D-day veteran still haunted by the men he killed in battle

Ken Smith, from York, served in the 5th Battalion, the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

By Kris Jepson

Private Ken 'Smudger' Smith of the 5th Battalion Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry was only 18-years-old when he took part in the D-day landings in Normandy, on the 6 June, 1944.

He sailed from Newhaven in Sussex and then his boat joined thousands of other vessels in the middle of the Channel, as the Allied forces launched Operation Overlord, the largest naval, air and land operation in history.

Pte Smith told ITV News Tyne Tees "the sounds were like Armageddon, with the shells going overhead sounding like express trains. I wasn't frightened... I was terrified."

Watch @krisjepson's full interview with Pte Ken Smith here:

As his boat approached Sword Beach, he remembers seeing a padre on the landing craft, and a queue of men all requesting a blessing to help them get through the day.

Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Life Saved

Once on land, a signaller, he was called to hand over his equipment to an officer.

It had stopped working, and on investigation, he realised there were bullets lodged inside. The radio had saved him.

The officer threw the radio back at him and "turned the air blue". He then sent Ken back onto the beach to retrieve another radio. A moment Ken says he will never forget.

Flashbacks of war Credit: ITV News

Flashbacks of War

Remembering a determined enemy that would not give in, especially if they were on a "winning streak", he said it was the Hitler Youth he most feared.

He said "you've got the SS, which are so and so's and the worst of the lot are the Hitler Youth. Now the Hitler Youth, when they're told to fight to the last man, the Hitler Youth does. You never got many Hitler Youth prisoners and they just didn't give in."

Some 75 years on, Ken admits he is still haunted by his memories of war.

French Attitudes

A couple of days after D-Day, Pte Smith had to take around 20 German prisoners of war back to the boats to be shipped back to England for the prison camps.

He remembers being "attacked with sticks and bricks" by a group of French girls, because they were "taking away their boyfriends".

He told ITV News that upon his return to the Normandy cemeteries some years later, attitudes from the French locals had changed.

Pte Ken Smith Credit: Family photo

Remembering Friends

Pte Smith's best friend from school died in Normandy. He has visited his grave 30 or 40 times over the years.

He said visiting the French cemeteries is never easy.

'Bomb Happy'

Part of the York Normandy Veterans' Association, Pte Smith and Pte Ken Cooke of the 7th Battalion The Green Howards have shared their personal stories with the Everwitch theatre company.

The verbatim testimony from the two D-Day veterans is acted out on stage in a play called Bomb Happy. It tells the story of the D-Day Landings and the battles to liberate Europe from the point of view of raw young conscripts, lads from York, Leeds, Sheffield and London.

The group is performing the play this month at the York Army Museum.

Pte Ken Cooke told ITV News it is important to keep the memory of what happened 75 years ago alive.

Pte Smith told ITV News he wants the play to serve as a record of his testimony, but also to challenge ignorance of what happened in 1944 and remind people of why the Allied forces fought fascism 75 years ago.