BAE Systems flies two veterans from North West to France on 79th D-Day anniversary

  • ITV Granada Reports correspondent Paul Crone reports

Two D-Day veterans from the North West have been flown by private jet to France to take part in D-Day commemorations.

Ken Benbow served aboard HMS Crane in the Royal Navy when he was just 18-years-old and sailed across the English Channel to Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944.

On D-Day, Ken's ship provided anti-submarine cover for Mulberry Harbours, constructed to get supplies and troops ashore after the Normandy Landings.

Ken Benbow preparing to fly to Normany for a D-Day service. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Mr Benbow, who is turning 98-years-old next week, said D-Day "was an adventure" and he "wasn't scared at all".

He continued: "I am looking forward to seeing the beach in France because I was in the Navy so I didn't go on the shore."

D-Day, also known as the Normandy Landings, was a pivotal moment during World War Two which marked the start of a long campaign to liberate Europe and defeat Germany.

It is estimated there are only six British D-Day veterans that are alive today.

The Allied forces were made up of troops from more than 12 countries. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Stewart Taylor from Preston also flew alongside Mr Benbow from BAE Systems to the memorial service.

He was a World War Two RAF co-pilot and flew a Dakota plane in 1944 - a commercial created in the 1930s.

The 100-year-old said: "They were well built well, they had good engines and they have been a commercial aircraft since the 1930s, so they were old ladies by the time the war broke out, but they had the double doors at the back and you could get a jeep inside."

Mr Taylor said that he never envisioned that he would be co-pilot on a Dakota during the war.

He continued: "I was a lucky guy really because I had mates who went in the bomber command, didn't come back."

Stewart Taylor (top) and Ken Benbow (bottom). Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Mr Taylor took a list of 50 names with him of people he wants to remember.

They included people he went to school with and people he served with who did not come back after the war.

He said: "I had people I served with who didn't come back and in a way it says thank you to them and two or three of their names will be on the memorial there."

The President of the Central Lancashire Forces Veterans Association commended the two veterans for making the trip to Normandy to take part in the service.

Colonel Waters said: "How do you put it into words. For what they have done, for all of us for the country, it is just immeasurable and here they are at 98 years old, going strong. To get them across to Normandy is just fantastic."

If BAE Systems had not flown the two men, Colonel Waters said "they would not have been able to go".

Colonel Waters continued: "It's just impossible. 20 odd hours on a bus, three or four nights away. It is just too much for them.

"But to get them there is just absolutely a dream come true and we can't thank BAE enough for doing it and I know that behind the scenes, they've worked tirelessly for the last two or three days.

"Because it was a real fast ball that we threw at them and they responded. They got stuck in and they made it happen."