They endured horrors that most of us can’t even begin to imagine.
Side by side they stood to fight for freedom, knowing that hundreds of their comrades would pay the ultimate sacrifice.
They would never make it home to see the jubilant scenes of celebration when the war was over.
And long after the fighting had finished, they continued to stand shoulder to shoulder to make sure that what they had done would never be forgotten and that the loss of so many friends would not be in vain.
Since the end of the Second World War, the men and women from the Landing Ship Tank and Landing Craft Association have gathered.
The passing of the years has never once diminished their willingness to remember.
And by commemorating the brave actions of all those who took part in the Normandy landings, they have reminded us all of what their courage achieved and why that should never be allowed to fade from memory.
It was with sadness, then, that we saw these veterans gather for their last official reunion yesterday.
We are certain that the service at Hayling Island’s St Mary’s Church was a poignant and proud occasion.
Although many of the 250 sailors and Royal Marines who attended were just teenagers when they took up their posts for that fateful mission, they are now in their 80s.
Over the years they’ve seen their numbers decrease, old age taking them to their graves instead of the bloody acts of war responsible for claiming the young lives of so many of their friends.
But although they were marking their last reunion, these outstanding veterans have left us a way to make sure that their legacy won’t now disappear just because they will no longer be there.
As yesterday’s congregation disbanded, the association’s National Standard was left behind at St Mary’s Church for safe-keeping. And long may it stay there, serving as a permanent reminder to future generations of all that their bravery stands for.