Prince Charles was subjected to a gentle ribbing from one of Sheffield’s last surviving veterans of the Normandy landings at a sun-soaked day of commemoration and celebration to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
Yesterday the eyes of the world were on Normandy, where the Queen joined heads of state from around the globe to greet veterans of one of the most pivotal points in history.
And The Star was there too – Deputy News Editor Sarah Crabtree accompanying 10 men of the Sheffield Normandy Veterans’ Association on what is likely to be their last ever return pilgrimage to the beaches where they fought.
At Bayeux Cemetery, where the blistering sun shone on the immaculate white gravestones of 4,000 fallen British servicemen, the Queen made sure she could be seen in eye-catching lime green for an intimate service of remembrance.
And at a picnic reception afterwards, Doug Parker, now aged 91, from Owlthorpe, and Charlie Hill, 89, from Gleadless Valley, were among a select handful of veterans introduced to Prince Charles personally.
Both veterans were infantrymen who landed with the very first wave of assault troops at H-Hour – 7.25am on June 6, 1944 – in the opening seconds of D-Day.
Charlie, who landed on Gold beach as a strapping 19-year-old with Clark Gable looks, told the Prince of Wales he’d served with the Green Howards.
“Aaah,” said the prince, “which unit?”. Charlie immediately retorted: “That was my unit, my regiment! I thought you knew your history!” Prince Charles laughed in apology, and said: “You know something, it’s confusing when they’ve amalgamated everything, that’s the trouble!”
Doug, who landed at Sword beach aged 21 and saw comrades killed at his side, told the Prince of Wales he was ‘delighted’ to meet him.
Prince Charles replied: “No – this is my one chance, my one chance, to meet you, and I respect you.”
Bill Hartley, 91, from Killamarsh, also met the prince – and told him he shouldn’t talk too much in case his cup of tea got cold. “I asked him if he’d like a splash of whisky in it,” said Bill, “but he said as he was in Normandy he’d prefer Calvados.”
Outside, in the sunshine, Gordon Drabble, 89, and his wife Vi, from Lodge Moor, bumped into Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg, who said he was honoured to meet two constituents from home.
And RAF man Ken Johnson, 90, from Balby, happened upon Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband.
“I told him I had been a Labour man all my life,” said Ken. “He said he was honoured to meet me.”