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Memories come flooding back for D-Day veteran Memories come flooding back for D-Day veteran

A LISBURN veteran who was involved in the D Day landings has made an emotional return to Normandy to remember the sacrifice made by so many during the war.

Alfie Allen, who is now 83, joined the Navy when he was just 18.

He had been working in the clerical department of the Great Northern Railway but decided to join the Navy when the Second World War broke out in 1939. Alfie Allen

"My mother and father were both Telegraphists in the Post Office so I decided to join the Navy and do the same job" he recalled.

After his training Alfie served on board a D Class cruiser and fleet arms station in Trinidad before he was promoted and made Petty Officer Telegraphist in 1944.

As Petty Officer Telegraphist, Alfie was in charge of the wireless office on board Coastal Forces Control Frigate, Seymour, a Captain Class Frigate, which escorted troops to Juno Beach on D-Day, 60 years ago on June 6 1944.

"In the wireless station we had to listen in on the German transmissions and send reports back. We had a German-speaking operator on the ship who would listen out on the wave lengths so that we could pinpoint where the German ships were."

The Seymour was built in Boston and was very modern, as Alfie explains: "I had to do a course on the new American equipment on the ship because it was very different from the British equipment. It was very advanced. A Canadian crew sailed it over to Northern Ireland where we took over outside Londonderry and went to Tobermorey, where we took part in exercises and were on anti E boat night patrol."

Alfie's ship saw quite a bit of action in the build up to D-Day and even sank a high speed German EBoat, taking several prisoners who were rescued from the sunken ship. "The German crew said that we saved their lives and one of my shipmates remained in contact with then after the war."

When the planned invasion of Normandy was put into action, the Seymour joined the armada and escorted the troops to Juno beach. The Seymour then remained off the French coast on anti E-Boat patrol in order to guard the beachhead after the invasion.

After the end of the war the Seymour was transferred to the Rosyth local flotilla and even became the floating headquarters ship to Acting Admiral Lord Tennyson off the coast of Norway.

Alfie and the rest of the crew then sailed the Seymour back to Boston Navy Yard where it was returned to the Americans.

Alfie was recognised at the end of the war for his part in the Allied effort, receiving a mention in the Dispatches.

When the details of the 60th anniversary commemorations were announced, he .vas determined to return to France to mark the momentous occasion.

Through the lottery funded scheme, 'Heroes Return, Alfie applied for a grant to help pay for his poignant journey to the commemoration service.

Together with his nephew, who Alfie acted as his carer because Alfie is registered as blind, he boarded MV Van Gogh on Friday June 4 and sailed back to the coast of France, 60 years after his ship escorted the allied troops during Operation Overlord.

Alfie, together with over 250 other veterans, boarded the ship in Portsmouth where it joined up with the eight strong armada to sail to France. Whilst on board the veterans took part in a memorial service and witnessed a fly past by the only remaining British Lancaster bomber and two Spitfires, which dropped one million paper poppies over the bow of the ship as a mark of respect and remembrance.

On the third day, the veterans disembarked at Quisterham in France, boarding a coach which took them to the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery for the official commemoration service.

At the commemoration service at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Bayeux Alfie joined thousands of fellow servicemen and dignitaries, including the Queen, President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to recall one of ' the most historic events in modern history.

"It a very emotional experience, particularly at the cemetery and a very poignant service," Alfie said.

"The cemetery at Bayeux has thousands of graves that are all beautifully kept. It was very emotional but it was good to go back and I was glad that I was there. It was a big undertaking for me to go back but it was important to go and pay my respects."