Published On: Thu, Mar 7th, 2024

One of Britain’s last surviving D-Day veterans dies aged 99 | UK | News

One of Britain’s last surviving D-Day veterans has died aged 99, months before the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

Walter Bigland was just 19 when he disembarked from a landing craft on Sword Beach with 45 Commando on June 6, 1944, wheeling a bike with a rubber dinghy on his back plus four grenades and 100 rounds of ammo.

The great-grandfather of Aintree, Liverpool later recalled: “I was carrying around 80lb in my rucksack. I managed to get the bike down the ramp, but I hardly rode it because the roads were just covered in debris.

“I have been called a hero in the past, but it’s water off a duck’s back to me. We were quite calm on the approach to Normandy because it just felt like another exercise.

“Most of us even managed to have a doze on the way.” Walter joined the Marines in 1942 at 18.

He added: “All the men on those beaches were heroes.”

His first D-Day sight was a body and a tank landing craft on fire alongside – but he stopped to help a wounded man on the beach then headed to his rendezvous.

Walter recalled: “We then fought our way towards the historic Pegasus Bridge in order to make contact with 6th Airborne Division. We were half an hour late because we had a bit of trouble on the way up, just little skirmishes with the enemy – but we apologised.

“We were apprehensive, but we were never afraid. You didn’t have time to be afraid, we were all in it together.”

The Allied forces found many Normandy bridges intact so Walter left his dinghy and bike with paratroops at Pegasus Bridge and with his A Troop colleagues faced German defenders at Franceville Plage before taking up defensive positions at Amfreville.

He was evacuated back to England after seven weeks with blood poisoning when he cut his hand on an ammo crate. Walter said “I was embarrassed because it didn’t seem like a proper injury to me. I wanted to go back to the unit, but because I’d had surgery they insisted.”

He eventually rejoined his comrades to serve in the Netherlands and the Far East. Leaving the Marines in 1946, he became a sergeant in the reserves and spent 32 years working in the civil service.

He was married to his late wife May for 55 years during which the couple had four children.

Walter died on February 16 and his funeral service is taking place at the parish church of St Giles, Aintree Lane, today at 1.15pm.

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