Monday 24 June 2019

Is Britain still that generous country which once gave a home to a Jewish, boy refugee called Guenter Treitel who became the Godfather of English Contract Law ?

Guenter Treitel, who has died at the age of 90 was once described by principled champion of basic human rights, free speech and democracy, the late Law Lord, Johan Steyn as 'one of the most distinguished academic writers on the law of contract in the English speaking world' and was clearly Britain's leading authority on English contract law. It was, perhaps, no accident that
in his choice of Law as his chosen profession, Guenter followed in the footsteps of his distinguished father and uncle, the more so since he spent his early years as a Jewish boy living in fear in a Nazi Germany where the rule of law was laid aside.

He was born in Berlin in the Autumn of 1928, the son of Hannah, a kindergarten teacher and Theodor, who along with his brother Richard, was a successful lawyer working for the entertainment industry and the Social Democratic Party in the Weimar Republic. As a small boy he grew up in  a well-off family with connections to characters from the Weimar cultural scene, the Berlin intelligentsia and leftwing political figures. Here his parents can be seen seated on the extreme left at a family gathering in Berlin. 

He would have become increasingly aware of its strong Jewish faith and the welcome it gave to  rabbis of all denominations to his home and he probably attended his elder brother, Kurt's bar mitzvah at Berlin's largest synagogue, the Levetzowstrasse. 

Guenter's life changed radically when Hitler and the anti-semitic Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933. Theodor lost his job as public notary and the family were forced to smaller, but still quite comfortable quarters in Berlin. In the Spring of 1935 he started school at the age of six, but when Hitler passed the Nuremberg Decrees he was expelled from school along with the other Jewish children. He was seven years old.

After attending a number of other schools, he joined his older brother, Kurt at the American School in Berlin with a view to learning English. The school was run by the charismatic headmaster Gregor Zeimer, who protected the Jewish children by hiding their names from the Nazis. His wife Edna served as the primary school and music teacher. As his school report showed him to be largely 'very satisfactory' with the exception of 'self discipline' in which he was merely 'satisfactory.' Nevertheless, he later said that "You will look in vain for any sign in that report of a future Oxford Law Professor."

Guenter recalled in 2012 that the school also "had a side benefit : it provided a sort of daily oasis of protection from the persecution and the stress when one was in danger of being verbally and sometimes even physically abused."

He also recalled that the "Nuremberg Laws also had a more insidious effect - they changed social attitudes. Before 1935 it was still perfectly possible for Jewish and non-Jewish children to make friends at school. I had a 7th birthday party and quite a lot of friends of mine from school who were not Jewish came to that party, but that all ceased really. Such associations were frowned on by the regime. There was also an increasing practise,  places of entertainment, restaurants, hotels, soon to put up the dreaded notice which read 'Juden Unerwünscht', 'Jews not desired.' In other words, they no longer admitted Jewish guests."

As a small boy he regretted the fact that "we always used to go on seaside holidays in Germany. That was not possible after 1935." He did recall that "at the back of the Berlin Zoo was a playground and this was popular among Jewish children because it provided some protection from the increasing violence that one encountered on the streets."

Then "things began to get serious in 1938 and the first thing we noticed as children was that one of our uncles was suddenly not at home and our parents told us he had gone off on a business trip. It was dangerous to tell children the truth at that time because children might talk out of turn and then there would be a lot of trouble." 

The uncle who had been sent to the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen emerged towards the end of the year. This was a German who had fought on the Western Front during the First World War, had been wounded twice and had been awarded the iron cross.

Guenter recalled that "when he came out, I shall never forget this, he not only looked emaciated, he had been quite a well-upholstered gentleman, before this experience, there was a look in his eyes, a sort of hunted look in his eyes which I shall never forget." It was after his uncle's incarceration that his father made the first moves to get the family out of Germany.

'Kristallnacht' or the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogrom against Jews carried out by the Nazi Party's SA paramilitary forces and civilians throughout Germany on 9–10 November 1938. 
The authorities looked on without intervening as the shards of broken glass littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed. Jewish homes, hospitals and schools were ransacked as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. The rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout the Reich, over 7,000 Jewish businesses were damaged or destroyed, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps and hundreds were murdered.

