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AXMINSTER: The reluctant hero who lost his friend on D-Day
Tuesday, 17 June 2014
EMOTIONAL: Veteran Norman Ayshford, who was a warrant officer with The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers on Sword Beach on D-Day, and his wife Pat on June 6th
Norman Ayshford looked a war hero in every way during the D-Day commemoration on Minster Green in Axminster on Friday June 6th, But the 88-year-old Axminster resident is a modest man and plays down his effort, saying: “I only played a small part.” “I didn’t see much action if truth be told.” Mr Ayshford lived in Hornchurch, Essex, when war broke out, and he joined up in 1943 with The Royal Engineers after six weeks of training. He was a warrant officer with The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers on Sword Beach on D-Day, which nearly became the last day of his life. He explained: “Our job was to clear the road for the main troops to come through. “But I was knocked out and don’t remember anything until I was back in England. “It was an explosion of some sort, it might have been a mortar.” The first landings at Sword beach took place at 7.25am when British and French commandos attacked the beach, and Mr Ayshford believes he was taken out of action at about 10 am. After making a recovery in England, he was posted to Egypt until demobbed in 1945. Unfortunately, one of his best friends wasn’t so lucky. On D-Day Dickie Johnson served with another platoon, but he would not make it back to England. Mr Ayshford said: “I never saw Dickie again.” He has been unable to establish what happened to his friend, having searched graveyards around Pegasus Bridge to no avail. Mr Ayshford still keeps a framed photograph of himself and his friend, and took it along to the 70th anniversary commemoration on the Minster Green. He said: “It was very emotional, I burst into tears.” Keen to play down his own role and eager to praise his fellow soldiers, he said: “The chaps I was with was a very, very good band of men, very courageous.”
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