A 103-year-old D-Day veteran who served as an army dispatch motorbike rider during WWII has returned to the saddle 79 years later.
Don Sheppard, one of only a handful of Normandy veterans left alive, was invited to commemorate a new D-Day memorial in Rettendon, UK.
Don, from Basildon, Essex said: “My grandson was really anxious about me trying to get on top of the motorbike – but I managed it alright!”
“The bike was like the one I used to ride as a dispatch rider when I was tasked with carrying important messages between regiments and headquarters. It was all a bit of fun really,” he said.
Don grew up in Laindon, UK, and was called to the armed forces in 1940 when he was 20.
He completed his army training at the Colchester garrison before serving in Sicily and North Africa as a sapper in the Royal Engineers.
By the time D-Day came around, Don was considered a seasoned soldier and played a crucial part in the huge-scale invasion – arriving on the afternoon of June 6, 1944.
Describing his Normandy experience, Don said: “There were shells and a whole lot of people killed. Bodies were everywhere. The noise is something I won’t forget – the roar of a battleship discharging its guns over our heads and the sound of rocket ships.”
After the war, Don, who has 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, retrained as a tanker driver and earned a good living.
He retired in 1985 and spent 20 years as The Chairman of the Southend Normandy Veterans Association.
His main aim has been to ensure those who didn’t come back from France are as celebrated and honored as the veterans left today.
Don has overcome a broken pelvis and pneumonia in recent years – but says he is still going strong.
And he demonstrated that by climbing onto the army bike at the D-Day ceremony at White House Farm.
Don said: “Sitting on the motorbike brought memories flushing back. I used to go back to Normandy every annual anniversary, but now I have trouble traveling there, so the Essex memorial is a great alternative.”
“The couple who created it have got a big farm area and they developed it into a memorial. They’ve been very clever with it, made a fake beach and installed a huge amount of water representing the English Channel. It was a memorable day, he said. “In the future, I hope it will build up bigger and people from all over will be able to go there to give their regards to the fallen.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Arnab Nandy