‘One of our finest’ – tributes to D-Day marine Ted

Topic: People Storyline: People

D-Day has claimed its ‘last victim’ with the passing of Royal Marine Ted Owens at the age of 98.

The green beret thought he was the last man to be wounded in action on June 6 1944 to still be with us more than three quarters of a century later.

He and his comrades stepped off the gangway on their landing craft and into a hellish maelstrom of armour clanking, shells from warships crashing down, the clatter of machine-guns raking the shore, smoke, fire and an indescribable noise.

“If anyone wasn’t frightened, there was something wrong with them. I certainly was – and I don’t mind admitting it,” he recalled more than seven decades later.

His brush with death on D-Day was the first of three occasions when he was wounded helping to liberate western Europe from the Nazi yoke.

Ted spent more than two months recuperating from his D-Day injuries – his comrades thought at first he had been killed when struck in the chest, back and left shoulder by shrapnel… and his body carried more than a dozen pieces for the rest of his life.

Born in Pembroke Dock, Ted volunteered for the elite 41 Commando Royal Marines and was just 19 when he went into action with them on Sword Beach in Normandy on ‘the longest day’.

Once recovered from his D-Day wounds, Ted returned to the front line for the final battles in Normandy, was wounded during operations on Walcheren in November 1944 (injured by a landmine) then again shortly before Christmas 1944 by a ricochet from a sniper’s bullet which struck his windpipe and required a further spell in hospital.

Upon demobilisation he returned to his hometown and re-joined the fire brigade with whom he’d served before his Royal Marines duties.

For decades Ted struggled to come to terms with his wartime experiences. But when he did finally did open up “it was like a relief and I never stopped talking since”.

Indeed, the veteran made it his mission to ensure today’s generation were aware of the sacrifices made by his contemporaries, sharing his wartime experiences with schoolchildren in his native Wales, as well as France and the Netherlands, reminding them: “It gave us freedom.”

He attended both the 70th and 75th commemorations of the invasion – enjoying afternoon tea with the now Princess of Wales at the former.

His wartime service and attendance at high-profile events made Ted something of a celebrity both in his hometown and beyond late in life. “I have had a wonderful life, exceptional,” he told one interviewer.

Naval Regional Commander for Wales and Western England, Brigadier Jock Fraser RM, whose team frequently met and worked with the Normandy veteran, said simply: “We have lost one of our finest.”

I have had a wonderful life, exceptional.

Ted Owens