Knutsford veteran who landed on the Normandy beaches shares his memories

Knutsford Guardian: Why D-Day should never be forgotten Why D-Day should never be forgotten

D-DAY veteran Anthony Colgan is to make a poignant trip to Normandy in June for what could be the last official commemoration for a day which changed the course of the Second World War.

Mr Colgan, aged 90, from Knutsford, was among 160,000 British, Canadian and American troops who landed on the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944.

He has returned to the area many times over the past 30 years, and is to attend a service at Bayeux war cemetery, the largest Second World War cemetery of Commonwealth soldiers, most of who died during the invasion of Normandy.

Mr Colgan said The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales would also be attending the service, to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, which he believed could be the last official commemoration because of the advancing age of the remaining veterans, with many in their late 80s and 90s.

He will also visit Pegasus Bridge, the scene of an important British airborne operation.

Mr Colgan, who served as a private in the Durham Light Infantry as a Bren gun carrier driver, will visit Normandy with his grandson Dr Anthony Lee from Edinburgh and more than 100 ex-servicemen in a trip run by D-Day Revisited.

“We landed on Gold Beach two hours after the initial landings,” said Mr Colgan, a member of Knutsford Royal British Legion and a former member of the Normandy Veterans Association.

“There was so much noise and shells landing on the beach, and I said to myself, ‘you are not going to survive this this day’, but I did.”

An hour later a column of Bren gun carriers, one of whom was being driven by Mr Colgan, was spotted by British fighter aircraft whose pilots mistook the column for enemy vehicles.

“The aircraft nearest us dropped a bomb and destroyed our truck, killing the driver, and machine-gunned the whole length of the column, and missed everybody,” said Mr Colgan.

“If he had been 2ft to the right he would have got everyone.”

Mr Colgan saw further action a week after D-Day during the capture of the village of Lingevres from SS troops, a battle which resulted in 248 soldiers being killed, wounded or missing.

The capture of the village prevented the Germans holding an important position blocking the Allied advance.

This summer’s visit to Normandy will be more poignant for Mr Colgan following the death a few weeks ago of his long-time friend Jim Ratcliffe from Farnworth, who served as a gunner in the Durham Light Infantry.

“We were posted to the Durham Light Infantry on the same day, and Jim was my greatest friend,” said Mr Colgan.

Mr Colgan wanted to speak about his trip to Normandy to highlight the importance of D-Day.

“I am concerned that D-Day and the Battle of Normandy will be forgotten,” he said.

“It was such an important day, and affected everyone’s lives. It was terrifying but you accepted it as part of life, and I want people to remember.”

Mr Colgan has visited Normandy with the RAF, the BBC and the News of the World.

“On the News of the World trip I went with Winston Churchill’s grandson and Richard Todd, the actor,” he said.

“It will be a really nostalgic and emotional occasion at Bayeux this summer, and I will be wearing my medals.”

Mr Colgan was awarded the Victory Medal, the 1939-1945 Star, the Italy Star and the France and Germany Star.

He has lived in Knutsford for about eight years after moving from Portsmouth, and his daughter Deborah lives in Knutsford.

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