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O.A.Para; 70 YEARS ON: D-DAY'S HEROES REMEMBERED; Jock, 89, parachutes into France again as veterans and royals mark WW2 milestone.

Byline: TOM PARRY and VICTORIA MURPHY in Normandy, France

JOCK Hutton parachuted into Normandy for the second time yesterday - this time nobody was shooting at him.

As soon as the 89-year-old touched down, he proudly put on the red beret which marks him out as the bravest of the brave - a former member of the Parachute Regiment.

Dusting himself off, the war veteran then marched across the field to shake hands with Prince Charles.

It was a stark contrast to 70 years ago today, when Jock dropped into France on D-Day to begin the battle to free the country from the Nazis.

Aged just 19, he immediately helped to capture Ranville - the first French village to be liberated at 2.30am.

Yesterday, he commemorated the anniversary of the iconic landings by reliving his parachute jump into the exact same drop zone.

Strapped to a member of the Red Devils parachute display team, Jock leaped 5,000ft from a Cessna and landed a few feet from the future king.

But Stirling-born Jock, now of Larkfield, Kent, laughed off suggestions of pre-jump nerves by inviting the crowd to join him for a "wee dram" of whisky to celebrate his landing.

He explained: "At my age life tends to get a little bit boring, so you've got to grab any chance of excitement you can."

When asked what it was like to parachute into enemy territory during the largest amphibious invasion in history, he scoffed: "Terrified? During my life I have never been terrified. I'm just a vicious wee Scotsman."

And as the war hero spotted an old comrade, Bert Marsh, 89, he hollered: "Bertie, you old beast, I thought you were deed!"

Their jokey encounter was a poignant reminder that those who fought in the D-Day liberation are rapidly dwindling in number. Just 600 Brits remain, and for many this will be their last return to French soil.

As the two men embraced, the skies exploded with a display of parachutes. Like dark green dominoes falling from the sky, soldiers tumbled one by one out of Hercules transporter aircraft and floated to the ground.

It was an awe-inspiring image of how it would have looked from the beaches and fields of France all those years ago. Recalling that night, when he and comrades jumped from 500ft, Jock said: "We were jammed in and really it was a bloody pleasure to get out of the aircraft after the discomfort and so on. We all sort of tumbled out one after the other.

"Our commanding officer had a little hunting trumpet which he used to call us together. It was a wee bit difficult in the dark, moving around, trying to speak quietly, and meantime there's machine guns blasting.

"The 13th Battalion was a highly jacked-up unit. We were extremely fit. We were all young and we were full of fight."

Jock's is just one of many astonishing stories of bravery shown by the men who risked their lives for our freedom.

While many were killed, the survivors shared their memories with Charles and Camilla at a series of events.

The royals' first stop was Pegasus Bridge at Benouville- the scene of the first operation on D-Day. There Charles, who is Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment, placed a wreath at the exact spot where one of six gliders landed at 16 minutes past midnight.

None of the men who took part in the capture of the bridge, codenamed Operation Deadstick, are alive today but the Prince spoke with men who flew into nearby Ranville or took part in other operations.

He met Joseph Patient, who will be 97 on Monday, and was in M Squadron of the Glider Pilot Regiment on June 6. Before that he was honoured with a Distinguished Flying Cross for operations over Germany.

Joseph said: "On D-Day I was at 30,000ft. Several of my squadron are buried here. It's very emotional, this may be the last time but we'll be coming every year until we pass away."

Arlette Gondree, who runs the Cafe next to the bridge, was just four on D-Day and has formed close bonds with many soldiers who return.

Against royal protocol, she stood between Prince Charles and mayor Salvatore Bellomo, and said: "I have known them for all those years, when they were young wearing their berets and their medals, driving themselves and now they rely on the young to follow up the tradition. This anniversary is to commemorate them but also to keep the memories alive."

Later, Charles and Camilla toasted 75 veterans of the 6th Airborne Division with a glass of fizz then joined them for lunch in Ranville. Among them was John Ryan, 90, one of only 15 men from the 116 members of the Parachute Regiment's A company to survive the war.

John, of Feltwell, Norfolk, said: "There were 22 of us who jumped at 12.15am into the fields near Ranville.

"There was German machine gun fire coming from the next field so I just had to get out of the apple orchard I'd landed in - I managed to find a fox tunnel through the hedge."

Elsewhere, nearly 100 veterans - including Gordon Smith - gathered for a Royal Artillery parade and memorial service at Hermanville close to Sword Beach. Locals applauded veterans as they walked through the packed main square, which contains a monument in honour of the troops who stormed the beach under fire from Nazi snipers.

In a moving tribute to the dead, retired Brigadier David Baines said: "We must remember as we look at these beautiful cemeteries across the countryside that at the time of these young men's deaths - which many of us witnessed - that it was far from peaceful. It was violent."

At Gold Beach, near Arromanches, 20,000 Royal British Legion flags were planted in the sand, all containing tribute messages sent by supporters.

In Paris, the Queen began a three-day visit to France as she joined President Francois Hollande in placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe.

Today she will join 16 world leaders, including US and Russian presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, for a service at Sword Beach. Prince William and wife Kate will also fly in to meet veterans at Arromanches.

tom.parry@mirror.co.uk

VOICE OF THE MIRROR: PAGE 10

D-Day anniversary: Today's key events

00:30 70 parachutists will be dropped over the remnants of the Arromanches artificial harbour

6am Great gathering on Omaha Beach to commemorate D-Day sacrifices

11am The Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to attend the Service of Remembrance at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Bayeux

11:15am Parade of the British cadets and laying of flowers on tombs with the children of Benouville to commemorate Pegasus Bridge

2.15pm Sword Beach event for Allied veterans with heads of state including Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin

5.30pm Canadian ceremony of remembrance at Juno Beach

6pm: Commemoration of the Gold Beach landings at Arromanches

8.30pm Queen to attend state banquet at the Elysee Palace in Paris

CAPTION(S):

PARIS Queen and Francois Hollande lay wreath

GOLD BEACH Veteran Fred Holborn with flags with tributes

DUTY Young Jock Hutton during war

WELL DONE Prince Charles congratulates him after jump

BACK IN ACTION Jock Hutton at Ranville yesterday

PEGASUS BRIDGE Prince Charles and Camilla arrive for memorial service

EMOTION Veteran Gordon Smith at Hermanville

PORTSMOUTH Spectacular air display by the Red Arrows
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jun 6, 2014
Words:1250
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