World War Two veteran Jack Bracewell will be taking part in an emotional trip next month when he returns to Normandy for the first time since D-Day.
Jack, 94, was a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps when he landed at Gold Beach on D-Day on June 6 1944.
And now, 73 years on, Jack will be revisiting the place where many of his friends lost their lives as part of this year’s D-Day commemorations.
Born in Bradford in 1922, Jack was called up to the forces at the age of 19, joining a group of fellow Yorkshiremen training as drivers with the 12th Armoured Division.
After moving across the country as part of their training, the regiment was sent to the south coast to prepare for D-Day.
“When things started getting serious and D-Day was approaching we were moved down south,” he said.
“You wouldn’t believe the number of vehicles and soldiers, there were hundreds of thousands of us.
“We were called in the middle of the night to get on a ship and sailed over during that night.
“It was a sight to see; the sheer number of ships was unbelievable.” Jack’s troop landed at Gold Beach near Bayeux, before eventually moving inland towards Belgium and Holland.
His job was to deliver supplies such as rations and ammunition to other troops, mostly on motorbikes or in wagons.
“We were constantly delivering supplies to all the lads, “ he said.
“We didn’t know what a bed was for a long time. We just slept when and where we could.
“It was certainly an experience. We just did what we had to do.”
The troop finally arrived in Germany at the end of the war, and remained in the Plön district of Schleswig for two to three months before being demobbed in Luneburg in October 1946.
“When I got back home I realised I didn’t have all my mates around me any more, which was strange,” he said.
As a result, Jack went on to join a paratroop regiment with a childhood friend, and remained in service for another eight or nine years.
He later worked on the buses, where he met his future wife Dot, and the pair married after just six weeks when they were both 27.
They went on to have a daughter, Lynne.
Jack then started work as a delivery driver, a position which took him all over Europe – although never back to Normandy.
When Jack was 50, the family moved to Morecambe, where Jack took a job with a firm based at Heysham Port.
Dot sadly died in 2011, and Jack now lives with his daughter, Lynne Shelling, in Ellesmere Road.
He has three grandsons and five great-grandchildren.
With the help of Lynne, he is now making a memory book of his life to pass on to his grandchildren.
Lynne said: “I think it’s important for the future generations to be able to read about what happened and what men like my dad went through.”
Jack’s love of driving has never left him, although he is currently unable to do so while awaiting treatment for cataracts.
“To me driving is everything,” he said. “I have been driving for 70-0dd years, it’s my life.”
Jack will be taking the trip along with Lynne through the Return to Normandy charity, which funds the trip for war veterans.
It is also hoped that his Legion d’Honneur medal – the highest possible French honour, which all D-Day veterans are to receive – will have arrived in time for it to be officially presented at a ceremony in Normandy during their trip.
The trip includes visits to several memorial sites including Bayeux, Pegasus Bridge, Gold Bridge and Arromanches.
During the visit, Jack has also been invited to take a trip over Normandy in a microlight, an occasion which could see him feature in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest war veteran to do so.
“I am looking forward to it,” he said. “It will certainly bring back memories and it might be a bit weird as well.
“It will be a bit quieter this time around!
“It will be nice to get the [Legion d’Honneur] medal when so many won’t have had the chance to get theirs.
“I am just an ordinary bloke, I just did what hundreds of others did.
“I came through it and I was lucky, I don’t doubt that.
“We lost a lot of good lads.”