Stratford veteran recalls the day that changed history
D-DAY veteran Philip Sweet from Stratford-upon-Avon was just 20 when he took part in the very first wave of attacks on German positions during the liberation of France, 6th June 1944.
Now aged 94, Philip was second in command of a landing craft that was transporting tanks on Gold Beach at La Riviere on the Normandy coast as part of Operation Overlord. It was the beginning of the invasion of Europe which would ultimately lead to the end of the Second World War a year later.
Philip had volunteered for the Royal Navy and at 7am on D Day he found himself in a tank on landing craft LCT (a) 2262; the ‘a’ indicating this particular craft was amoured.
Philip said: “I can’t recall if I was scared or not I think yes I was but I also thought, ‘I had a job to do’.”
“As we reached the beach the rear of our tank got caught on an underwater obstacle and we were literally stuck on the beach, it wasn’t until the 19th of June – the day of a great gale – that the tide rose and the tank was swept back off the obstacle. I was involved in the ship to shore operation of moving stores to the troops on land.”
His war in Europe came to a close when Philip fell ill and was taken to a tented hospital in Bayeux suffering severe pains in his appendix. Later he was flown back to England where he saw out his wartime naval service in Plymouth.
Philip returned to the place of his birth – Stratford – and married his girlfriend from before the war, the late Jean Pickin, and the couple had four children. The family now has grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Philip, who is a former King Edward VI pupil, became an auctioneer at a Stratford company A M Bailey Fruit and Wholesalers and was given the Freedom of Stratford for service to his country in the war.
Within the last few years Philip received the Legion d’honneur which is the highest French order of merit for military service in recognition of his part in the liberation of France.