A FAREHAM veteran who dodged deadly Nazi machine gun fire and tank rounds, has been awarded France’s highest military honour in recognition of his bravery.
Harry Marrington is one of the few surviving British servicemen to have stormed the beaches in Normandy during the D-Day landings of the Second World War.
Now the 91-year-old has been presented with the Légion d’honneur medal to mark his courage.
The great-great-granddad-of-two, said: ‘I never expected to get the medal. It was a really nice surprise.’
Harry, of Cotswold Walk, was a seaman and gunner with the Royal Navy Patrol Service and was part of a naval escort supporting US troops during the pivotal invasion on June 6, 1944
Remembering the run-up to the invasion, Harry said: ‘The Solent was absolutely full of ships. You could have walked from the Isle of Wight and across the English Channel to Cherbourg without getting your feet wet.’
The first wave that went in were just absolutely slaughtered – there was just nothing left of themHarry Marrington, of Fareham
He travelled across the Channel to the French coast at a painstakingly slow speed of about two knots.
Eventually, after hours on the water, Harry and his crew arrived at the destination as the sun was rising over the Normandy coastline.
He went in with US troops as part of the second wave to storm the beach, codenamed Omaha by military chiefs.
‘All hell broke loose then,’ recounted Harry.
‘That’s when the Germans started to sort us out.’
He said the Nazis were using anti-tank guns to blast troops on the beach.
‘You’d have a landing craft next to us and the next minute it was just gone where the 88s had scored a direct hit,’ he said.
‘That’s how it went. All you could hear really was them crying out for their mums – that’s all you could hear all the time.
‘You couldn’t do anything for them, you just had to carry on for the simple reason that if you started to try and do anything for them you would be laying alongside them as well.’
Harry described how dozens of Nazi machine gun nests inflicted devastating casualties on Allied troops.
‘The first wave that went in were just absolutely slaughtered – there was just nothing left of them,’ he added.
‘There were 2,000 men just there laying dead.
‘The ones going to shore on our 29th division were just walking on them.
‘And again, all you could hear was them crying out for their mums.
Harry was presented with his medal at Southsea’s D-Day Museum.