Search

D-Day veterans describe ‘awe-inspiring’ scenes of Normandy landings during 70th anniversary

07:00 12 June 2014

D-Day veterans Walter Schneiderman, 91, Colin Anson, 92, Alice Anson, 89, and Bill Howard, 94, outside the London Jewish Cultural Centre. Picture: Polly Hancock

D-Day veterans Walter Schneiderman, 91, Colin Anson, 92, Alice Anson, 89, and Bill Howard, 94, outside the London Jewish Cultural Centre. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

On June 6, 1944, RAF pilots flying over the English Channel described seeing the sea so packed full of ships “one could have walked from shore to shore”.

Bill Howard (centre) with his fellow naval officersBill Howard (centre) with his fellow naval officers

The Normandy landings, or D-Day, became the largest seaborne invasion in history, involving more than 7,700 ships, 12,000 aircraft and 156,000 troops.

On Friday, veterans in Hampstead and Highgate remembered their own contributions to the momentous day some 70 years later.

Their efforts saved countless lives and were said to have significantly cut the length of the Second World War.

Bill Howard, 94, was one of 10,000 men and women from Germany and Austria who fought in British uniform.

A Jew persecuted while living in Berlin, he managed to leave his native Germany by train in 1937 and begin a new life in West Hampstead.

Volunteering as a Royal Navy intelligence officer intercepting German communications, he remembers the “astonishing” scenes when he arrived in Portsmouth a few days before the invasion.

“When you’re faced with what you could see before D-Day – well, there’s nothing quite like it. There were so many ships it was unbelievable.”

He added: “I was stationed on the HMS Bellona – a brand new light-cruiser only entering service the year before – which was supporting the Americans landing at Omaha Beach.

“Our guns started opening fire in the early hours of the morning and carried on for hours. The noise was unbelievable.

“I watched as the troops landed on the beach. It was awe-inspiring. These boys were the real heroes.

“I was tasked with listening in to German communications and given the codes I assume had been broken by the Enigma lot – they had done amazing work.

“You could tell the Germans were in a real panic – all shouting their heads off at each other, giving away their positions and what they were planning.”

Mr Howard joined Walter Schneiderman, 91, Colin Anson, 92, and Alice Anson, 89, to talk about their experiences of D-Day at the London Jewish Cultural Centre (LJCC) in Golders Green yesterday (Wednesday).

Historian Anthony Beevor joined dignitaries on the beaches of Normandy on Friday to pay his respects to the fallen and guide Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge through what the troops would have faced. More than 4,400 Allied troops died on D-Day.

Speaking to an audience at the LJCC just days before, he said: “The preparations were staggering and made past war efforts look insignificant.

“It was so big, Operation Overlord became known as Operation Overboard – a joke made by troops to hide what became known as D-Day jitters.

“There were several turning points in the war but I would say D-Day could be described as being a turning point in the Cold War.

“Hitler would have still been defeated without it but it begs the question of how far the Red Army would have advanced by that time. It affected the post-war outcome massively.”

Latest News Stories

Sunday, June 28, 2015
Beatie Wolfe on Hampstead Heath. Picture: Stu Nicholls

A singer-songwriter has helped dementia patients reconnect with the world as part of a groundbreaking experiment into the powerful effect music can have on sufferers’ lives.

Yesterday, 18:19
Christopher White has been jailed for his part in the kidnap and torture of two men

A gang member who blackmailed £30,000 from a torture victim’s mother by threatening to cut off her son’s finger was jailed for 20 years yesterday (Wednesday).

Yesterday, 13:13
Jeremiah Duggan, pictured with his sister Louisa, died on an autobahn in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 2003

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has called on foreign secretary Philip Hammond to intervene as a “matter of urgency” to ensure a new independent investigation into Jeremiah Duggan’s death in Germany.

Yesterday, 17:10
The attack happened on Saturday on the canal towpath between Camden High Street and Kentish Town Road. Picture: GoogleStreetview

A homeless man suffered a fractured skull and loss of hearing after being beaten by a man wielding a log.

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

The latest North London property news and features straight into your inbox.

Other Emails:
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

The sell out 2014 event 32 Londoners, returns to the Coca-Cola London Eye!

The Coca-Cola London Eye is proud to announce that 32 Londoners will be returning this June, following last year’s sell out event. The event will feature 32 talks, in each of the London Eye’s 32 capsules on 32 extraordinary Londoners.

You could take in stunning views of London over brunch at the Sky Garden

Celebrate lighter, brighter days with the chance of winning an indulgent brunch for two with a bottle of bubbles at Darwin, the cool and casual brasserie 36 floors up at Sky Garden.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder