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Kent's soldiers recall history-changing day as D-Day veteran John Laming dies before the 70th anniversary of the landings in Normandy

By KentOnline reporter

It was dubbed the largest seaborne invasion in history.

Now Kent's surviving D-Day veterans have spoken of the courage, the fear and the fortitude of Kent's finest who embarked on the perilous mission later known as the Normandy landings.

Seventy years on, and for those remaining, the sacrifice is still as fresh as the day the top secret mission started.

US Army soldiers disembark from a landing craft during the Normandy landings

Sadly one fighter among the thousands who helped change history will not be taking part in the commemorations.

John Laming, of Firtree Close, Rough Common, died yesterday morning aged 89 - just one day before the 70th anniversary.

He served as a driver with the British support group known as the 2nd Army, tending to troops injured during the push into Normandy.

D-Day veteran John Laming

He had just recently shared his recollection of the momentous day - the largest seaborne assault in history - with the Kentish Gazette.

He said: “We were kept in complete ignorance about D-Day. We didn’t know what was going on, and we didn’t know what we were going to do.

"At some point, we were taken to a camp at St Neots, outside Cambridge, and were given French money and a little book about France.”

Normandy veteran John Laming

Other former soldiers from Kent who have spoken of their recollections of the invasion include Harry Trimmings, of Baddlesmere Road, Whitstable.

The 88-year-old recalled the build-up well when he was stationed on the south coast.

He said: “The movements down there were massive. The roads all around Portsmouth, Gosport, Southampton, Fareham were full of troops and vehicles and you could look out and see ships gathering all over from the Isle of White to Gosport to Southampton.”

"Not hundreds of vessels but thousands, as far as the eye could see in every direction" - D-Day veteran Capt Leslie Gosling

Captain Leslie Gosling, now 98 and living in St Dunstan’s Terrace, Canterbury, arrived in Normandy off Gold beach on the morning of D2, June 7.

He said: “The sight that unfolded was incredible. Not hundreds of vessels but thousands, as far as the eye could see in every direction.”

Commemorations are taking place across the county to mark the anniversary of D-Day.

A military vehicle used during the D-Day landings will be returning to the beaches where it served in combat exactly 70 years ago.

Organisers of the War and Peace Revival will be taking the Sherman Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle (BARV) to Normandy today.

The Sherman BARV owned by Rex Cadman, organiser of The War and Peace Revival, will return to Normandy 70 years to the day of the D-Day landings

In Folkestone, members of the town’s Normandy Veteran’s Association, Ex-Service Associations and Standards, the mayor, civic dignitaries, councillors and youth groups will lay wreaths and crosses in the Garden of Remembrance in Sandgate Road at 11am.

Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Staff and students at K College in Shorncliffe Road, Folkestone, will be dressing up in armed forces costumes to mark losses in the conflict today.

A five-course Normandy dinner, complete with 40s music, patriotic bunting and staff in costume, has sold out tonight at the Townhouse Hotel in King Street, Maidstone.


Photos from the D-Day invasion in Normandy

Click to view

US Army soldiers disembark from a landing craft during the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. Sherman tanks and White half-tracks can be seen drawn up on the beach An abandoned landing craft vessel on a Normandy beach with shell holes and the inscription ALL LOOTERS WILL BE SHOT painted on the side Troops try to secure an anchor on a Normandy beach, late June 1944 American soldiers search German prisoners from a Waffen SS Division at Gavray, Normandy, in the wake of the D-Day Landings of June 1944 Landing Ship Tank 215 approaches Juno Beach at 1100 on June 6, 1944 US Army soldiers disembark from a landing craft during the Normandy landings

Dover Castle will also be holding celebrations this weekend which include an arena show, demonstrations from the Ministry of Food and tips on austerity fashion.

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