant map still adorns a wall in the Grade II-listed 19th-century manor house which is now home to the Defence School of Policing and Guarding.

George Chandler, from Burgess Hill, West Sussex, served aboard the British motor torpedo boat MTB 710 as part of a flotilla which provided a guarding escort for the US Army assault on Omaha and Utah beaches.

D-Day 80th anniversary
Normandy veteran George Chandler, 99, in the Map Room at Southwick House (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The 99-year-old said: “Let me assure you, what you read in those silly books that have been written about D-Day are absolute crap, it’s a load of old rubbish.

“I was there, how can I forget it? It’s a very sad memory because I watched young American Rangers not shot, slaughtered.

“And they were young. I was 19 at the time, these kids were younger than me when I was there and I saw them shot.”

D-Day 80th anniversary
George Chandler served aboard a motor torpedo boat (Blind Veterans UK/PA)

For about three months without a break, Mr Chandler’s flotilla returned to Newhaven each night for refuelling and rearming and a few hours of sleep before returning across the Channel.

After the Normandy campaign, his boat was deployed to the Mediterranean where it suffered damage before being sunk in April 1945.

Marie Scott, now 97, served with the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) at Fort Southwick as a “switchboard operator” using a machine connected to the landing forces in France.

D-Day 80th anniversary
D-Day veteran Marie Scott (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Her job was to pass messages from the troops on the beaches to the leaders of Operation Overlord, Gen Eisenhower and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who were stationed nearby in Southwick House.

Ms Scott – who was was awarded France’s highest order of merit, the Legion d’Honneur, in recognition of her contribution to the liberation of the country – described how she could hear the reality of the battle taking place.

D-Day 80th anniversary
Marie Scott worked on the switchboard in the tunnels under Fort Southwick (Marie Scott/PA)

She said: “I was a little bemused when I first heard it, then I thought to myself, ‘Oh, you know, this is war’.

“You could hear everything, machine gun fire, cannon fire, bombs dropping, men shouting, the general chaos.”

The majority of the veterans who attended the gathering at Southwick House were brought by the Royal British Legion, the Spirit of Normandy Trust and the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans.