A D-Day veteran has spoken of the great relief he felt upon being awarded a fresh military beret – at the age of 96 – after his old one vanished.
Norman Dickson, from Bangor, survived the horrors of Gold Beach when the Allies landed in Normandy to liberate Europe in summer 1944.
However, he mislaid his Royal Engineers beret, and when his daughter Carol Davidson recently told soldiers from Bangor about her father’s loss at an Armed Forces Day event, the veteran soldier was invited to the open day at Bangor Army Reserve Centre, which took place on Saturday.
Plans were put in place for a surprise on the day – present-day soldiers got ready to present him with a brand new beret, with a Royal Engineers badge to accompany it.
“It’s made me feel free again,” said Mr Dickson in a statement sent via the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after receiving the new beret.
“It’s not easy to tell, but the worry over what happened to my old beret and badge was heavy, now its all been lifted.
He added: “Now I am able to salute again properly.”
The MoD said Mr Dickson and many of his friends underwent initial training at Ballykinler Camp in south Co Down.
He was then sent to England to complete his education in handling high explosives.
On D-Day he was in Boat 51 carrying munitions and explosives to the Normandy beaches.
“We were told what was to be done and where we had to go. We just went – it was as simple as that,” he said.
He still bears scars from being bitten by rodents as he huddled for shelter as troops fought their way through enemy lines.
He earned the War Medal, the France and Germany Star, and the 1939-45 Star, alongside the French Legion of Honour Medal.
And now, once more, he can wear the beret and badge of the Royal Engineers.