STAFFORD D-Day veteran the Reverend Dick Sargent will be laying a wreath at the National Memorial Arboretum's commemoration tomorrow - 60 years to the day after he was battling the waves to land troops on Utah beach as a 19-year-old Royal Navy officer.
The former vicar of the town's Castle Church has vivid memories of his D-Day experiences, which began with a 12-mile voyage from his ship, moored out of range of German guns, to guide a convoy of six assault landing craft carrying 180 troops, to the Normandy beaches.
It was far from plain sailing, Rev Sargent, of Deanshill Close, recalled.
"The weather was monstrous," he said. "The landing craft were shaped like sardine cans and were carried up by the waves then dropped right down again to meet the next wave. It was too violent to make you feel seasick, but it was a test of seamanship to get them to shore."
The landing craft were supposed to follow a line of four ships moored at intervals to guide them to shore - but three of the four had been sunk.
"I had a magnetic compass, but it was useless," said Rev Sergent, who had been promoted from Midshipman to Sub Lieutenant for his first command role. "There was so much equipment on board that the compass just pointed at the chap holding the biggest bazooka.
"Fortunately I spotted some bigger tank landing craft and followed them in."
But it still took nearly three hours to get the troops ashore.
Rev Sargent, who is married to Barbara and has two sons and a grandson, said he was fortunate to land on Utah beach, where advance bombing and shelling had destroyed German defences, escaping the carnage on the other beaches.
"I was too busy to be frightened."
Rev Sargent, who was a chaplain and part time teacher at Stafford Grammar School after his retirement from full-time ministry, joined the Navy in 1942, shortly after his older brother Walter was killed in the St Nazaire raid.
More in next week's Newsletter.