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6/6/19

No, Douglas Russell, you are not just an ordinary chap

You don't need my words, you need theirs. Well worth reading all of this, so find the link here. Some extracts:

For veterans who had returned to Normandy, seeing the beaches and the quiet villages, now household names, that they fought their way through in France, is still overwhelming. Memories were of running for the dunes, bullets bouncing, shells screaming, beaches vibrating as the allied naval guns pounded German targets to provide cover for those going in.
The cemeteries are particularly emotional. “You think to yourself, all them lying there, why aren’t I one of them? Because I were with them,” says Ray Mellors, 94, from Nottingham, who as an 18-year-old with the South Staffordshire Regiment, had waded through the sea, “in the dark and wet”, towards Sword beach shortly after D-day.
“It’s haunted me for the rest of my life. I sit here now, and I think to myself ‘I shouldn’t be here, really. I should be under the ground where the others are’.”

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“There was a lot going on,” says John Eden, 94, from Silverdale, Morecambe Bay, who as a 19-year-old private in the 12th (Airborne) Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment landed the day after D-day. “This brings back feelings you don’t really want to feel.”
He says: “Don’t forget, I was a terrified little lad.”
He could not explain why he had been drawn back. “What can you say? I had four years in the army, and this was part of it, an experience that you can’t comprehend, can you? You can’t imagine how you did it”. At Ranville war cemetery, he planned to visit “two particular graves” for fallen comrades.

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Revisiting the small villages, Douglas Russell, 97, who lives in Morecambe, was surprised at the warm welcome. “All the people that have turned up, people shaking my hand. It’s nice. But I’m not a hero, just an ordinary chap.”

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This was the second time he had returned to Normandy. He had never wanted to come back before. “It’s unfortunately part of your life, and when the war finished, all I wanted to do was get back to my wife, and rear a family, and forget it,” says Anderson, from Manchester, who went on to work for an advertising agency.
Visiting the cemeteries would be hard, he says. “I know I am not going to like it when we get to Omaha and see the American cemetery. Those numbers of graves are just too much.”