D-Day hero’s emotional trip back to Normandy – 73 years on

Jack Bracewell during his recent visit to Normandy.
Jack Bracewell during his recent visit to Normandy.

World War Two veteran Jack Bracewell made an emotional return to the Normandy beach where he came ashore on D-Day 73 years ago.

Jack, 94, travelled to Caen with his daughter Lynne Shelling as part of the Return to Normandy initiative, visiting Gold Beach – where he landed on D-Day – as well as taking trips to Pegasus, Sword and Juno beaches and Arromanches.

Jack Bracewell pictured with his daughter Lynne Shelling during his recent visit to Normandy.

Jack Bracewell pictured with his daughter Lynne Shelling during his recent visit to Normandy.

During the trip Jack met up with several other D-Day veterans and their families, and also paid his respects at the war graves of numerous servicemen who didn’t return home.

Lynne said: “The trip was amazing. We visited Gold Beach where dad landed on D-Day, which was very emotional.

“The cemeteries were very emotional with boys as young as 18. We laid wreaths to remember veterans’ friends who we travelled with.

“We were guests at the Bayeux Cathedral ceremony on D-Day and then on Gold Beach. The French people were unbelievable in how much respect and gratitude they showed the veterans.

Jack Bracewell (third left) with other war veterans during his recent visit to Normandy.

Jack Bracewell (third left) with other war veterans during his recent visit to Normandy.

“We also travelled to Pegasus Bridge as dad was there during the war.

“Dad and I have made some amazing new friends and it’s been very nostalgic and moving.”

During the trip, Jack was presented with his Legion d’Honneur medal by the mayor of Caen – the highest available merit for the military which was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte to recognise eminent accomplishment in the service to France.

Unfortunately, a planned flyover of Gold Beach in a microlight by Jack was unable to take place due to adverse weather conditions, but the family has received notification that the Guinness Book of World Records has approved his world record attempt at being the oldest person to take part in such a flight.

Jack Bracewell (third left) with other war veterans during his recent visit to Normandy.

Jack Bracewell (third left) with other war veterans during his recent visit to Normandy.

It is also hoped Jack can do a similar flyover over Morecambe Bay later this year.

“We are already planning our trip back next year, this time with his grandsons and family,” added Lynne.

Jack was a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps when he landed at Gold Beach on D-Day on June 6 1944.

Born in Bradford in 1922, Jack was called up to the forces at the age of 19, joining a group of fellow Yorkshiremen training as drivers with the Armoured Division.

Jack Bracewell (far right) pictured with other war veterans during his recent visit to Normandy.

Jack Bracewell (far right) pictured with other war veterans during his recent visit to Normandy.

Jack’s troop landed at Gold Beach near Bayeux on D-Day, before eventually moving inland towards Belgium and Holland.

His job was to deliver supplies such as rations and ammunition to other troops, mostly on motorbikes or in wagons.

“We were constantly delivering supplies to all the lads, “ he said. “We didn’t know what a bed was for a long time. We just slept when and where we could. It was certainly an experience. We just did what we had to do.

“I am just an ordinary bloke, I just did what hundreds of others did.

“I came through it and I was lucky, I don’t doubt that.

“We lost a lot of good lads.”

Jack Bracewell pictured with his daughter Lynne Shelling during his recent visit to Normandy.

Jack Bracewell pictured with his daughter Lynne Shelling during his recent visit to Normandy.

The troop finally arrived in Germany at the end of the war, and remained in the Plön district of Schleswig for two to three months before being demobbed in Luneburg in October 1946.

Jack went on to join a paratroop regiment with a childhood friend, and remained in service for another eight or nine years.

He later worked on the buses, where he met his future wife Dot, and the pair married after just six weeks when they were both 27.

They went on to have a daughter, Lynne. The family moved to Morecambe, where Jack took a job with a firm based at Heysham Port.

Dot sadly died in 2011, and Jack now lives with his daughter Lynne in Ellesmere Road.

He has three grandsons and five great-grandchildren.

Read all about Jack’s experience of World War Two and watch a video here