48 Royal Marine Commando battalion was based in Gravesend in the weeks leading up to D-Day and had a farewell service in Christ Church, Old Road East, before setting off for Normandy in France.
A remembrance service was held at the same church at 10am on Sunday, marking the anniversary of D-Day as well as the 350th anniversary of the Royal Marines and commemorating the 48 Commando unit.
The service emulated the one attended by the commandos before they left for Normandy, with similar hymns and prayer readings.
During its time in the area, the unit is believed to have trained on the marshes at Denton, with many men billeted around the church.
Derek Buss, 83, is a member of the congregation and secretary of the Royal Marines Association Gravesend.
He said: “At the time there was quite a few rifle ranges down at the marshes. That was where they did a lot of their training.”
Mr Buss explained that like many of the units fighting on the beaches at D-Day, the 48’s casualties were severe.
He said: “It was quite tragic. Because of the rough seas a lot of them drowned. It was one of the things that happened to many units and other regiments.
“When they landed the sea wasn’t quite as good as it should have been and when they jumped out of the landing craft they were swept away due to the heavy equipment they were carrying.”
Many of the young men who fought with the 48 Commandos, on the beach called Juno by the Allies, would never return. However, some of those fortunate enough to live to fight another day did make it back to the town. One Marine even found love.
Mr Buss said: “A few years ago I did meet one who had married. He was billeted in Gravesend and married the daughter of the family he was staying with.”
As years go by, the veterans of the Second World War become fewer and Mr Buss said it is important we continue to commemorate their actions. He said: “This is 70 years now from D-Day and because of the age of them [veterans], I shouldn’t think very many will be around much longer.”
Mr Buss is a former Marine himself, serving for eight years and seeing action in Malaya from 1949-52 and during the run up to the Suez Canal Crisis in 1954.
He said he could not imagine what was going through the minds of the Commandos as they approached the beach back in 1944.
He said: “The sea was so much rougher than they expected. You can’t tell what you’re going to be up against as soon as you land on an open beach.”
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