WALTER Wood was one of thousands sent to the Normandy beaches who helped to change the course of World War Two.
D-Day saw the largest ever seaborne invasion and the landings led to an Allied victory which safeguarded the future of Britons for generations to come.
The masterminds and commanders of the invasion are no longer with us, but some of the young men on the boats which landed in northern France 70 years ago are still here, their memories still vivid.
Walter, now 92, who served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers from 1941 to 1946, is one of them.
He joined up in 1938 — just before war broke out — and had to lie about his age as he was just 17.
His ship docked in Normandy on the eighth day of the invasion and Walter, who now lives in Clive Street, in Bolton town centre, marched through France, Belgium and into Germany in the months after the landings.
Walter was born in a house in Victory Street, just off Chorley Old Road, which has since been knocked down.
He vividly remembers the day war broke out: “We had been up to Catterick in August for annual exercises. On September 3, when we were in Leeds, the colonel had to get off the train to take a call from the station master.
“It was to tell us that we would have to go back to Bolton because we were at war.”
Walter was away from 1939 until 1946, months after hostilities had officially finished.
He travelled through parts of Belgium, which had been the scene of horrific fighting during World War One.
He said: “In Antwerp I remember there was a train service coming from the harbour where the Germans were based.
“The train driver signalled to us that they had Germans on board.
“It slowed down and as it came along he stopped and we captured all the Germans on board.”
Walter ended up in Hanover in May, 1946.
But it was the D-Day landings that changed the course of the war.
He said: “It was the eighth day when we landed. There was still a lot of fighting going on. It was terrible.
“You don’t expect to see something like it and you don’t want to see anything like it again.
“We would have to see it to believe it, the sheer number of ships that were there that day. You would never imagine. It was a vast armada.
“You will probably see some of it on the TV over the next few days.”
When asked if he was fearful, for his safety and the Allies’ chances, as he sat on the ship about to dock, he is remarkably matter-of-fact.
“There is always a danger that you are not going to come out of it.
“But, when we had got a stranglehold there were signs then that we had a good chance.”