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D-Day will be recalled by Les

141333_DDAY_7/5/14 

Leslie Garrett, 87, shares his experience of being a gunner on HMS Diadem, which was one of the first ships to reach the Normandy beaches.

Five people involved in the D-Day landings re-tell their stories at a special event, Square Tower, Broad Street, Old Portsmouth.

Picture: Allan Hutchings (141333-441) PPP-140705-231844003

141333_DDAY_7/5/14 Leslie Garrett, 87, shares his experience of being a gunner on HMS Diadem, which was one of the first ships to reach the Normandy beaches. Five people involved in the D-Day landings re-tell their stories at a special event, Square Tower, Broad Street, Old Portsmouth. Picture: Allan Hutchings (141333-441) PPP-140705-231844003

PROUD Felpham D-Day veteran Les Garrett has begun a hectic period of remembering the invasion.

The impending 70th anniversary of the Allied landings on the northern French coast on June 6 is being remembered in a flurry of events around Portsmouth.

D-Day and Normandy Fellowship member Les, 87, of Sarisbury Close, will be at most of them.

The highlight will be a drumhead service on Southsea Common on June 5 which will be attended by the Princess Royal.

He has also been interviewed for 
British and French radio and televisions stations.

Les said he was heartened by the continued interest in the landings.

“People are very interested and so thankful for what we did,” he said. “The real heroes are those men who died on the beaches and that’s why we are remembering them.

“We fought for freedom and they died for freedom and that’s why people are grateful for the freedom we enjoy today.”

Les joined the Royal Marines at an under-age 16 and, at 5.42am on June 6, 1944, found himself serving on HMS Diadem off 
Beny-sur-Mer on Juno Beach on the Normandy coast.

He lifted the cordite charge from the magazine hoist and to the tray behind the highly explosive shell before the charge and shell were thrust into the gun behind.

He and his shipmates went 52 hours without sleep as they trained their gun on German ships up to 13.5 miles away or at Nazi aircraft 25,000-35,000ft in the air.

The light cruiser fired 3,826 shells between June 6 and 29 and survived an attack by six enemy aircraft at 11pm on D-Day.

The first of the anniversary events Les attended was on May 7.

He was among four veterans from England and France at the Square Tower in Portsmouth who discussed their recollections of D-Day.

His story is also being told in an exhibition at the Spinnaker Tower between June 2 and 15 about wartime Portsmouth.

On June 4, he will be at Lee-on-the-Solent for a memorial service for the Fleet Air Arm.

Next will be the drumhead service before Les goes to a memorial service held by the Itchenor Society on June 6

June 7 will see him at the D-Day and Normandy Fellowship dinner at the 
Royal Beach Hotel in Southsea before he attends the annual commemorative service at Portsmouth Cathedral the next day.

 

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