D-Day 70: Reception in France was overwhelming, says returning Wiltshire veteran

Bob Conway on Sword Beach, Normandy

Veterans Wally Beall, of Atworth, Doug Lakey, Warminster, Bernard Howell, of Mere, Bob Conway, George French, of Swindon, Gordon Smith, of Newbury, and Bert Williams, from Calne

Veterans at a private at the memorial to 13th/18th Royal Hussars at Ouistreham/Gold Beach

Bob and Gwen Conway

Bob Conway and Colonel Simon Hutchings OBE, a former Clarendon Academy student who was an ATC cadet under Mr Conway

Bob and Gwen Conway in France

First published in News
Last updated
by , Senior reporter for Trowbridge

Second World War veteran Bob Conway said he could not walk five yards down the street without someone thanking him or shaking his hand during the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Mr Conway was among the members of the Wiltshire branch of the Normandy Veterans’ Association that travelled to the French battlefields last Wednesday for a programme of events commemorating D-Day.

The 88-year-old, who is the chairman of the Wiltshire branch, served with the Royal Army Service Corps in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany during the war.

The official ceremony took place last Friday on Sword Beach, where heads of state including the Queen, US President Obama, French President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel were in attendance.

Mr Conway, who lives in Trowbridge, was a dispatch rider in 1944.

He said: “It was excellent and incredibly emotional. I couldn’t walk five yards down the street without someone coming up to me and shaking my hand or thanking me.

“People were asking lots of questions about what it was like. It really was wonderful and there were many tears shed by everyone. It was a very tiring few days, but it couldn’t have been any better.

“When we were there last year a lady came up to me and cried her eyes out while hugging me and it happened again this year while we were on Pegasus Bridge. They are so dedicated to the veterans.

“We went to the dedication of the new bell at Bayeux Cathedral and as we made our way down to the cemetery we were applauded all the way by local people lining both sides of the street. It was incredible.”

The occasion is expected to be the last big anniversary gathering due to dwindling numbers and as well as the service at Sword Beach, the veterans also attended memorial services at Bayeux, Colville Montgomery and Arromanches.

Gwen Conway, who attended with her husband, said: “They crowded around Bob like a magnet. There were so many incredible moments and we met Prince Charles, Camilla and David Cameron when Bob laid a wreath.”

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