Proud Royal Navy sailor says it will be an honour to salute his dad’s D-Day comrades from HMS St Albans
GIVING a salute to the last-surviving D-Day heroes, who fought on the beaches of Normandy alongside his father 75 years ago, will be a ‘huge moment’ for Warrant Officer Mick Gentry.
The 60-year-old Gulf War veteran will be on the deck of HMS St Albans as she fires a gun salute to 300 D-Day veterans as they sail from Portsmouth to Normandy on June 5.
Mick said the moment will bring him closer to his late father, Ted, who sailed from Portsmouth on June 5, 1944, as a 20-year-old soldier destined for Sword Beach.
Speaking of being part of the escort team to honour the remaining D-Day veterans, Mick said: ‘I just can’t put into words how important this is. Remembering that dad went across on a boat at the same sort of time and I’m now out escorting some of the guys he went across with is a huge moment for me.’
Ted was part of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and had been training for four months for his part in D-Day.
The ‘5ft 2in soldier’ had to swim to shore after his landing craft beached on a sandbank several hundred yards out, before continuing with the attack through Normandy.
His heroics always fascinated his son, who said he was inspired to join the navy in 1977 by his dad.
Mick, who grew up in Portsmouth but now lives in Lincolnshire, added: ‘Dad said he was frightened and scared of what was coming ahead of them.
‘I was involved in the Gulf War and I was a wee bit older coming up to 30 then, so I had a better appreciation of what war was about but to go into something like D-Day at 20 must have been immensely scary and hats off to the bravery that they showed in those days.’