IT’s the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1944 and 73 years since veteran Charles Horne witnessed the brutal slaughter of thousands of his comrades on the beaches of Normandy.
The Second World War sailor from Prestonpans chose to face his demons last month and travelled to France to “lay old ghosts to rest”.
The Royal British Legion’s remembrance tours, funded by Libor bank fines, took Mr Horne and his daughters Carolyn and Margaret to Normandy, allowing him to re-visit Omaha beach and Port en Bessin – where he spent the three weeks following the military operation.
On the fateful morning of June 6, 1944, where thousands of allied troops lost their lives, Mr Horne was aboard a minesweeper tasked with clearing a safe channel for allied ships to pass ahead of the assault on German troops at Omaha beach.
But the enemy forces attacked, blowing up the boat next to his.
Mr Horne remembers the aftermath as a particularly disturbing part of his wartime experience.
He said: “I knew men aboard that ship. Our boat got hit by one shell and we ended up spending three weeks off Normandy’s shore at Port en Bessin whilst it was being repaired.”
Depite the emotional return trip, Mr Horne enjoyed the remembrance tour.
His daughter Carolyn said: “Dad loved meeting the other veterans on the tour and he was made to feel very special when he met French people, even the younger generations are still grateful for their parents and grandparents being liberated.
“He also took part in several acts of remembrance and laid a poppy wreath at a Commonwealth Cemetery.”
For Carolyn and Margaret, returning to Normandy with their dad was a magical experience.
Carolyn said her father is now able to speak about his role in D-Day with much more fondness since the trip. She continued: “I would fully encourage veterans and their families to make the return to Normandy, as it helped our dad so much to see those places again after all those years and to receive so much genuine gratitude from the French people who he met.”
After completing his military service, Mr Horne married Jenny in 1948 and the couple settled in Port Seton where they raised their three daughters, Jean, Margaret and Caroly. Mr Horne returned to fishing and in 1959 brought his first trawler, Silver Crest, followed by Golden Years and Golden Days.