At the start of the pogrom his father and brother Kurt temporarily disappeared. Tipped off by a neighbour that the Gestapo were coming for them, they raced across Berlin as synagogues burned and windows smashed and made it safely to the house of family friends, Albert and Martha Horlitz, who risked their lives to hide them.
It would be many years before Guenter learnt that 'Kristallnacht prompted a debate in the House of Commons where, as he recalled : "members on all side of the House expressed shock and revulsion at the brutality and cruelty of the events of  Kristallnacht. 
The important thing for children was in the course of that debate, the Home Secretary at that time, Samuel Hoare, outlined the scheme to allow children to come to this country from Nazi occupied Europe if they were sponsored." He continued : "So far as I know the United Kingdom was the only Western country to have such a scheme and not enough is made of that point of which I think this country deserves a great deal of credit."

One of Guenter's uncles, who had married an English woman, was prepared to act. with his wife, as a sponsor for him and his older brother Kurt and an application was made for them to be given a place on a kindertransport to take them out of Germany. While in transit in Germany he was forced to wear a name tag identical to brother Kurt. 

They sailed from Hamburg in an American ship to his "immense feeling of relief when I walked up the gang plank of that ship in Hamburg. I still didn't feel quite safe while the ship was tied up. I thought 'they can still come and get me.' But I went to bed, I went to sleep and I woke up and I heard the ship's engines going I felt the movement of the ship and I felt I'm out !"

They landed in Britain in on the 24th March 1939 but, to his disappointment, the Aunt and Uncle were expecting a 14 year old relative and not a ten year old boy and as a consequence he found himself alone and the Sainsbury home at 47 Lytton Grove, Putney, in South London in Putney along with 20 other refugee boys, most of who would never see their families again. The house, which had been rented and staffed by Lord Sainsbury and Lord Rothschild, offered a home to some of those for whom no foster families were available and here he was schooled and fed English delicacies that took some getting used to like kippers, stews and custard and cared for by Matron Sabakin with her helpers, Miss Turner and Miss Griffith.

He remembered that he went down with german measles and his infection of the other children led to the school's isolation and hospital walks on Putney Heath. His initiation to life in Britain was eased by the fact that, in his 4 years at the American School in Berlin he became fluent in English and spoke it, albeit with an American accent.

July his mother, father and younger sister Celia, arrived in Britain on an American visa but there was insufficient money for him to join them. He was now attending West Hill Primary School in Wandsworth and after the outbreak of the Second World War and the bombing of London he was evacuated with the school to Reading, where he was initially billeted on a family on a council housing estate. He was moved again, into a slum area of Reading after the family’s adult daughter, who was married to an RAF sergeant, felt uncomfortable about the the presence of a boy who wrote to his parents in German. He finally moved to a home in a slum area before rejoining his family at the end of 1940.

A scholarship now took him to Kilburn Grammar School for Boys, from where he won another and gained a grant from the Ministry of Education when he was 18 in 1945, which took him off to read law at Magdalen College, Oxford.  He recalled : “All this in spite of the fact that I was still classified as an enemy alien and as such I had to report to the police both in London and Oxford at the beginning of every term.”  Many years later he would sum up his life with a six-word quote from Shakespeare’s 'As You Like It' and Duke Senior's speech which begins with “Sweet are the uses of adversity.”

In his first term at Magdalen in 1946 he received a letter in German from his Uncle Richard at Dagendorf in Germany : 

'Dear Günter, 

'Today I have the great pleasure to be allowed to greet you as an Oxford student. Someone who has done 93 terms greets a student in his first term. The German uncle is pleased that you're there however, even more so, admires England's generosity because England has opened for you a path to its world famous Oxford University. Only I, who has been in public life as long as I have, can value what England has done for you and how you have to be grateful to that country. You will recognise when you are older that a country like England has shown you no prejudices. Show your gratitude to this country with all your ability and strength.' 

