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War hero Jack from Mablethorpe heads back to Normandy

Jack Quinn from Mablethorpe is travelling back to Normandy this week. Photo: Ian Holmes.

Jack Quinn from Mablethorpe is travelling back to Normandy this week. Photo: Ian Holmes.

 

As the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings approaches this Friday (June 6) we publish the story of Mablethorpe veteran Jack Quinn.

Now 89, the former Royal Marine Corporal is one of only a small handful of British servicemen ever awarded the Croix de Guerre - the French equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Jack retired to Mablethorpe 13 years ago and lives with his second wife Shirley, 77, and he has 10 great-grandchildren.

He has returned to Normandy for the anniversary of D-Day every year for the last decade.

Each time he makes sure to visit Ranville Cemetery, 
to place crosses on the graves of several of his lost
comrades.

“Going back this week for the 70th anniversary is emotional,” he said.

“I always have a bit of a cry when I am there. But I am just glad I am fit enough to go back. So many haven’t made it this far.”

Before heading off to Normandy, Jack tells us about his D-Day experience: “I arrived at Gold beach five minutes before midnight on June 5, at 11.55pm.

“The frogmen worked through the night preparing the mines, so that when the first Allied boats came into view the following morning, they could blow the mines up.

“If we had done it too early the noise would have alerted the Jerries we were coming.

“When the Germans realised what was happening on the morning of D-Day, they were firing at everybody. We were on the beach, crouching down as we saw the boats arriving.

“We were glad they were coming - we’d been hoping it wouldn’t be another Dunkirk, that we’d get left there, stranded.

“Then we watched the first infantrymen as they landed on the beaches. It was terrible.

“They were running, getting shot at, treading on mines, going up in the air. They were dropping like flies. It was chaotic.

“Those lads on the beaches had it very rough. I was scared, really scared. But you just got on with it.

“It did affect me afterwards - when I first came home I used to scream in the night and have nightmares.

“At about 10pm on the evening of D-Day, I saw a boat full of French sailors broken down in the sea and drifting towards the mines.

“If they had just touched a mine their whole boat would have gone up, killing them all.

“I took my boat and set off to rescue them, and no sooner had we got the seven sailors on board than their boat touched a mine and went up in the air.

“The French Embassy wrote to me in 1945 saying they wanted to present me with the Croix de Guerre.

“A French lieutenant had seen the rescue, and the citation said I was ‘continually active under enemy fire’.

“The Jerries had been firing at us the whole time and we were being bombed and shelled, but I never really realised. I just went.

“I didn’t rescue those men for the valour - I just did my job. I couldn’t watch them drifting into mines. A lot of other men did valiant things, but nobody saw them do it.”

 

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