Three D-Day veterans from the borough joining thousands at anniversary commemorations in the UK and France

Three borough veterans from World War Two will join thousands of people commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in the UK and France.

Monday, 3rd June 2019, 11:18 am
The three Normandy veterans with the former Mayor of Wigan

Ted Houghton, Harry Cullen and Eric Radcliffe, who all served in Normandy, will make their way to the memorial events on a cruise ship chartered by the Royal British Legion for more than 200 former personnel.

Others who served on the front line are descending on Portsmouth and Normandy for the commemorations.

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Senior politicians and members of the royal family as well as hundreds of veterans will remember what is considered one of the most important events of the Second World War and the biggest amphibious invasion in military history.

Key ceremonies acknowledging the operation, which saw thousands killed and injured after it launched on June 6 1944, include the UK's national commemoration event on Wednesday which will be attended by the Queen and US President Donald Trump during his state visit.

Representatives from other allied countries as well as Germany are expected to attend the event at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial involving 4,000 military personnel, 11 Royal Naval vessels and 26 RAF aircraft.

Ahead of their voyage the trio of veterans from the borough spoke of the events three quarters of a century ago.

Mr Houghton, 93, from Winstanley, was aboard the escort carrier HMS Tracker patrolling the Channel on June 5, the day before D-Day, keeping it clear from the threat of U-boats as part of the antisubmarine screen of the Western Approaches.

He said: "I wasn’t even 18 years old, but on June 10, 1944 we were chasing a U-boat and I was on the bridge when I heard a bang, our ship was holed in a collision with a River-class frigate of the Royal Canadian Navy, the HMCS Teme, causing heavy damage.

"We managed to pull some men out of the water, but we lost four Canadian servicemen. We had to be towed back to Liverpool."

Mr Cullen served with the Royal Army Service Corps attached to the Canadian Army. He is the ex-president of the Wigan D-Day and Normandy Veterans’ Association.

He joked: "I had a good landing on Juno Beach, which was fortunate, because I’m only four-foot-11, and not a great swimmer!

"It was a terrible scene when we landed, and I knew immediately we weren’t at Blackpool or Southport! The casualties were horrendous."

Mr Radcliffe, 93, from Leigh served with the 6th Guards Tank Brigade in the 4th battalion, taking part in battles at Caen, Cagny Arras and Caumont as the troops made their way through northern France.

He said: "The weather was hot, and the terrain was high banks and hedgerows which made it difficult for the tanks and infantry. The Germans could be just over the next hedge hiding with their guns.