Peebles 98-year-old among six Scottish D-Day veterans returning to France to mark 75th anniversary of landings

John McOwan. Photo: Wattie Cheung.
John McOwan. Photo: Wattie Cheung.

A 98-year-old Borderer is among six Scottish Second World War veterans returning to France this week to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

John McOwan, of Peebles, will be among 300 veterans of the Normandy Landings travelling to Bayeux this Thursday, June 6, to retrace their steps as they helped free mainland Europe from German rule back in 1944.

Organisations including Royal British Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland have chartered a cruise ship MV Boudicca to transport them from Portsmouth in Hampshire across the English Channel on Thursday to take part in this year’s commemorations.

The other Scots accompanying Mr McOwan are Denis Gregson, 94, of North Lanarkshire; Jim Glennie, 93, of Aberdeen; James Churm, 94, of Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway; Ian Ritchie, 95, of South Lanarkshire; and Charles Horne, 93, of Port Seton in East Lothian.

The Borderer, an instrument mechanic serving as a sergeant in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, attached to the 8th Army, can still remember being among more than 900,000 British, US and Canadian troops landed on five beaches on France’s north west coast that month, 150,000-plus of them on June 6.

“My most vivid memory was the armada of ships lying offshore. They stretched for as far as the eye could see,” he recalled. “We waited for what seemed like an interminable amount of time before we could go on shore.

“We felt like easy targets for the Luftwaffe. A couple of ships were hit, and we just hoped and prayed that ours would not be one of the next ones.

“For some reason, I remember that I did not even get my feet wet when we eventually came on shore as we were on landing craft vehicles.”

Claire Armstrong, chief executive of Royal British Legion Scotland, added: “D-Day was a pivotal moment in the Second World War.

“The remarkable stories of these six Scottish veterans provide us with an important reminder of both the bravery and tragedy which surrounds that day.”

“It will be an honour and a privilege to host these incredible gentlemen, and to recognise the immense contribution of an entire generation.”