D-Day 80 The Last Veterans: John Evans

John Evans, Age 95, Southampton Docks

Interviewed 24 September 2023

A teenager working at Southampton Docks, Mr Evans saw ships and landing craft assembling. 

He said: "I was working for a shipping contractor. I was what you call a stores assistant. We used to do all of the heavy work, load up the lorries.

"Go out with them and take the stores aboard ships."

He was doing this work in the lead up to the invasion, watching the massive buildup of troops and vehicles - and spotted the huge concrete blocks that were to be towed across the Channel to make a harbour. 

"We noticed in the harbour all these caissons being built. It was like a big structure and they floated in the water.

"The Mulberry Harbour, And we saw all the troops, Canadians, Americans and British."

Mr Evans arrived at the docks early on 6 June to realise most of the vessels had departed in the night.

"I went into work and I said to the lads ‘I think it’s on.’ And they said ‘What do you mean?’ I said ‘There is very little noise from the docks.’"

Later he saw the dead and wounded being brought back through the port, as well as German prisoners of war.

After D-Day some of the Southern Railway boats were used as hospital ships and I had to go in to get an order from one of the stewards and they were offloading American wounded from Omaha.

There were some who didn’t make it and they were laid against the wall and all you could see was a blanket on a stretcher and a pair of boots.

There were also German prisoners of war, some of whom were wounded.

"And there was a British sergeant," John added.

"He opened up the flap of his tunic pocket, took out a cigarette and gave it to the German. And I can hear that German now - ‘Danke, danke’.

"It’s upsetting, very upsetting. I’ve lived with it all my life and I thought ‘How humane.’ You didn’t say what you saw. You didn’t say anything at all.

"But it was a terrible sight to see all those wounded. Terrible."

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