Bromley D-Day vet honoured at Grove Park for Lewisham SSAFA work

Bromley D-Day vet honoured at Grove Park for Lewisham SSAFA work

Bill Aitkenhead and Major General RV Searby

Bill Aitkenhead

First published in News
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News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , deputy news editor

A BROMLEY D-Day veteran who has served in all the Armed Forces and still works for a Lewisham military charity has been commended for his achievements.

Bill Aitkenhead, now 87, first volunteered for the RAF Volunteer reserve in 1943 at the age of just 17.

He went on to join the Royal Navy as a Petty Officer for the Royal Observer Corps, a unit which was formed especially for the 1944 D-Day landings.

Recalling the episode, he said: "As we arrived on the beach, dead bodies were drifting out to sea in the tide and it was clear something terrible had happened.

"There were no German aircraft spotted the whole day as the allied air supremacy was so great.
"But at night the Luftwaffe attacked and a US Navy crewman was killed right next to me - caught in the crossfire."

His military career also saw him transferred to the RAF as a Corporal in 1944 and on to halt the Soviet army at Wismar, Germany in January 1945's Operation Blackcock.

During this operation he was blown up by mortar fire, suffering permanent ear damage, only regaining consciousness a number of days later. 

He said: "A nurse woke me up, not wanting me to miss out on a moment of history, and led me to the window and there were bonfires and people dancing round them.

"She mouthed the words to me 'the war is over'."

Mr Aitkenhead later served with 4/5 Bn, 156th Infantry Brigade, 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division, Royal Scottish Fusiliers as a Sergeant and finally retired in February 1963, on full pension and war pension due to damage to his ear.

But he has not slowed down since, and can currently be found working as a voluntary case worker at the Lewisham branch of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) charity, where he has been for 22 years.

His work for the charity was officially marked at Grove Park's Territorial Army centre this week with the presentation of a certificate by Major General Robin Searby, chairman of SSAFA.

For more on the charity, visit ssafa.org.uk

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