A GWENT man who was there on D-Day and went on to see his ship hit by a kamikaze pilot in the Far East, has shared his story on the 79th anniversary of the historic landings.

Trefor Bray, 98, who lives in Rogerstone, was 19 years old when he was called up in 1943.

He was born in 1924 in Abercarn and left Newbridge Grammar School aged 15 and got a job in the aluminium factory in Rogerstone before he joined the Navy.

Mr Bray, who is currently bed-bound, quietly told his story with the help of his wife Margaret, 91.

He said he asked to join the Navy – even though he couldn’t swim - because his two brothers were serving as sailors.

South Wales Argus: Trefor Bray, 98, a veteran of D Day

Trefor Bray

He was stationed at Douglas on the Isle of Man for his training at HMS Valkyrie, which was in fact a series of hotels which had been taken over by the Navy.

After his training he moved to the south coast of England for more training, this time in Studland Bay in Dorset.

He said: “By June 1944 we knew something was going to happen but we had no idea what. We had been doing exercises on the beaches but there was total secrecy about why.”

On June 5, 1944, Mr Bray had spent the day enjoying a concert by the Royal Horseguards band with Harry Parr Davies as soloist – and then he got orders to board his ship, Captain Class Frigate HMS Kingsmill.

“At 6.15pm we set sail and joined the armada and all the beach head groups, met at sea at the channel Code named ‘Clapham Junction’.

South Wales Argus: Trefor and Margaret Brayat  the 75Th D Day anniversary at Southsea, Portsmouth, June 6, 2019

Trefor and Margaret Bray at the 75th D-Day anniversary at Southsea, Portsmouth, June 6, 2019

“We arrived at Gold Beach at 6am on June 6 and the barrage started. It was like hell let loose and it seemed to last forever. I have never heard such a noise before or since.”

Mr Bray’s ship’s turn came at 7.26am when the troops they were carrying were ‘off-loaded’ – 15 Northumberland Division, which had recently returned from fighting in the desert with Montgomery, the Green Howards and 47th Commando Unit.

Mr Bray said: “It was a very long day but we had the Mulberry harbours and Pluto – the pipeline under the ocean – which saved a lot of time getting us oil supplies.

“During the day we paid visits to the beach taking equipment. It showed the extent of the enemies anti-invasion defences and the Allies’ inventiveness and improvisation in demolishing them.

“It was a sight to see Flail Tanks and landing craft connected to rocket launches and what a sight that was to see the rockets launched.

South Wales Argus:

British troops move on the Normandy shore from their landing craft in this June 6, 1944. Picture: AP Photo, file

“It was a day which has lived in my mind forever. I would not have missed it because in some small way I was part of making modern history. It was a great honour to have served my country.”

The beach was eventually secured and Mr Bray’s ship stayed in the area for a long while, being stalked by German submarines for part of it.

He said: “In some ways mistakes were made. Montgomery was a very cautious general, unlike the Americans who were gungho. We should have captured the beach before we did but he wanted to keep down the casualties and the loss of life.”

It was 40 years before he returned.

He said: “I hadn’t felt like going back because you never forget what you have seen and heard but I did go back to Normandy for the 40th anniversary. My overwhelming feeling was the serenity of the place – it was so quiet.”

South Wales Argus: Operation Overlord (The Normandy Landings): D-Day 6 June 1944, The British 2nd Army: Royal Marine Commandos of Headquarters, 4th Special Service Brigade, making their way from LCI(S)s (Landing Craft Infantry Small) onto 'Nan Red' Beach, JUNO

The British 2nd Army: Royal Marine Commandos of Headquarters, 4th Special Service Brigade, during the Normany landings

The Destroyer HMS Ursa brought him back to Portsmouth before being assigned to Fleet Carrier HMS Indefatigable which took him to the Far East with the British Pacific Fleet where he, unexpectedly, met up with his two brothers.

He said: “On April Fools Day in 1945 the Americans invaded Okinawa and there were 300 kamikazes attacking.

“That was a most awful experience. We couldn’t get over the fact that a man could get into a plane with the intention of not coming back. They were fanatics.

“One hit our ship. We lost one man and there were many injured. It was the saddest thing you can witness seeing someone being buried at sea with a flag over the ‘coffin’. That is one memory which has never left me.”

He said it was a privilege that his ship represented the fleet in Tokyo Bay when the armistice was signed to end the war in the Far East.

South Wales Argus: Trefor Bray at a D Day memorial in Normandy

Trefor Bray at a D-Day memorial in Normandy

After spending six months in Australia he eventually returned to South Wales and went back to his job at the factory in Rogerstone – where he worked for a total of 41 years.

In 1949 he met Margaret, who is from Risca, and they married in March 1952.

During his time in the Navy he had almost rubbed shoulders with King George VI as he passed him on a gangplank and also Prince Philip and his cousin the Marquess of Milford Haven, who were Navy officers at the time.

In more recent years Mr Bray has visited a local school to share his story with the youngsters as he and his wife feel it is very important that people know what went on back in the 1940s.