Jack, aged 91, joins fellow veterans for Normandy D-Day trip

Jack, aged 91, joins fellow veterans for Normandy D-Day trip

Jack Hill. Buy photo: 241462L

Jack Hill in his Navy days

First published in News
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WAR veterans from around the borough descended on Normandy for D Day 2014 last week.

Many of the veterans felt compelled to attend the 70th anniversary celebrations.

Jack Hill, who is 91 and from Thorns Road in Quarry Bank, summed up the mood when he said: "I felt I had to go because am I going to make it to the next one?"

He attended the celebrations with fellow veterans through Ace Academy of Tipton and they were given the VIP treatment and got to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Jack, who served in the Royal Navy on inshore minesweepers, said: "The event makes a great deal of veterans very sad but the people there make you feel very welcome.

"I think they are genuinely very grateful for what we did. When you visit some of the sites, it brings everything flooding back. I'm glad that I went, although I must admit there were a few tears in my eyes."

The trip was financed by National Lottery funding through the 'Heroes Return Scheme' and organiser Hilary Brown fromKingswinford said: "It was a privilege and a pleasure to be with these World War Two veterans.

"We attended a service on Pegasus Bridge which saw the first casualties of the D Day landings. It was very moving."

Jack, who was at Arromanche during D Day, said: "One feature stood out for me. During the D Day landings, the town was completely demolished, smashed to pieces except for the clock tower.

"I believe the Germans were using the clock tower as an observation point, while we were using it to guide ships. It's the only feature that remains to this day."

Jack, who was a stoker, was sent along with the rest of his crew to clear Gold beach of mines.

He recalls: "The Germans didn't fire on us. I think they must have been saving their fire power for the troop ships which followed - although we weren't to know that at the time.

"There was no use worrying about it anyway. If we had been hit, it would have reduced us to matchwood and oil and that would have been that.

"We once saw a Dutch mine sweeper get hit and that's what happened to it. We went over to see whether there were any survivors, but there was nothing."

Jack was initially classed in a reserved occupation and didn't get called up until 1943.

He said: "They wanted me to become an air-gunner but my younger brother Frank was already in the Royal Navy and that's where I wanted to be.

"Although I was a stoker, I declined the chance to become a petty officer. I'm glad I did, because if I'd become a petty officer, I might not be here today."

During the trip, Jack placed a British Legion cross on the grave of Ronald Davies who also came from Quarry Bank.

If there are any relatives of Ronald Davies who was killed in France, Jack would like them to get in touch.

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