D-Day 80 The Last Veterans: Les Budding

Les Budding, Age: 98, Royal Marines

Interviewed 23 February 2024

Manning an Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun on a Landing Craft Flak on D-Day, Mr Budding had been based in Portsmouth for weeks leading up to the invasion and saw the massive build up of ships there.

"A lot of them were tied up to bouys in the middle of the harbour," he said.

"Some couldn't even get into the harbour. They were outside tying up to each other.

"If you saw all these ships side by side fastened together you could walk from one side of the harbour to the other across these vessels. It was an eye opener and we were seeing vessels we didn't know existed - rocket-firing craft.

"The whole of the upper deck was taken over with rockets."

His landing craft, LCF 34, was specially adapted to give anti-aircraft support and offered covering fire for the first and second wave of troops on Sword Beach. 

Les Budding had been based in Portsmouth for weeks leading up to the invasion. Credit: ITV Meridian

"We had five of those rocket ships at our rear," he added.

"And they started letting the rockets go and it was scary because flames were shooting from the rear of them as they were airborne, and there were that many in the air they were colliding with each other and diving into the sea and we were scared stiff they would land on our upper deck because we had a lot of ammunition."

Les remembers enemy fire from German positions close to where soldiers were landing.

Mr Budding said: "As (our troops) were hitting the beach we were opening fire at the top floor windows.

"There were lines of semi detached houses all the way along the back of the beach and at each upper window was sandbags and in the centre was either a machine gun or a mortar and they were firing at our lads but we were hitting them.

"Our range was far greater.

"They were taking cover a lot of the time when things were getting too hot for them."

Les Budding said they could see vessels they didn't know existed - rocket-firing craft. Credit: ITV Meridian

The gunners on the landing craft were so busy and he remembers at one time firing 486 rounds without stopping.

Normally gunners would have to stop before that, he said, because the barrels would become red hot.

"There wasn't a lot of damage to us because they were concentrating on soldiers on the beach," he added.

"I didn't actually see them being gunned down but I saw some bodies lying on the beach afterwards.

Speaking about how he feels about the landings now, Les said: "I get mixed feelings.

"We were there to do a job and we did it successfully.

"These lads, they died, and all of them that died you feel guilty that you were left alive."

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