He became a British citizen in 1947 successfully completed his B.A and Bachelor of Civil Law and then, after a brief period as a lecturer at the LSE, he began to practise in court. In 1952, returned to Oxford as a lecturer and then took up a Fellowship at Magdalen in 1954, remaining there until 1979. when he was appointed to the Vinerian Professorship of English Law and moved to All Souls.

In 1983 he was appointed one of 'Her Majesty's Counsel learned in the law' Queen's Counsel, an appointment made from within the legal profession on the basis of merit rather than a particular level of experience.  He probably revelled in the delightfully anachronistic way he now wore a silk gown, had 'taken silk' and was now known as a 'silk.'

He himself maintained that his concentration on contract law came about by chance, because the publisher, Stevens and Sons, offered him a choice between contract or administrative law as possible subjects for a textbook. As a result, what was to be his seminal work, 'The Law of Contract', was published when he was 34 in 1962 and he went on to produce another 11 editions, the last when he was 75 in 2003.

The revered Professor of English Law at Oxford in the last decades of the last century had come a long way from little Jewish boy, suffering from Nazi persecution who produced an indifferent school report at the American School in Berlin in the 1930s. As a result of the exercise of his formidable intellect he was now playing a significant role in developing the law. 

In the 'Essays on the Law of Contract in Honour of Guenter Treitel,' published in 1997, the late Lord Browne-Wilkinson, a judge who served as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, wrote in the forward : 'Few contemporary lawyers have played as big a role in developing the law, primarily because his writings are the product of careful and principled thought founded on an exact and honest analysis of the existing case law.' Two years later in his 1999 'The Law of Contract,' Guenter played a role in that development when he defined a contract as : 'An agreement giving rise to obligations which are enforced or recognised by law. The factor which distinguishes contractual from other legal obligations is that they are based on the agreement of the contracting parties.'

The general public would have no knowledge of practitioner works relating to the law of contracts, either 'Carver on Bills of Lading' or 'Benjamin’s Sale of Goods' and 'Chitty on Contracts' but his involvement in 'Chitty' lasted 47 years, from the 23rd edition when he was 40 in 1968 to the 32nd edition when he was 87 in 2015. The greatest recognition of his importance came when his work was much cited in court. 

In addition, his 'Remedies for Breach of Contract' in 1988 and his 2001 Clarendon Lectures, published as 'Some Landmarks of Twentieth Century Contract Law' in 2002 and his 'Frustration and Force Majeure' in 2004, all bore the Treitel hallmark of careful and principled thought. 

In 1996 the country which had adopted him knighted for his 'Services to Law' and by this time he had almost become the quintessential English gentleman, having served as a member of the Council of the National Trust from 1984 to 1993 and a trustee of the British Museum from 1983 to 1998. He had also fallen into the habit of reading Jane Austen every day, taking the novels in strict rotation and had even written an article about her treatment of the law, which appeared in the centenary issue of the Law Quarterly Review.

For recreation he enjoyed the films of the Marx Brothers and old-style 'chivalrous' westerns and was undoubtedly familiar with Fred Zinnemann's 1952 'High Noon' starring and starring Gary Cooper.

as a town marshal, Will Kane, who is torn between his sense of duty and love for his new bride and who must face a gang of killers alone, with even the Judge urging him to leave town : "I've been a judge many times in many towns. I hope to live to be a judge again. Why must you be so stupid?" 

'Some Landmarks of Twentieth Century Law' contained this vintage Treitel in relation to a case which involved an 'implied contract ' and related to an act of delivering goods to a bailee for a particular purpose, without transfer of ownership.

'So lawyers began to look for another, more promising exception to the general rule and the tone that they hit upon was bailment, or sub-bailment on terms. This was seen as a sort of magic wand that was to get rid of any difficulties caused by awkward rules of contract law. I am tempted to adapt Alexander Pope's famous epitaph on Newton : 
God said Let bailment be ! and all was light.'

