A VETERAN from Wellington has told how he was drafted in for the Normandy landings at the 11th hour.
Assistant military landing officer Lewis Haines, 93, was part of a three-man team tasked with manning the flow of boats when they arrived on-shore 70 years ago today (June 6).
Mr Haines, of Millstream Gardens, Tonedale, received an official order from the 231 Infantry Brigade following an emergency conference informing him of his duties.
He said: “It was decided we needed more space in the boats for the extra men, of whom I was one of three.
“It was my job to man the beach – we weren’t there to go inland. Our job was to keep the boats ticking over.”
Of the 60,000-plus British troops to storm the beaches as part of Operation Overlord in the Second World War, fewer than 500 are thought to be alive today.
Mr Haines, who lives with his wife, Ruth, and has two children, still has the original order served on him and his two comrades.
It explains that their task will be:
- To police beach exits;
- To clear the beaches of vehs [vehicles] at the earliest possible moment;
- To ensure that vehs pass through the exits as early as possible in the correct order of priority.
Mr Haines said: “Once they dropped off troops they went back for the next batch and the turnaround needed to be as quick as possible.
“It wasn’t a pleasant sea, so it was hard work. There was one batman between two officers who were designed to assist us.”
Mr Haines joined the army aged 17, and worked in Glasgow, Surrey and Bedford before moving to Wellington 12 years ago.