IT WAS a day of sadness and joy for one D-Day veteran who remembered fallen colleagues on his birthday.
Christopher Peacey, 90, of Bentham Road in Gosport, was one of the guests of honour at the commemorations in Gosport today.
Scores of people lined the waterfront in Priory Road at Hardway where a new stone, brought over from Caen in France, was installed to mark 70 years since the operation began.
It was followed by a moving service with parades, readings, wreath laying and speeches by two D-Day veterans.
Mr Peacey spoke to the crowd about his experiences and was presented with a gift from the borough as it was his birthday.
Mr Peacey said: ‘It was absolutely wonderful to see how many people were here to remember what happened.
‘It was my best birthday ever. It was really something.’
Mr Peacey was a crew member of one of the Landing Ship, Tanks that made the journey to Normandy.
He said: ‘We loaded up before we sailed so it was two or three days beforehand before was sailed on the 6th waiting for the weather to abate.
‘Then having loaded up with tanks and lorries and their crews we set sail and anchored in the Solent where thousands of other ships were, of all shapes and sizes.
‘We tossed about there and some were seasick and eventually we sailed in the small hours of the 5th and I remember coming back and it was my 20th birthday.
‘It was my job to open the bow doors and lower the ramp and I was very proud of that.
‘We were well used to our jobs and we were hardly in need of training which we had before D-Day.
‘All in all I was on that ship for just under three years.
‘I often come back to Hardway. I had 10 or 12 special friends from the crew.
‘Sadly they’ve all gone. Every one of those. I’m the only one that’s left.
‘We had many reunions and they used to love coming down here and we’d jot down to the pub.’
Despite the terrible weather on D-Day, which delayed the invasion by 24 hours and meant seasickness was rife – Mr Peacey believes it was the best cover they could have asked for.
He added: ‘We were anchored for two to three days being tossed about by ferocious weather but I believe that the weather was the best camouflage that we could have had.
‘We would have been spotted had it been a clear view, with dire consequences.
‘So I think that weather, although it was uncomfortable, was our best friend that day.’