Hucknall veteran returns to beaches of Normandy for D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations

editorial image

Hucknall military historian and district councillor Jim Grundy travelled to France with a special companion for the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day.

Mr Grundy accompanied his partner’s father, Don Reynolds, who was serving with the Royal Navy at the time of the Normandy Landings.

Mr Reynolds served aboard the destroyer HMS Virago on D-Day. He served a 4.7in gun bombarding Sword Beach, one of the beaches where British troops landed.

“Don had volunteered for service with the Royal Navy exactly one year before on 6th June 1943,” explained Mr Grundy. “It was just before his 18th birthday.

“He first saw action in the Battle of the North Cape on 26th December 1943, the action that sank the German battlecruiser, the Scharnhorst,” added Mr Grundy who has been giving talks at Hucknall library connected with the Great War anniversary in recent months. “With 70 per centof the HMS Virago’s crew never having been to sea before, it was the first ship fired at by the Scharnhorst during the battle but, though close, missed.”

Hundreds of war veterans attended the special D-Day commemorations by travelling to the beaches of Normandy and remembering those times and the people who had fallen for their countries.

Wreaths were laid in their memory at the Bayeux War Cemetery and services of remembrance held as old comrades reminisced and caught up with old friends.

“Don’s ship spent nearly two months supporting the invasion off-shore at Normandy,” added Mr Grundy. Don and his shipmates had a lucky escape: “One of the ships that took its station, whilst Virago was rearming and refuelling in England, was sunk by a mine. All that was visible of HMS Swift was the top of the masts above water.

Virago was then sent to serve in the Far East to fight the Japanese. It supported the landings at Rangoon in Burma and took part in the sinking of the Japanese heavy cruiser, the Haguro. The Battle of the Malacca Strait took place on 15th/16th May 1945.

Virago helped to finish off the Japanese ship with two torpedoes. It was the last naval gun battle of the Second World War.