Surviving 27 sorties was ‘pure luck’ says Bexhill veteran at D-DAY 75 year event

D-Day Veteran Tom Rogers and Sir Rod Stewart SUS-191206-124530001
D-Day Veteran Tom Rogers and Sir Rod Stewart SUS-191206-124530001

Bexhill resident Tom Rogers, 93 returned to an area of France that, as a young man, he flew over during operation D-DAY, 75 year’s ago.

Tom was one of 300 D-DAY veterans, plus companions, who sailed from Dover to the coast of Normandy.

D-Day Veteran Tom Rogers meets Prime Minister Theresa May and husband Philip May SUS-191206-124552001

D-Day Veteran Tom Rogers meets Prime Minister Theresa May and husband Philip May SUS-191206-124552001

He attended a week-long series of commemorative events, in England and France, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings on June, 6 1944.

Paul Plim, who accompanied Tom on the trip said: “During World War Two, Tom was a rear gunner on one of the most iconic of planes, the Avro Lancaster, a British four-engine Second World War heavy bomber.

“The air gunner’s tasks were complicated and hazardous. Life expectancy was appallingly short; it could be as little as two weeks before a rear gunner on bomber operations could expect to be shot down or killed.

“Estimates for the life expectancy for a WWII Lancaster rear gunner vary; mostly about just five sorties.

D-Day Veteran Tom Roger  and Chief of the Air Staff RAF, Sir Stephen Hillier SUS-191206-124541001

D-Day Veteran Tom Roger and Chief of the Air Staff RAF, Sir Stephen Hillier SUS-191206-124541001

“Tom managed to get 27 sorties under his belt before the end of the war.”

Last week’s Royal British Legion’s historic seven-night D-Day 75 Voyage of Remembrance was on board Fred Olsen’s Cruise ship Boudicca.

Decorated with The Royal British Legion’s distinctive red poppy insignia, the ship set sail on one of the most poignant and moving journeys in its history,

The ship left Dover for Dunkirk on Sunday, June 2. Paul said: “Sir Rod Stewart joined the commemorative trip and, as we cruised on out of Dover, he sang his iconic song ‘Sailing’.”

Tom, assisted by serving RAF personnel, lays a wreath at the Bayeux SUS-191206-124518001

Tom, assisted by serving RAF personnel, lays a wreath at the Bayeux SUS-191206-124518001

Passengers disembarked at Dunkirk to visit the beach and historic WWII site.

The ship then returned to England, to Poole Harbour, then on to Portsmouth for the British national commemorative events.

Tom and other veterans met current leaders of the nations that participated in the D-DAY operation. President Trump, President Macron, Prince Charles and many other leaders joined veterans for tea after the official event.

The ship then set sail for the French port of La Havre where a convoy of 14 coaches took the veterans to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Bayeux War Cemetery.

D-Day Veteran Tom Rogers, and other WW11 RAF Gunners with singing group the D-Day Darlings SUS-191206-124603001

D-Day Veteran Tom Rogers, and other WW11 RAF Gunners with singing group the D-Day Darlings SUS-191206-124603001

They paid tribute to the soldiers that fought and died during the invasion of Normandy and the subsequent advance into France.

World leaders again met and talked to veterans.

Back on board entertainment was provided by the D-DAY Darlings.

Of the week-long D-DAY 75 year commemorations, Tom said: “It was a fantastic week of remembrance and an emotional roller coaster.

“The trip really was a wonderful experience and I thank the Royal British Legion for initiating it, and the British and French for the help and care we received.”

Asked about his WWII experience and surviving 27 sorties when the odds were so heavily stacked against him, Tom said: “It was pure luck.”

D-Day Veteran Tom Rogers and serving RAF personnel SUS-191206-124507001

D-Day Veteran Tom Rogers and serving RAF personnel SUS-191206-124507001