Royal Marines meet D-Day veterans

Royal Marines showed off their modern amphibious warfare skills to veterans who were in action on D-Day 75 years ago in an emotional meeting at Poole Harbour in Dorset.

In 1944, thousands of landing craft spilled allied troops onto the beaches of Normandy to start hammering down the steel casing of Fortress Europe in the largest ever amphibious operation in history.

Now the veterans who crashed ashore that day have rubbed shoulders with the modern-day amphibious specialists to mark D-Day’s 75th anniversary.

Coxswains of 1 Assault Group’s 539 Assault Squadron and troops from Charlie Company of Taunton-based 40 Commando showed off the kit they use in modern amphibious warfare, before sharing stories with the veterans.

“They’re our forefathers and we look up to them. They laid the foundations of what we are today and especially in the D-Day landings,” said Marine Chris Takacs, Charlie Company, 40 Commando.

“D-Day has that legacy and we still use some of the tactics and we implement the lessons learnt.

“Obviously modern warfare has evolved, but we still pride ourselves on the amphibious capability and what they did on D-Day.

“It’s been great to chat to the veterans and they’ve been eager to compare what they had to what we have now.”

These D-Day veterans are at the very centre of a series of events, which will mark a pivotal phase of World War Two, when 75 years ago they took part in Operation Neptune, the largest amphibious operation in history.

Brigadier Graeme Fraser

539 Assault Squadron brought three of their high-speed Offshore Raiding Craft (ORC) to Poole with them and dozens of veterans headed out on the water with the green berets to experience the powerful boats now used in seaborne assaults.

Len Perry, 95, who was on destroyer HMS Beagle during D-Day was gifted the chance to briefly pilot one of the ORCs in the waters around the harbour.

“This is great,” he said. “I didn’t ever think I’d get the chance to do something like this again.”

Some 255 veterans are on a week-long commemoration tour to mark 75 years since D-Day and, before heading to Portsmouth and France for further events this week, the Royal British Legion ship, MV Boudicca, came into Poole.

Royal Marines veteran Robert William Yaxley, 95, was in the Sword beach assault on D-Day and was pleased to see plenty of green berets greeting him and his comrades at the harbour.

“I feel so lucky to be here today,” he said. “It’s seems a long while ago now since we landed on Sword Beach.

“I was very lucky, I landed on D-Day and went all the way through to Germany without a scratch.

“It’s very important to mark this occasion and it’s great to see so many green berets here to greet us.”

“It is a great privilege to be present today in Poole Harbour to meet an extraordinary group of people embarked on MV Boudicca,” said Brigadier Graeme ‘Jock’ Fraser.

“These D-Day veterans are at the very centre of a series of events, which will mark a pivotal phase of World War Two, when 75 years ago they took part in Operation Neptune, the largest amphibious operation in history.”

Poole was a significant embarkation point on D-Day, making it a very fitting place for the veterans to meet the green berets.

Many landing crafts, gun boats and the decking for Mulberry Harbours were built in Poole and thousands of American troops bound for Omaha beach left from the Dorset town.

The veterans are being transported to various events on the Royal British Legion ship, which will be in Portsmouth tomorrow for the National Commemorative Event on Southsea Common.