Sunday 16 June 2019

Britain is still very much a country which generously rewards old men called peers for sitting in the House of Lords and doing nothing

This genial old chap, is an 82 year-old 'Peer of the Realm' with a seat in the House of Lords. Last year he was was among the dozens of, largely, old men, who sat in the House and didn't take part in a single debate. For that he claimed almost £50,000 in attendance and travel expenses covering every single day the House of Lords was sitting, despite never speaking or asking any written questions, although he did take part in the votes.

The House of Lords, the second chamber of Britain's Parliament has nominated and unelected occupants. Although undemocratic, it still plays a major role in making and shaping laws and checking and challenging the Government. It offers a sop to being undemocratic by saying that its members come from many walks of life and bring experience and knowledge from a wide range of occupations. 

A recent analysis covered the attendance, participation and allowances claims of 785 Lords serving for a full year between 2017 and 2018 and revealed that a third of them barely participated in Parliamentary business over a 12-month period, despite claiming almost £3.2m in allowances. It will raise fresh questions about the size and effectiveness of the Lords and the funds that can be claimed by those who fail to regularly contribute.

In fact :

* 88 – about one in nine - never spoke, held a Government post or participated in a committee.

* 46 did not register a single vote, including on Brexit, sit on a committee or hold a post. 

* 1 claimed £25,000 without voting once and while another claimed £41,000 but only voted once.

* more than 270 claimed more than £40,000 in allowances, with 2 claiming more than £70,000.

The former Lords Speaker, Frances D’Souza, a long-term advocate of reform, said the findings corroborated “what everyone suspects is going on” and that a minority of peers risked discrediting the hard work of their colleagues. There’s clearly a need to reduce numbers,” Lady D’Souza said, adding that the research “clearly shows there are people who are attending the House of Lords who are not contributing, and therefore they are simply redundant.”

Despite the good Lady's plea, it is a sure-fire certainty that these old lords will continue to claim their allowances in peace and for doing little or nothing in the service of their country for the remainder of their lives. 

Wednesday 12 June 2019

Britain's poor, proud old men, about to be denied the benefit of a free TV licence, "Fear Not" : You now have Saint Andrea at your side !

Now Britain, a country with, apparently, the 5th largest economy in the world, has decided to charge old men and women over the age of 75 for their TV licences. The BBC has confirmed plans to make most over-75s pay the TV licence fee, arguing that it is the only way to avoid closing channels and making substantial cutbacks. This means that 3 million elderly households will have to start paying £154.50 a year from June 2020 for the right to watch live television and access the BBC’s iPlayer service.

In an act of compassion and largesse , the BBC has said it will continue to provide TV licences to over-75s who can provide evidence that they claim pension credit, a means-tested benefit designed to help older people. The trouble is that up to 1.3 million old 'families' consisting of either on a single old man or woman or an old couple, who are entitled to receive pension credit do not claim the benefit, according to official government figures, suggesting many poor households will be hit hard by the change.

The two main reasons why these old people don't claim benefits are that they either don't know they're eligible or they are 'too proud' to claim for help from the State, we are, after all, talking about old Britons born in, or before, 1944. As a result, charities, including 'Age UK' have said some elderly viewers will be pushed into relative poverty by the decision, with concerns over whether older viewers will be able or willing to prove they are receiving benefits and it is also likely to result in the criminal prosecution of elderly Britons who do not or are not able to pay.

Claire Enders of 'Enders Analysis' said : "It’s a massive hardship for millions of people. The really vulnerable won’t apply for this benefit – the disabled and lone females do not apply for benefits and that will be true for this as well.”

Historically, the policy of free TV licences for the over 75s was introduced in 1990 by the then Labour Chancellor, Gordon Brown, with the cost being met by the Government, which paid the BBC to provide the service. However, in 2015, at the suggestion of Conservative Chancellor, George Osborne, to Prime Minister David Cameron, a deal was struck a deal under which the subsidy would be phased out by 2020, with the the broadcaster having to shoulder the cost of free licences. It was a clever move on his part because he shifted responsibility for deciding what to do about the benefit, which might involve making an unpopular decision from the shoulders of Government ministers to the BBC.

