THEY died in a tragic circumstances just minutes away from returning home after the D-Day landings.
But now – after 67 years of mystery about what happened to the crew of landing craft LCT 427 – relatives and friends of the 13 men who lost their lives have finally been able to say goodbye.
In a sombre ceremony at sea yesterday, wreaths were tossed overboard at the location off Portsmouth where the craft crashed with navy battleship HMS Rodney and sunk in the early hours of June 8, 1944.
It comes after divers from Southsea Sub-Aqua Club identified the wreck in the Solent last year, finally uncovering the truth about the sailors who died so close to home.
Margaret Emmett, 87, who lost her 22-year-old fiancee Kenneth Sumner in the tragic accident, was one of 60 people at the ceremony yesterday.
She said: ‘We had been together about a year and we were engaged. The last time I saw him was February 12, 1944 then he went away and never came back home.
‘His father had got a telegram and told me he had been killed. I was devastated.’
Mrs Emmett, who lived in Scotland at the time but now lives in Wickham, near Fareham, added: ‘I never really got a chance to say goodbye to Kenneth. I never knew what happened to him until recently.
‘I believed he’d been killed on the beaches but to find out where he actually died was quite a shock – he was so close to home.
‘He has been in my mind a great deal over the years. I did get married to someone else about three years later but I’ve never forgot about him so it’s been good to come here and finally have the chance to say goodbye.’
D-Day veteran Paul Butler, 85, pictured left, was in a different landing craft in the same convoy as LCT 427. He said: ‘I saw HMS Rodney coming towards us and took evasive action but the other craft was hit. It was 3am, very dark, and we didn’t know what had happened until the morning. It was an awful thing to happen.’
Gladys Ingle, 85, of Sheffield, paid tribute to her brother Hallam Carr, 18.
She said: ‘It was upsetting when I threw the wreath in but I feel like I’ve finally got closure after all this time.’