Taunton D-Day hero Jim Booth relives Second World War memories

This is The West Country: Jim Booth. Photo: Geoff Hall Jim Booth. Photo: Geoff Hall

A GRANDAD who is the last surviving member of a Second World War secret underwater mission ahead of the D-Day invasions has relived his memories.

Jim Booth, 92, of Gipsy Lane, Taunton, was in a crack team of ten who spent five days underwater before the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Camped in a submarine around half a mile underwater, he helped guide All-ied landing craft to Sword beach instead of drifting on to jagged rocks.

He and the team would spy on Nazi troops across the shorelines before shining beacons across the sea to guide Allied forces across the treacherous rocks.

Seventy years on, scientists have created a film of 200 wrecked ships and other vessels lost off Normandy.

Jim, who has four children and four grandchildren, went over to Normandy to help with the film crew and talk to scientists hoping to salvage some of the history lost beneath the water.

He told the County Gazette: “We went underwater to look at one of the wreckages and then they filmed me walking along the beach.”

This is The West Country:

Jim was awarded the Croix de Guerre French military medal, and was part of the Combined Operations Pilotage and Reconnaissance Parties honoured with a granite memorial donated by Prince Charles on Hayling Island, Hampshire.

Reliving his memories of the mission, he said: “People don’t realise how difficult it was to navigate – there was no satnav and we had to do it the old-fashioned way using charts.

“You couldn’t stand up and we had to share a sleeping bag – it was very smelly.

“I was either on the steering wheel or the periscope, and we had very basic food like baked beans or soup.“When we found out the mission had been delayed for 24 hours we were worried we might run out of oxygen – we nearly did, but we were OK.”

The D-Day Normandy Landings saw 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French troops begin an airborne assault shortly after midnight.

This was followed by the war’s largest amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions at 6.30am with 160,000 troops.

The secret mission of the two five-man crews submerged in their tiny craft remained virtually unknown until decades later.

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