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D-Day 70: I was 18 and alone, recalls Trowbridge veteran
D-Day veteran Bob Conway said he never knew what to expect from one day to the next from the moment he landed on the coast of Normandy as an 18-year-old soldier a few days after June 6.
The 88-year-old, who is the chairman of the Wiltshire branch of the Normandy Veterans Association, served with the Royal Army Service Corps in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany during the Second World War.
Mr Conway, of Trowbridge, was also a dispatch rider and was awarded several campaign medals for his service, including The 1939-45 Star for France and Germany and The Defence Medal.
He said: “I was 17 when I joined the army in 1943.
“I did my basic training and then got posted to the Royal Army Service Corps shortly after my 18th birthday.
“It wasn’t long before we set off from Dover to the coast of Normandy.
“We were on the landing craft over to Normandy for three to four days and the Germans were dropping depth charges all over the place.
“When we got there we went along a small side road around Arromanches.
“We were picking up ammunition and taking it to the soldiers for the cannons and heavy guns, as well as taking up food if they needed it.”
But, because of the Allies’ need for secrecy it was never easy.
“There were no maps, nothing to tell you where to go,” said Mr Conway.
“You never really knew from one day to the next what was going to happen.
“You were on your own most of the time and when you are 18 it was quite hard being on your own the whole time. I often wonder how we did it.”
Mr Conway, whose father served with the Royal Irish Rifles in the Great War, faced several hazards during his ammunition drops and said one of the most dangerous parts of his role was driving into fields to check whether there were any mines lying in wait.
“When we got to a field they sent one vehicle around it first to make sure there were no mines,” he said.
“I had to do it several times. That was incredibly scary as you never knew whether you were going to get out of it alive.
“We were working 24 hours a day, so it was incredibly tiring and we never knew what a bed was. We slept in our vehicles and did pretty much everything in them. I don’t know how we did it really.
“We were supplying the troops all the way throughout Normandy and there was another occasion when I was shot at while driving and the bullet went through the windscreen and out the back windscreen.”
Mr Conway was in Germany when the war ended and did not return home for another two years, instead assisting with transferring people from prisoner of camps.
He said: “We were on an autobahn when we heard the war was over.
“Someone managed to get a radio somehow and it was announced that the war was over and we all started dancing.”
He will be in Normandy today for the 70th anniversary commemoration on Gold beach, which will be attended by 40 heads of state from across the world.