A heroic Yorkshireman who took part in the D-Day invasion is travelling to Normandy for the 80th anniversary.

Ken Cooke, from York, is one of the handful of the 61,715 British soldiers from the landing still alive today.  

He was a member of the Green Howards and the 98-year-old will be joining other members of the York Normandy Veterans (YNV) to pay their respects to his comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice.

A series of major commemorations are planned in the UK and France on June 5 and June 6 to honour the brave service personnel who risked their lives for freedom and peace.

Ken went ashore on Gold Beach on 6 June 1944. After his military service Ken returned to York, where he worked in the Blacksmith’s shop at Rowntree’s until he retired.

Talking to Green Howards Museum in Richmond Ken has described how he felt in the run up to the landing and the training he received.

He said: "To me, as an 18-year-old, everything was brand, brand new.

"We didn’t train for D-Day. We did only our basic training then learnt how to fire a rifle, a Sten gun, a Tommy gun, a Bren gun – ten minutes to look at each weapon, you know, and fire it. That was all.

"I had never seen a ship before. I’d never been on a beach before, except when I was about eight year old and my father, a miner, took us on a day’s outing to Skegness.

"That was my first time on a beach. The second time was when I landed in Normandy. All those ships in Southampton harbour, I’d never seen a sight like it.

Ken described what it was like making it onto the beach and how important it is to remember those who lost their lives.

"Some of the lads on the landing craft were being seasick, but I was leaning over the side watching all the fireworks.

"I was enjoying it, all the flashes and the rockets and the what have you.

"I can only describe it as a Boy Scout’s adventure,” Ken said. “I’d never been on a ship before, never seen anything like this before.

"As we went in the water some men were in above their heads and drowned, although I was just up to my ankles,” he said. “I wasn’t bothered about the bullets, the bombs or whatever, all I was bothered about was my socks being wet through.

Don't miss out on the latest news and stories. Subscribe to the Northern Echo, for just £3 for 3 months click here

Most read

Esh Winning incident LIVE: Armed police descend on village

Darlington woman assaulted two police officers in Shildon

Best campsites in the North East to try this summer

"It is so important that we remember and pay our respects to those who never came home. They are the real heroes."

During his time in France Mr Cooke will remember his great friends Flying Officer Douglas Petty and Trooper Sid Metcalfe, who both died in 2022.

He will scatter their ashes. Ken will also visit sites where former York Normandy Veterans were in action.