The local wife of a World War Two veteran will be travelling to the beaches of Normandy on her own for the first time this year, as she marks the70th anniversary of D-Day.
In previous years, Lorna, who has lived in Blackpool for almost 30 years, has always joined her husband Douglas on his annual pilgrimage to Normandy, where he would pay his respects to those he knew and lost on that fateful day, 70 years ago.
But Douglas, a former paratrooper, sadly died just months before planning to return to Normandy this year, which would have been his fiftieth consecutive year.
Married for 28 years, Lorna and Douglas lived in a bungalow in Blackpool, which is owned and maintained by SSAFA, the national military charity that provides lifelong support to the armed forces community and their families.
Born in Yorkshire, Douglas was conscripted into the Army in 1942 and joined the12th Yorkshire Parachute Regiment, leaping out of a Halifax aircraft on D-Day and into Normandy. Douglas was just 19 at the time and came very close to death when he was dropped 12 miles from the intended location into the River Dives. He landed in a flooded field and a local farmer rescued him and his comrades before sheltering them in a barn.
The Germans shot the farmer, imprisoned his wife and blew up the farm. Douglas himself was later taken prisoner, but miraculously escaped and joined the French resistance, for which he was decorated with the French Resistance Medal – as he made his way back to Yorkshire.
Having survived these heroic skirmishes, Douglas returned to the frontline on a final mission to the Rhine where the glider he was on was shot down killing everyone except Douglas. He was seriously wounded and had to have his leg amputated. He was fitted with an artificial limb, which he wore til the day he died.
As a military amputee, Douglas received support from SSAFA, who provided him with a specially adapted bungalow to assist him and his family.
He spent the rest of his life visiting the graves of lost friends and the farmer who saved his life. This year Lorna will be paying her respects on Douglas’ behalf.
“We used to go to Normandy three times a year but that stopped as the years went on. One year he even discharged himself out of hospital to go. That’s what it meant to him.”
“After that, he only lived from June to June when he could return to Normandy again. His heart was there.”
Lorna continues to be supported by SSAFA and will remain living in the bungalow for as long as she needs to.
Lorna explains that the SSAFA bungalow became a place of solace in-between his visits to France, “He loved this place. He wouldn’t have moved anywhere else. He was the first to move in when it was built in 1985 and we’ve lived here ever since.”
Lorna will be travelling to Arromanches over the D-Day anniversary period and attending a service at the Ranville Museum, where she and Douglas had many close friends.