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VIDEO: Sheffield D-Day veterans remember fallen comrades

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It was an act of remembrance on behalf of a friend devastated not to perform it himself.

Normandy veteran Doug Austin, from Harthill, laid crosses on the memorial at Bayeux Cemetery on behalf of Don Walker, from Abbeydale, who couldn’t make the 70th anniversary trip to France due to ill health.

Both men are 90 years of age, but were just 20 when they played their parts in the Normandy campaign of June and July 1944 that led to the liberation of occupied France.

Don – who The Star reported was burgled last month, by thieves who ransacked his home and almost stole his war medals – had longed to return to northern France one last time to honour comrades he lost.

But he was devastated to be told by doctors his health wasn’t up to the journey.

So instead he entrusted good friend Doug with the task of laying crosses for his four friends killed when their tank was blown up on July 15, 1944.

Don, the only survivor, was immediately captured by the Germans – and spent 10 months as a PoW in the notorious Stalag IV-B camp.

Doug, who served with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers, said: “It was an honour to be able to do it for him.

“Don was absolutely devastated to be told he wasn’t fit to travel – he had so wanted to come on this trip.”

Fellow Sheffield veterans Gordon Drabble and Doug Parker, 91, also paid tributes to fallen men, laying wreaths at the war memorial in Bayeux Cemetery. And Gordon, 89, laid crosses on the graves of comrades from the South Staffordshire regiment in which he served.

The veterans also made a trip to Fontenay-le-Pesnel cemetery at Tessel.

Pat Strafford, 88, of Firth Park, tearfully laid a wreath to Ronald McGrath, just 17, accompanied by the haunting strains of a piper and drummer.

 

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