A VETERAN soldier who served during the World War Two D-Day campaign has returned to the Normandy battlefield where his tank was destroyed.

Callington Army veteran Richard Aldred drove a tank as part of the Royal Armoured Corps as a back-up to D-Day landing forces. His tank was destroyed on August 1944 near Bourneville-Sainte-Crox, inland from the D-Day beaches. He had never been back to the scene until last week’s international D-Day 80 commemorations.

Richard Aldred, D-Day veteran visiting where his tank was destroyed in  Bourneville-Sainte-Croix, Normandy.
Richard Aldred, D-Day veteran visiting the spot where his tank was destroyed in Bourneville-Sainte-Croix, Normandy. (Spirit of Normandy Trust)

D-Day 80 commemorations in France: Richard Aldred at Caen City Hall & French children.
Richard at Caen City Hall with French children. (Spirit of Normandy Trust)

Richard, 99, (who has deteriorating eyesight) and his wife Joyce joined the international events marking the Allied invasion of northern France in 1944. He went with the Spirit of Normandy Trust and eight other veterans of the Normandy Campaign to Normandy.

A trust spokesperson said: “All our veterans said they had the most wonderful time. They could not thank the trust enough. They had a full-on few days and Richard even met and chatted to the King.”

“We have been working closely with the Ministry of Defence and the Royal British Legion in the UK and with local mayors in Normandy to construct a programme that will give the veterans an opportunity to attend all the significant ceremonies, as well as having time to undertake private visits to locations that are meaningful to them as individuals.”

Before setting out from Portsmouth, the veterans attended events there and met local children as well as watching a military aircraft flypast, setting off for France with suitable pomp and circumstance. Their cross channel ferry was piped out to sea by the Jedburgh Pipe Band and once at sea, wreath-laying ceremony was staged on board with the wreath thrown onto the waves to honour those who died at sea during the Normandy campaign.

Richard Aldred with his tank at the time of the Battle of Normandy
Richard Aldred with his tank at the time of the Battle of Normandy (Submitted)

On docking in Ouistreham, they attended a torch lighting ceremony staged by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission with VIPs and invited guests, Richard among them. He and his comrades then attended a civiv welcome event at Caen City Hall.

Commemorative events were also held at Coleville-Montgomery, the Caen Peace Garden and Bayeux Cemetery, the latter with the Royal British Legion (RBL).

Then on the D-Day anniversary itself, last Thursday (June 6) the veterans attended the RBL ceremony at the British Normandy Memorial at Ver Sur Mer while a wreath laying ceremony was held in Arromanches.

On Friday a CWGC ceremony was held at Ranville Cemetery and the key strategic military point of Pegasus Bridge. Finally Richard then met French children at Caen City Hall.