TODAY has marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day landings – the largest military naval, air and land operation ever attempted.

Events have taken place across the world to commemorate the brave actions of those involved, with Theresa May laying the first stone at the British Normandy Memorial.

Now a veteran living in Ryfields Village in Orford has shared his memories with us.

Joe Donohue, who turned 100 in January, served in the Royal Artillery and was part of the second wave that landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

He was also part of Operation Market Garden in Holland, which was later made into the film ‘A Bridge Too Far’, starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine.

READ MORE > Heroic story of Culcheth man who cleared beaches 

READ MORE > The role played by Warrington Museum in telling story of D-Day

Remembering the events of 1944, he said: “We couldn’t see that much when we landed except the sand dunes, because it happened so early and it was still dark.

“We were some of the last people to arrive after the airborne paratroopers and the infantry.

“At the time we didn’t know anything about the scale of what we were doing or how important it would be – we were told nothing except for our objectives.”

After serving in north Africa and Sicily in 1942, Joe arrived back in England a year later before being sent into France in 1944 and later through Holland to the German border.

He was part of the Royal Artillery, and was tasked with providing coordinates for Allied target in Northern Europe

“Looking back, it was a big responsibility that we had, but we never had any complaints about our work,” Joe continued.

“We had a code word of ‘apples’ which people would shout out when we hit the wrong target, but we never heard it so we must have been doing a good job.

Warrington Guardian:

“It was a bit calmer on the Normandy beaches this morning when Theresa May was there than when we landed all those years ago.”

Joe, who is originally from Liverpool, worked on the tramways in the city and claims the regular cycling and football he did in his youth has helped him reach the grand age of 100.

“I used to be a keen cyclist when I was younger as well as playing and refereeing football matches on Wednesdays,” he added.

“As a member of St Christopher’s Cycling Club, we used to cycle all over the north which helped to keep me fit.

“I bought myself a bike for £38, which cost me about two months wages back then, and it is still in my son's garage to this day.”

The Ryfields Veterans Group opened its memorial garden at Ryfields Retirement Village on Arena Gardens on Thursday, June 6 – the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Residents raised money for the tribute through events including a race night and a raffle, while money was also donated by Your Housing Group – which manages the site.

Eric Hulmes, a founder member of the veterans group, said; "The veteran community is a vitally important one, and is particularly large around Warrington as a former barracks town.

Warrington Guardian:

"There is a large veteran community at Ryfields and many of us are not as mobile as we used to be, so getting to the Cenotaph in town can be difficult.

"We wanted to make sure that every member of the veteran community had access to a place where they could go to remember friends and loved ones, and now we have that.

"We are incredible proud of what we have achieved in such a short time, and a big thank you to Your Housing Group in supporting us and giving us the rest of the funding that we needed."

The Mayor of Warrington Cllr Wendy Johnson, Your Housing Group chief executive Brian Cronin, representatives of the Royal British Legion and Salvation and staff and pupils from Oakwood Avenue Primary School were in attendance at the unveiling ceremony.

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Mr Cronin added: "Your Housing Group is proud to support the veterans group at Ryfields community living village.

"It is important that we are able to commemorate and honour those that served in our armed forces.

"We hope that residents and the whole community are able to enjoy the garden and visit the memorial stone."