VIDEO: “It was a scene you’ve never seen before or since” - veteran Ted Young’s D-Day memories (From Bournemouth Echo)
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VIDEO: “It was a scene you’ve never seen before or since” - veteran Ted Young’s D-Day memories
TED Young vividly recalls wading through neck-high water towards Juno beach on D-Day.
“All I remember was the coldness of the sea, getting wet through,” he said.
“You couldn’t change your clothes. You just had to keep them on you till you dried out and it took four or five days before you got dry again.”
Abraham Edward Young was a 20-year-old sapper in airfield construction with the Royal Engineers at the time of D-Day.
He joined the army at 17 but he had tried lying about his age when he was 15 in an attempt to sign up.
“I lived at Colchester and it was a military town,” said Mr Young, 90, “All boys of my age were always joining up so you liked to be with your mates.”
He remembers being assigned to the Royal Engineers after he said he was a tractor driver. He was stationed in Hampshire and sailed to France from Lee-on-Solent.
“We never went to sleep that night,” he said.
He recalls the sight of the ships filling the channel.
“It was a scene you’ve never seen before or since.
“It looked as if you could just walk from one boat to another, right back to England.
“It was just a mass of metal. You could hardly see the water at all. I suppose there were thousands of ships there.”
He barely recalls the moment when they made off for the beach. “We didn’t have much time to think about it. They just said: ‘Get going’ and that’s it.”
He waded towards shore with orders to keep his rifle held high. “A wet rifle was no good to you. It would blow up in your face,” he said.
“There were still guns firing around there but they didn’t appear to be all that dangerous. I didn’t think they were anyway.”
On the beach, there was the danger of ‘hedgehogs’ – structures of criss-crossed iron or wood with mines attached to them.
“We lost a few men. Not many. They were all important because each man had his own job to do,” said Mr Young.
The job was to “get down an airfield as fast as possible”, he said. “They built one just off the beach at Beny-sur-Mer.”
“I think we lost about 18 blokes out of our company, one way or another. Some trod on mines. Others were shot.
“The German aeroplanes used to come down and machine-gun the beaches,” he said.
The first of Ted's friends to lose his life was John Queen, or 'Queenie'.
“He was my mate. When we were over here we always went out together,” he said.
“We were making the airfield and the site was completely covered with fellas walking about, doing their different jobs," he said.
“And this aeroplane come down, a Canadian Spitfire it was. He'd been shot and his aeroplane was damaged and he had to land.
“He went right through the bunch of fellas. Queenie was one who couldn't get out of the way in time. So he ran, of course, and he ran right into the propeller and it just chopped him to pieces.”
Mr Young and his family have made annual visits to Normandy in recent years. They found John Queen's grave in Bayeux, around 15 miles from where he died, and Mr Young leaves a cross of poppies there on every visit.
He is in Normandy this week, taking part in commemorations and laying wreaths, including one at Bayeux on behalf of the Royal Engineers' Bournemouth branch.
“I'll be thinking how lucky I was,” he said.
“There were a lot of poor buggers who weren't so lucky.”
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