The Corporation launched its consultation the end of 2018, with the BBC arguing that many over-75s were increasingly wealthy and it could not afford the cost of providing them with a service for free. It argued that the £745m annual cost of maintaining the status quo would have taken up a fifth of its budget, equal to the total amount it spends on all of BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News channel, CBBC and CBeebies. The BBC estimates that the new proposal will cost it £250m a year, requiring some cuts but no channel closures.

The BBC Director General, Tony Hall, who lives on an income of between £450,000 and £500,000 per annum, said : “This has not been an easy decision. Whilst we know that pensioner incomes have improved since 2000, we also know that for some the TV licence is a lot of money. I believe we have reached the fairest judgement after weighing up all the different arguments. It would not be right simply to abolish all free licences. Equally it would not be right to maintain it in perpetuity given the very profound impact that would have on many BBC services.”

Both the 2015 and 2017 Conservative Election manifestos garnered the votes of old people by pledging to maintain free TV licences for the over-75s :

'We will maintain all other pensioner benefits including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences, for the duration of this parliament.'

This pledge has now been dismissed as a mistake.

The Labour Shadow Culture Secretary, Tom Watson, said he would continue to fight the decision : “You cannot means test for social isolation. You cannot means test for loneliness. Millions of elderly and isolated people will lose because of this announcement."

In addition, Conservative leadership candidates, led by Andrea Leadsom, have weighed in to pledge that over-75s continue will continue to receive free television licences if they become Prime Minister, even though this could result in further cuts to the BBC’s budget. With or without an eye on the thousands of old men and women who are Conservative Party members and have a vote in the election to choose her as Britain's next Prime Minister, Andrea said that she would honour the commitment to protect the subsidy : "I think that's unacceptable. It's a commitment in the Conservatives' manifesto and we need to find a way to reverse that."

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Brexit Britain, ironically a country where 75 years ago, very young servicemen, now very old D-Day veterans, fought to liberate a Europe it subsequently joined and now wants to leave

On this day 75 years ago, the old men below all took part in the Normandy landings in Northern France on Tuesday, 6th June 1944. They played their part of the Allied invasion of Normandy in 'Operation Overlord' which marked the end of the German occupation of France and the beginning of the end of the Second World War in Europe. They were individual, very young, fighting men, among the 60,000 who were part of the 160,000 Allied troops who led the invasion of five heavily fortified beaches, codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The Operation had casualty rates comparable to those in the bloodiest First World War battles as well as those on the Eastern Front  during the Second World War.

Bill Fitzgerald, now 94, was a 19 year old infantryman in the Queen’s Royal Regiment was part of the third wave of troops landing on Gold Beach.
“There were landing craft getting blown up and you could see 40 men completely gone and that is something you never forget. You are just hoping for the best and praying everything went well. On arrival at Gold Beach there were bodies floating in the water, but you didn’t have time to feel anything. You were helping each other, hoping to get off that beach straight away. There was a beach master shouting "Get off the bloody beach as quick as you can – up, up!" So, we got off as soon as we could and regrouped in the woods.”

Bill was invalided out of the war on June 15 when his leg was snapped in two by shrapnel from a German shell. “I remember going up in the air and coming down and hitting the ground again. A soldier grabbed my helmet and put it over my face saying, ‘Keep still Bill, keep still’. I never found out who he was — I call him my unknown saviour — but he stayed with me until the stretcher-bearers turned up. What I didn’t know was the shrapnel had broken my femur in two.”

Stephen Brown, now 95, was a second lieutenant in the 23rd Destroyer Flotilla which opened up the barrage against the German beach defences recalled :
“The afternoon of June 5, 1944 was a dark and rainy day. The bombardment had been postponed 24 hours because of the weather but there was a gap that enabled us to set off. Before the invasion, we were each handed a letter from General Eisenhower wishing us fortune on the ‘great adventure’ as he called it. The noise [of the barrage] was deafening when it started. You got the feeling that nothing could survive where the rocket launchers had fired. But my goodness, they were still firing back at us. It was another hour before troops started landing. I remember thinking, ‘I’m rather glad I’m not down there’.”

