Normandy veterans urged to join final pilgrimage
Normandy veteran Ken West is looking for old comrades to join a pilgrimage to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
Events next year are expected to be the last large-scale commemoration of the Allied invasion of Europe in June 1944 and Ken said he wanted as many people as possible to join his group.
Ken, who served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers, said: "It's our duty to be there."
Ken was a newly-married 21-year-old from Leicester when he waded ashore on to Gold beach under enemy fire.
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He said: "The Normandy campaign was the most frightening, unforgettable time of my life.
"In war, you owe your life to your mates and your mates owe their life to you.
"It's that camaraderie that brings us back."
Ken lost a good friend when they were both blown up by a shell on the outskirts of Caen following fierce fighting with the SS.
Ken suffered shrapnel wounds and phosphorous burns and was flown home for treatment.
As vice-chairman of the Leicestershire branch of the Normandy Veterans Association, he organised the visit by veterans to mark 60th anniversary, in 2004.
Ken, who lives in Humberstone, Leicester, said: "This will be the last big event and the French are pulling out all the stops.
"We are hoping to take nine or 10 veterans on our coach.
"We will visit the beaches, cemeteries and take part in a service at Bayeux Cathedral and be at the march past at Arromanches.
"It is a six-day pilgrimage and the itinerary has been worked out by the national Normandy Veterans Association and the hotels and coach have been booked.
"We have a coach of 40 including spouses, relatives and carers already."
But he said: "I am looking for other veterans who may be interested so they can go on a reserve list should anybody drop out between now and June next year.
"Not all the veterans are from Leicestershire but we are all getting on a bit. Most of us are in our 90s and the youngest is 88."
He said the visit was being subsidised by the Big Lottery Fund.
The fund has awarded more than £25 million since 2004 to more than 52,000 Second World War veterans, widows, spouses and their carers for journeys in the UK and to France, Germany, the Middle East and Far East.
Mick McGrath, head of the Big Lottery Fund in the East Midlands, said: "Second World War veterans from across the East Midlands who have already been on a Heroes Return commemorative visit can now be supported to make another journey to a place where they fought or served.
"The experiences they revisit remind us that we must never take for granted – the peace this generation secured for all of us and the debt we owe for the freedoms we enjoy and value today."
For details, contact the Heroes Return helpline on 0845 00 00 121 or visit:
People who are interested in joining the Leicestershire coach party can contact Ken on 0116 274 2991.