JERSEY’S last two veterans of the Normandy campaign, Bill Reynolds and Ernest Thorne, were both present at the Cenotaph to mark the 79th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
During D-Day alone, at least 4,414 Allied servicemen lost their lives.
Mr Reynolds, who turns 100 on 22 June, served with the Guards Armoured Division as a member of the Royal Army Service Corps, landing on Sword Beach just over a week into the Normandy campaign.
Forming a proper ‘Band of Brothers’, he served with his siblings Charlie and Sid in the same company, travelling through northern France into Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, with Charlie part of the British contingent that liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Mr Reynolds remained sharp, with a keen ear and a clear memory, as he recalled landing in Normandy ten days after the first wave of troops.
‘There was a lot of carnage,’ he said. ‘When we went in, there was the nose of a destroyer sticking right up with a lot of crew floating around dead. The beach had been cleared but we were getting strafed by German aircraft.
‘We were carrying the ammunition for the whole of the division, and our objective was to keep up with the tanks. Fortunately, we didn’t get hit.’
Mr Reynolds was subsequently on the move all the time, as the division pushed east. He did not properly stop until VE Day almost a year later, when he was in Germany.
Ernest Thorne was a driver in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers when he landed on Juno Beach in June 1944, a few days after D-Day.
Having had pre-war building experience, Mr Reynolds was demobbed relatively early, in 1946, as his skills were deemed necessary for post-war reconstruction.
He returned to Jersey, where he married Doreen Horman and the couple had three children. Doreen passed away four years ago but Mr Reynolds still lives in the family home off Wellington Road.
On 22 June, he will be joined by family and friends for a birthday lunch at St Brelade’s Bay Hotel.
The Lieutenant-Governor, Vice-Admiral Jerry Kyd, the Bailiff, Sir Timothy Le Cocq, Chief Minister Kristina Moore and St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft were among Islanders who gathered today in St Helier to commemorate 79 years since the Allied troops landed.