Northern Ireland

WWII veterans offered free-of-charge trip

D-Day landings Image copyright Alamy

All surviving World War Two veterans are being offered the chance to return to where they served, and pay their respects to comrades, free of charge.

The project is being funded by the Treasury, which has committed over £5m raised through London inter-bank lending rate (Libor) fines.

Veterans who avail of the tour will be accompanied by a medic - paid for by the scheme.

Image caption Neville Henshaw is 93 years old

'Saying prayers'

County Down man Neville Henshaw, who was a lance corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals, is one of the dwindling number of veterans who was part of the 1944 D-Day landings.

The seaborne invasion, which happened on 6 June, is one of the biggest in history.

Mr Henshaw, who is now 93 years old, can still recall crossing the beach after the initial landing.

Image caption Mr Henshaw - second from the left - sitting with friends during the War

"I was saying prayers to myself and thinking of my mother and dad and that they'd know I'd be dead," he said.

"I was convinced at any moment I'd be gone - that was the sort of thing going through my head.

"The ramp went down and we were ordered to leave. The water was about two-and-a-half feet deep.

Image caption Neville Henshaw was part of the 1944 D-Day landings

"As we crossed the beaches we were under very intensive German fire for a very short time and we were terrified, quite frankly."

He added: "We could do nothing about it. We were being shrieked at and yelled at by officers.

"I got across the beach, but I lost three pals of mine."

Image caption Mr Henshaw visited the Bayeux cemetery a number of year ago

'Very emotional'

Mr Henshaw, who is originally from Liverpool but now lives in Rostrevor, visited the Bayeux cemetery in Normandy a number of years ago.

He said it was an important and emotional trip which he hopes more surviving veterans can experience with the help of the scheme.

"It brings back memories, very emotional memories," he said.

Image caption Mr Henshaw said visiting Normandy again was very emotional

"So many things come back to you suddenly, little things, and it strikes you afterwards.

"It's so moving in many ways - it's a hard thing for me to completely describe.

"A lot of different things go through your head. It's all there and it's very strong."

Image caption A picture of Neville Henshaw dressed in a customs uniform after the war

'Lay ghosts to rest'

Nichola Rowlands-Smith, head of travel at the British Legion, said the organisation was delighted the Treasury has made the tours possible.

"We have been campaigning to widen the tours for all World War Two veterans, as so many gave so much, and we feel that they all deserve a final tour back to lay old ghosts to rest," she said.

"There's no database, so if you're a grandchild, neighbour or carer and know someone who fought in World War Two, please tell them about these amazing tours."

Phillip Hammond, the chancellor of the exchequer, said the government had committed over £5m of Libor funds to "help those who fought for our freedom".

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