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D-Day 75 veteran Charles Boyer living at Royal British Legion Industries village recalls memories on anniversary

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the largest combined land, air and naval operation in history.

The Normandy landings of June 6, 1944 - known as D-Day - which aimed to liberate France from the Nazis, have been hailed as a huge turning point in the Second World War.

Charles Boyer was one of those on the front-line, spending weeks preparing for an operation so secret, his letters to loved ones at home had to be thoroughly checked so nothing he wrote would compromise the mission.

Scroll down to hear Charles describe what it was like being on the front-line on D-Day.

Charles Boyer (11669598)
Charles Boyer (11669598)

Sword Beach, where he landed, was the closest to the French city of Caen, where troops planned to advance within a matter of hours.

The 93-year-old recalls: "I remember the first thing we had to do after landing was run like hell to get to the top of this hill and then hide.

"All we could hear was this noise - they were sending shells onto the beach and there were planes up above us.

"We knew how important it was, even then, and I was very proud to be there.

"We were confident, we thought we'd be in Caen later that night, drinking together in a cafe or something, but it wasn't quite like that."

The advance was halted and it would ultimately take six weeks to get to the city, during which time Charles and his colleagues had to dig trenches and make use of whatever basic facilities were in the vicinity.

The discovery of an apple brandy, named Calvados, helped get him through an "awful" experience, the veteran said.

Charles' efforts in Normandy won him a Légion d'honneur before he went on to become the youngest sergeant in the military police.

His fascinating career also saw him assist executioner Albert Pierrepoint in the hangings of war criminals including Josef Kramer and Irma Grese following the Belsen Trial, during which he lived in a flat previously belonging to Heinrich Himmler.

Charles Boyer (11669603)
Charles Boyer (11669603)

"I used to check they were all still there and alive in the cells, supervise the workers building the scaffolds and supervise the burial," he said.

In the 1960s, he moved into the civil service, and made weekly visits to the Royal British Legion Industries village in Aylesford, where he would help those working in its factory for disabled veterans.

Following the death of his wife of seven decades, Ruth, last year, he returned to the village, moving into one of its assisted living apartments in Queen Elizabeth Court.

"It's changed so much now, I wouldn't recognise it," he said.

"But it's fantastic - I'm safe, secure, looked after and I've got no problems."

The RBLI needs to raise a further £2 million for the next stage of its Centenary Village project - a landmark scheme it hopes will be the cornerstone of its supportive efforts over the next 100 years.

If every one of the 1.1 million adults currently living across Kent were to donate just £2, this crucial project would be fully-funded - with change to spare for the RBLI’s other worthy causes.

The Kent Messenger's Not 2 Much 2 Ask campaign (7667270)
The Kent Messenger's Not 2 Much 2 Ask campaign (7667270)

That’s why the KM is launching the ‘Not 2 Much 2 Ask’ campaign - to encourage everyone to make such a donation by the end of the year and ensure this fantastic scheme, for our 2019 Charity of the Year, reaches its potential.

To donate £2, text ‘HOME’ to 70660* or visit rbli.co.uk/not2much2ask.

*Messages will be charged at £2 plus your standard network rate. You must be 16 years old and have the bill payer’s consent.

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