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RAF D-Day Veterans Tell Their Stories to the Nation

Easily identified by their blue berets and blue forage caps, a few surviving airmen who took part in Operation Overlord have joined fellow D-Day veterans in Portsmouth to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the largest amphibious invasion in military history.

HM The King meeting Veterans
Their Majesties meeting Veterans

Attended by His Majesty King Charles III and Her Majesty Queen Camilla, the televised National Commemoration event retold stories of bravery, tragedy and ultimate victory for Allied Forces in Europe.

102 year old Flight Lieutenant John Trotman DFC and Bar was a Mosquito pilot with 692 Squadron during the Battle for Normandy. He said,

“My job was to fly at very high altitude, then drop bombs at strategic points in Europe. The chance of living beyond 30 missions was touch and go. I don’t know what the odds were to be alive today.”

When asked how he won his DFCs, Flight Lieutenant Trotman said, “Being a really good boy and doing what I was told!”

RAF Veterans meeting serving personnel

Leading Aircraftman Albert Westgate, now aged 99 explained how he never expected to be a part of the invasion force. He said,

“I’d done my wireless operator’s course and was waiting to go to Yatesbury for my gunner’s course, but for some reason instead of being allocated to an airfield, I got sent to Omaha Beach.”

Corporal Joe Randall, now aged 100, was a member of the Airfield Construction Squadron and landed in Normandy on D-Day +3. He said, “We put the very first RAF B-19 runway down just outside Caen. It even made the papers back home! I joined up when I was seventeen. My mum said ‘you’re not going’, but I did. I’ve never ever said I’m sorry I went.”

Commenting on the D-Day 80 National Commemoration Event, he said, “It’s had me feeling a bit weepy at times, but it’s been a magnificent day.” Joe even had a message for today’s RAF aviators. “Be proud of yourself and be proud of the RAF, ‘cos believe it or not, we’re the best!”

Veterans meeting serving RAF personnel

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Knighton attended alongside his Royal Navy and Army counterparts.

“The Royal Air Force played a vital role in freeing Europe from Nazi occupation and we should remember and commemorate the great men and women who enabled us to do that. Today is a fantastic opportunity for us to remember those people who risked their lives and those who sadly died.

I’ve had this wonderful opportunity over my career to meet veterans from the Second World War in particular. I was fortunate enough to meet some D-Day veterans a few months ago and their stories inspire me, and they inspire those who serve today.

The amazing thing is every one of them will tell you that they were just ordinary people, but they were ordinary people who did extraordinary things. I know that the men and women who serve today are exactly the same. They will do extraordinary things to serve their country.”

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Knighton

The first RAF aircraft to deliver airborne troops took off from Harwell at 2303 on 5 June. By the end of the D-Day landings, the RAF had flown 5,656 sorties in support of the operation, for the loss of 113 aircraft. Without control of the air, the story both in the air and on the ground could have been substantially different.

You can read more about this week’s D-Day commemorations at, including the story of the Malaysian fighter pilot brothers and why an RAF medical officer was one of the few British personnel to land with the Americans on Omaha Beach.