Tuesday, June 10, 2014
D-Day veteran often recalls wartime tales over a pot of tea at family’s cafe in Torrington.
A D-DAY veteran who helped man a landing craft taking Canadians soldiers to Juno beach is always happy to tell his tale at his family’s Torrington café.
Ernest Handford, 91 and known to everyone as Roy, now works in the Green Lantern Café, but on June 6, 1944, he was a young seaman in the Royal Navy making his way to Normandy.
“There were three different lots of us – the British, Americans and Canadians, and I left with Canadians from Southampton,” said Roy.
“We all went around the Isle of Wight, and it wasn’t until we saw France that we knew this was really it.
“We had been training for that moment for a year but never knew, when we set off, whether it was going to be the real thing or not.”
Roy, whose family lived in Merton at the time, and had three other brothers fighting in the war, recalled how the ships were ‘a magnificent sight’.
“It was one of the biggest sights I’d ever seen, as we came around the Isle of White and all three lots of us were facing France,” he said.
“I looked back and couldn’t see the sea for all the ships; it was absolutely choc-a-block.”
Roy recalled how the orders were given to drop the troops on the beach and then turn around for the next lot.
“We must have done about 14 trips non-stop, but I don’t know how long it took,” he said.
Roy, who paid a visit to the Normandy beaches shortly after the 65th anniversary of D-Day, remembered how he had wished for his safety in a wishing well.
He said: “There was a man there from Manchester and we both wished that we would return back safely from D-Day. I like to think that wish came true for me.
“The only thing I can say is, looking back, that you look back over it all and think yourself lucky that you’re still here.”