PHIL Carey recalls wondering whether he would even reach the beaches of Normandy.

Aged 22, he was with the Royal 2nd Tactical Air Force, crossing the Channel with hundreds of members of the US Army to land on Utah Beach.

He said: “There was the thought of ‘Is this the last time we’ll see England?’, ‘Are we going to come back here?’, ‘What’s going to happen to us?’ “

As a religious person, I thought, well, I didn’t want to go and see my maker too quickly.

“We wondered, would we reach the beaches? Many of the ships were fired on as we went across to the beach.”

London-born Mr Carey had joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve and had been trained at Bournemouth and Kirkham, near Blackpool. He and his fellow airmen were living in tents at Hurn Airport until shortly before D-Day.

“We moved down to Gosport and that was an amazing time because there were so many people there. All the women came out, gave us tea and supplies as we waited to go on the boat.” he said.

“I was amazed to see the number of ships around that area.”

He saw many of his shipmates perish before he even left the boat.

“As we got nearer to the beach, nearly 200 of the dedicated soldiers of the American Army moved off and they all had heavy equipment. To our horror they just started sinking and nobody could do anything. It was a complete swamp. They went down, completely sunk, and nobody could rescue them.”

Mr Carey’s role on D-Day involved ensuring there were landing facilities for helicopters transporting the seriously wounded and for landing supplies.

He recalls saying a prayer as he reached the beaches.

“The next step was to start getting our vehicles and goods together because we had to carry so much equipment and wires and wood to lay the foundations,” he said.

“We were thinking about our folk at home and what were the others doing that were landing in the six other areas. A couple of days later, we were given some news that it had been successful.”

Bournemouth Echo: Phil Carey in uniform in 1941 Phil Carey in uniform in 1941

Horrors of war: the scenes I shall never forget 

As the Allies advanced, Mr Carey travelled through France, Belgium and Holland. It was in Holland that the lorries carrying his unit’s goods were bombed on January 1, 1945.

“Some of us were in a building and we threw ourselves on the ground and saw the bullet marks as we were shot at,” he said.

“They went either side of us. As I lay, there I couldn’t do anything but there was the run of bullets both sides.”

Later, he was present at the liberation of the Belsen concentration camp.

“I shall never forget seeing the dead bodies that were piled up of all the previous prisoners,” he said.

“The first thing the Army made the Germans do was to take hold of the bodies and take them away and bury them properly because they were just in a heap,” he said.

“The Germans had to take these bodies one at a time, very gently, clean them up and bury them.”