Ron Smith, also 19, approached Sword Beach on Landing Craft Tank 947 in the first wave at 7.30am has said :
"I could hear shells going over my head. The noise was like 20 Tube trains at once and I think that is what deafened me. Those shells were the size of a small car. The skipper said: "I don’t want anyone to stand up, just stay down." We kept our heads down.” As their troops began to disembark, a shell hit one of the tanks carried by the landing craft, blocking the exit ramp. The tank exploded, killing a colonel on board and forcing the landing craft to retreat to Britain.

Ron returned to Normandy around ten days after D-Day but a mine sank his boat off the coast of Arromanches. With the crew he crew managed to swim to a nearby merchant ship which lay half-sunk in the harbour and was stranded there for 14 hours with only a bottle of rum between them.

Frank Mouque, another 19 year old and a  corporal in the Royal Engineers and was tasked with clearing mines and obstacles on Sword Beach :
“The first thing you did when you got on the beach was lay on your back with your feet in the air to get rid of all the water in your boots. The beach was total chaos. It was total noise. There were beach masters shouting and pointing and directing because everything was landed almost immediately. You could hear the warships firing." 

“When we got there I ran up the beach towards a parapet. Once there, my sergeant crawled over to me and asked me to clear a footpath to the road. He gave me a roll of white tape and I said to a lad ‘Come on’. I was shocked when he said ‘I’ve only been in the army for six weeks’. I showed him how to dig with a bayonet and look for fuses sticking up, because if you snapped one off, a bomb full of ball bearings would explode. It could take your legs off or kill you.” 

Joe Cattini, 21 years old and a military driver, wasn’t meant to arrive in Normandy until nine days after the invasion, but ended up in one of the first waves on Gold Beach. As a military driver he had dropped several officers at Southampton Docks, but was then grabbed by a sergeant major and told they needed a driver for one of their ammunition lorries. Of the sea crossing he said :
 “It was bloody rough. A lot of the boys were sick. Some of the younger ones were crying for their mums and the NCOs and officers were going around and trying to sort them out.”

Joe landed with his lorry at about 10am after a section of the beach had been cleared of obstacles and mines. “They laid carpets down so we didn’t sink into the sand. There were bodies floating in the sea and on the beach. I had been in the civil defence reserve during the Blitz in London so it didn’t faze me, but the stench and carnage was terrible."

Joe stayed with his unit through fierce fighting in Normandy where at Tilly-sur-Seulles they met stiff resistance and in one action the 6th Green Howards lost 250 men trying to capture the village of Cristot.“We had four weeks in the bocage (Normandy’s wooded terrain) and made six advances and retreats.” After the War he was awarded the Legion D'Honneur.

Mick Jennings, 20 years old was serving on Landing Craft Tank 795 carrying men of the US 531 Engineer Shore Regiment said :
"The crossing to Normandy was very rough and sea sickness among the American soldiers was rife. They could not wait to get off our ‘God damned boat’. There was no escape from the smell of vomit, it was everywhere.”

His landing craft put ashore at 10am on Utah Beach in the fourth wave but after delivering their men and trucks it was stranded as the tide receded. They knew they were easy targets for German gunners, "we ran up the beach to seek shelter and saw shells landing between the craft, which punctured holes in the side of the landing craft. As the shelling continued, I jumped into a foxhole already occupied by an American soldier, who shared his K Ration chocolate with me. Other members of the crew took refuge in a blockhouse, where they found the dead body of a German soldier. They took his helmet, pistol and a hand grenade as souvenirs. The combination of youth and wartime made people very callous but now, all these years later, I wonder about him, his family, who he was and where he came from.”

Raymond Lord, a 19 year old infantry soldier with the 2nd East Yorkshire Regiment said : “I didn’t know what to expect as it was my first time in battle. I had joined my battalion after they had just done eight weeks’ landing training and the hardest thing I had done was a route march from Skegness to Hull, so I went over as green as grass. I was sick as a pig on the journey over to France, with the ship rolling and rocking.”

