Tuesday, 25 June 2019

D-Day hero’s daughter in emotional trip back

D-Day hero’s daughter in emotional trip back

THE daughter of a D-Day veteran said it was an “emotional” experience visiting Normandy without him.

Denise Horne’s late father Harry Wheeler helped to capture Pegasus Bridge during the invasion in 1944.

She returned last week with her brothers Derek and Sean and sister Sylvia Stevenson to mark the 75th anniversary.

Pegasus Bridge, which crosses over the Caen Canal, was captured by a small Allied force in order to prevent German armour crossing and attacking the eastern flank of the Normandy landings.

The 181 men, who included members of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, landed in six gliders.

Mr Wheeler, a sapper in 249 Field Squadron of the Royal Engineers, was among the men.

Mrs Horne, who lives in Shepherd’s Green, said: “It was an emotional trip because the last time we went was 10 years ago, when dad was in a wheelchair and he enjoyed himself.

“They have huge respect for the veterans there and at the time they were handed flowers as a thank-you for what they had done.

“This time there were fewer veterans, as they are now older and frailer, but it was nice for us to go and pay our respects, even though Dad wasn’t with us.

“There were also banners with the faces of veterans on and there was one of dad, which was very strange to see because I have the original photograph of him in my living room, but it was also wonderful and made us full of emotion and made our trip even more special.”

Mr Wheeler had been sent to Normandy because D-company needed explosive experts and British intelligence learnt the bridge was primed with explosives so the Germans could blow it up if the Allies invaded. His job was to disarm it.

When he got there he found no bombs just the detonators and wiring as the French underground had taken them off.

In 2009, Mr Wheeler returned to Normandy for the 65th anniversary and was given a guard of honour at the bridge. He died in 2011.

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