A 95-year-old D-Day veteran will be wearing his medals with pride at a commemorative event to mark the 75th anniversary of the largest seaborne invasion in history.
Great grandfather Dennis Young, who now lives at Pendine Park’s Hillbury House care home in Wrexham, will be a guest of honour at the emotional event at the town’s War Memorial Club tomorrow (Thursday) evening.
As a 20-year-old, he sailed across the English Channel with his comrades from the 34th Independent Tank Brigade just after historic Allied operation got underway.
They landed on the beach at Courseulls-sur-Mer, where Juno and Gold beaches met, and initially saw action in the open countryside around the village of Villers-Bocage.
Dennis was injured twice in the intense fighting that followed the D-Day landings.
Five years ago he was awarded he was awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s greatest honour for the role he played in the liberation of France.
Son Michael Young, 71, said: “Dad was just 15-and-a half when World War Two started. He was an apprentice mechanic at the time but tried to join the RAF.
“His father, who had experienced the horrors of World War One, wouldn’t give parental consent for him to join and he had to wait until he was nearly 18 knowing he would be called up for the army or navy
“He was called up on November 5, 1942, and after initial training was drafted into the Royal Armoured Corps.
“After landing on the beach at Courseulls-sur-Mer and fighting around Villers-Bocage he saw his first really big action after being ordered to advance on, and take, the towns of Evercy, Bougy and Maizet and then the high ground beyond Ferm de Mondeville.
“The attack started at 11.30pm and by 8.00am the next day, July 16, the town of Gavrus had fallen and around 70 prisoners captured. The town of Bougy followed with a further 100 prisoners captured.”
He added: “All day long dad’s tank was under attack with one shell hitting the tank. They made a dash for it into an orchard, which was mined and surrounded.
“Dad apparently got out of the tank to stretch his legs at around 7pm but came under machine gun fire and quickly got back in
“They were pulled back and worked on the tank through the night. Leaving the Bougy area they headed for Evrecy. But the German Panzers were waiting for them and dad’s tank was hit by an 88mm shell which killed the commander.
“The rest of the crew were injured and the tank left on fire. They crawled about a quarter of a mile through a corn field before being picked up and taken to a field hospital. After discharge dad joined back up with his regiment.”
Then on August 12t Dennis Young and the rest of his tank crew were ordered to support the 53rd Welsh Division for the advance on the French town of Falaise.
Michael said: “They had only gone about four miles and got a 75mm shell stuck in the barrel. They stopped on the edge of a forest which was crawling with German Hitler Youth fighters and the 21st SS Panzer Division.
“They were trying to dislodge the shell when their tank was hit by a Panzerschreck, the German equivalent of a Bazooka. The crew managed to get out but were machine gunned, one crew member being hit in the leg and the radio operator in the back.
“Dad and another crew member tried to pull him to safety but realised he was almost certainly dead. They made it into a ditch and hid from the Germans until they were picked up by one of their regiment’s half-tracked vehicles.”
He added: “He could see SS and Hitler Youth fighters close by but survived and was taken back to a field hospital for treatment. While there his regiment, which had suffered heavy losses, was disbanded and dad was excused further tank duties.
“The 34th Independent Tank Brigade fought across four countries after landing in Normandy and supported seven different infantry divisions. Dad was promoted to sergeant and eventually demobbed from Hamburg, Germany in 1947.
“As a family we are so proud of him and what he achieved. Without the courage he and his colleagues showed we might not be here now. There aren’t many veterans left now and they deserve to be honoured.”
Dennis Young’s daughter Ann, 70, says the whole family is so proud of everything her dad did in the war.
She said: “Dad was Wrexham born and bred. He married my mum, Amy, when he was 26 but sadly she died 30 years ago of cancer. During the war she worked at a munitions factory in Wrexham.
“Dad worked at various places after the war, Cadburys at Bangor-on Dee, Celanese as a production worker and Reid Craig’s as a salesman as well as Turner’s of Wrexham delivering confectionary.
“He and mum had three children, Michael, my other brother Tony and myself and he now has five grandchildren and six great grandchildren.”
She added: “We are all so proud of his achievements and his service to the country. The war must have been a terrible experience and he has never talked a great deal about it.
“He does get confused now and forgets quite a bit but he always seems to recall D-Day and what happened during the war years.”
Dennis has been a resident at Hillbury for more than two years and manager Cindy Clutton said: “Mr Young is a remarkable man and it’s an honour to care for him on a daily basis. His family support and visit him regularly.
“To hear of what he did all those years ago during D-Day and the months following on from the Allies landing on the Normandy beaches is incredible.
“All too often people just see and old man or woman and have no idea about their lives and the things they did.
“The sacrifices made by Dennis Young and his comrades should never be forgotten and I’m delighted he has been invited to the War Memorial Club on Thursday on what will be the 75th anniversary of D-Day.”