He was part of the second wave on Sword Beach around 7.45am : "After the landing craft doors opened I just kept moving and there were lads getting shot each side and I remember thinking it’s my turn next. We sheltered behind a knocked-out DD tank on the beach. You had to duck and dive and get off the beach. The first German I saw was laying on the roadside and he had been shot. It’s very upsetting and it fills me up at times.”

Sam Twine also 19 was in charge of the skippers’ quarters on HMS Ramillies when they opened up their barrage said : “An E-boat fired two torpedoes at us and we managed to turn the ship at 90 degrees so one went port side and one went starboard. Unfortunately one hit a Polish Navy vessel behind us, there were lots of casualties. One of my friends was sewing them up in canvas bags. It was terrible. As I recall a Hurricane airplane coming from England swooped down towards us and because they couldn’t identify it they fired on it and brought it down. I was told they managed to land somewhere. We could see the landings. I think I knew I was as safe as most people could be. We fired all our shells except we kept one in each barrel in case of trouble on our way back to England.”

Patrick Thomas, who was a 19 year old member of the crew on the landing craft LCH185, which landed 25 Royal Marine Commandos in the first wave on Sword Beach at 7.25am.

“As we were approaching the beach all was quiet until machine gun bullets hit the hull. When the guns opened up HMS Warspite and HMS Belfast were firing and then the rocket craft moved in and it was like a wall of thunder, a flash of light, and the beach disappeared in smoke.”

“I was covered in blood and the upper deck was a wreck with dead and dying. Eventually the ship sank into the water and I had to get out because she turned turtle. I saw my friend Jack Ballinger’s lifebelt in the water, which he had custom built. I saw Jack a few yards from me and he had been badly injured and was drowning. A telegraphist had both legs broken and was screaming in pain and fear because he thought he was about to die and I gave him the lifebelt. Jack eventually disappeared beneath the waves. I was thrown a line and pulled in by another ship.”

Leonard “Ted” Emmings, was a 20 year old coxswain driving a landing assault craft, which landed 36 Canadians on Juno Beach in the first wave at 7.35am.
The doors opened when we hit the beach and the troops ran straight onto the beach. I lost two of my seamen and three Canadians went down getting off the boat and then the heavy firing stopped. When I saw my stoker, he was huddled up in the corner and he took a stray bullet and died. As I went to come astern and leave the beach I hit a mine. It killed one of the stokers and we came out and sank. We were taken to the depot ship and put on with another Landing Craft Assault ship to go back to the beach, but by then it had died down a bit.There was a lot of sniping by this time and you saw the guys go down.”

Leonard lost many of his Canadian comrades including a Canadian sergeant with whom he’d spent 14 months training who "didn’t get two yards up the beach before he was killed. People should know that the Canadians came over here, they trained over here and died over here. I just wonder how many got back to Canada after the War."

John Dennett was a 19 year old who crewed a landing craft dropping off  tanks and lorries on Sword Beach, would make 15 trips back and forth to Normandy over the next few weeks, towing pieces of the Mulberry Harbour and carrying equipment into France before taking wounded and prisoners back to England. They could fit 200 stretchers onto their ship.
“A lot of lads lost their lives and that is why we like to celebrate and go back and remember them. They have had nothing out of life except to fight for their country and we have enjoyed our freedom.”

Chelsea Pensioners Bill Fitzgerald, left, and Frank Mouque sit together during a D-Day 75th anniversary photocall at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London.Bill was taken to the field hospital and from there he was flown home and spent the next nine months in recovery. After his wartime experiences, Bill married his childhood sweetheart Eileen in 1948 and had two sons. “Eileen was a great support. She was the one who looked after me and got me through. She used to say to me ‘You’re climbing up the walls in the night-time’."

"When you come back and settle down and get married, all the years you always remember, lads really, 19 years old, you can see their faces and know their names. You never forget it. It was something you had to live through. My wife was my counsellor. A lot of people broke down and there was no counselling. The blokes who fought out in Japan had it much worse — they came back like zombies. What we went through was chicken feed compared to what they went through.”

“I think about it all the time. You never forget. You always remember the lads who didn’t come back."