In footsteps of D-Day heroes
PUBLISHED: 15:54 10 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:45 23 August 2010
RETRACING the movements my father took when he stormed the Normandy beach on D-Day is very emotional but makes me enormously proud. The 65th anniversary is as important as ever, the number of D-Day veterans alive today is dwindling. I went to honour my
RETRACING the movements my father took when he stormed the Normandy beach on D-Day is very emotional but makes me enormously proud.
"The 65th anniversary is as important as ever, the number of D-Day veterans alive today is dwindling. I went to honour my dad and all those who died. We must never forget."
Tony Winslade was remembering his father Ron, who was just 22 years old when he was billeted in Gravesend with 48 Commando and took part in the horrific D-Day landings.
After saying their farewells and last prayers at the garrison church, Christ Church in Echo Square, Gravesend, many servicemen left for certain death.
Sgt Winslade survived the terrifying first day and months of subsequent combat as 48 Commando helped free occupied French villages and give the allied forces a vital foothold in Europe during WWII. He died 10 years ago, having attended the Normandy beaches on numerous anniversaries with his proud son.
On Saturday, Tony was among thousands who attended services on the beaches of Normandy to honour the war dead.
He said: "Each year I literally retrace the steps my father took during that operation. I shun the bigger services where the heads of state attend for one reason only: I want to revisit where my father landed and where he fought. This is more personal for me.
"When you stand there in silence and you hear the names read out of those who died followed by their age, 19, maybe 22, it is quite a tear-jerker. Men cut down in such a horrendous way at such a young age, it must have been so traumatic to all who took part. They are all heroes."
He was joined by the Revered Joe King, secretary of Gravesend Royal Marines Association, who travelled and held a service on Juno Beach at Saint Aubin-sur-Mer on Saturday.
The following day he visited British war graves, where members of 48 Commando are buried at Douvres and Salanelle and the areas of Ranville and Salanelles, where 48 Commando for 80 days held up the Germans across the estuary.
Last month, Tony Winslade attended a poignant memorial service at Christ Church for 48 Commando. Tragically, 217 of the 440 who left after final prayers at the garrison church died at Normandy.
Mr Winslade added: "The service on the beach was very emotional. A few members of 48 Commando attended, many relatives and lots of French residents, young and old, came to pay their respects.
"It was personal to me because that's where my dad landed. That's whsere he fought for his country and for his life and that of his friends and comrades.
"I find it particularly heart-warming when French residents pay their respects. We cannot understand what they went through. Many died during D-Day but they treat our fathers like heroes. They prayed for the day they would come and liberate them. This service is a massive part of their local history."
In November, Mr Winslade plans to visit Walcheren, where his father was later stationed for the liberation of Holland.
Speaking about the row over the French President's failure to invite the Queen to the 65th anniversary events, he said: "Locals I met could not understand why the Queen was not invited either. The French in Normandy are eternally grateful. They could not thank us enough.