Welwyn Garden City D-Day veteran says the dead bodies still haunt him 75 years on

PUBLISHED: 15:15 06 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:36 06 June 2019

Jim Holder-Vale, 95, at 75th D-Day celebration in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin

Jim Holder-Vale, 95, at 75th D-Day celebration in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin

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A Welwyn Garden City veteran who landed under fire within hours of the first D-Day landings in France has said the dead bodies still haunt him 75 years later.

Mr Holder-Vale's medals, including his Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.Mr Holder-Vale's medals, including his Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

Jim Holder-Vale, now 95, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times - exactly 75 years on to the day - how on June 6, 1944, he landed at Sword Beach under heavy fire with Fox Troop of the 92nd Light Ackack Royal Artillery Regiment.

Mr Holder-Vale, who was a wireless operator, then moved on to capture the famous Pegasus bridge and was amazed at what he saw.

"All the dead we saw on D-Day, the young men, the very young men, their faces still haunt me," he said.

Peter Hebden, deputy mayor of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, poses with Jim Holder-Vale at the D-Day 75th anniversary service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.Peter Hebden, deputy mayor of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, poses with Jim Holder-Vale at the D-Day 75th anniversary service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

"They looked as if they were asleep, young Tommies, but they were all dead.

"Those images have stuck with me for a long time."

After the war, he started to reflect on how German servicemen and women were treated and remembers with horror that one grave was disrespected with cabbages.

D-Day 75th anniversary remembrance service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.D-Day 75th anniversary remembrance service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

"It was disrespectful, and now you look back and you think they were just doing as we were," he said.

A few months after landing in Normandy, Mr Holder Vale also fought in the battle of the Falaise Gap where the seventh German Army was "destroyed".

"All I can remember when they went through was the maggots and the death."

D-Day 75th anniversary remembrance service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.D-Day 75th anniversary remembrance service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

When the war was over he returned home to Essex and married his wife, who is now also 95.

Then in 1954, he got a job with the Eastern electricity board and has been in Welwyn Garden City ever since.

"I'm very happy living in Welwyn Garden City - it's a lovely town," said Mr Holder-Vale.

Head of Welwyn Garden City's Royal Legion. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.Head of Welwyn Garden City's Royal Legion. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

He raised his two children, a son and a daughter, and is very happy they did not have to fight any wars.

In 2015, he was presented with the Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur - France's most distinguished order - for his part in the liberation of France from the German force, but did not collect his honour.

"I didn't want some French bloke kissing me," he joked at the time.

D-Day 75th anniversary remembrance service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.D-Day 75th anniversary remembrance service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

Mr Holder-Vale was speaking at a memorial service organised by the Welwyn Garden City Royal British Legion branch at the Howardsgate War Memorial.

The day was attended by the deputy mayor of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Peter Hebden and servicemen from the Royal British Legion.

D-Day 75th anniversary remembrance service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.D-Day 75th anniversary remembrance service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

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D-Day 75th anniversary remembrance service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.D-Day 75th anniversary remembrance service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

D-Day 75th anniversary remembrance service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.D-Day 75th anniversary remembrance service in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

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