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D-Day veterans who fought side-by-side on beaches of Normandy reunited after chance meeting on same beach 67 years later

The last time they left their footprints in the sand together the beach was awash with blood.
Bill Betts and Clifford Baker were young men back then, storming ashore in the D-Day landings against a hail of mortar and machine-gun fire.
Separated when Bill was felled by enemy bullets, they each feared the other must surely have died.

Now, more than 67 years later, the pair have been reunited after a chance encounter at the same Normandy beach.

In a startling coincidence, the two men were separately revisiting Gold Beach at Arromanches in pilgrimages to remember those who never made it home in 1944.
When Bill signed the leather-bound remembrance book at the town’s D-Day museum, the name above his was Clifford Baker. He didn’t know it then, but the ink was almost still wet.
‘I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw his name but there it was in black and white,’ said Bill, 88. ‘I’d just been given a commemorative medal by the Mayor of Arromanches so I asked her when Mr Baker had been into the museum. She said it was only 20 minutes before and that his coach was now boarding in the car park. I decided I had to take the chance to catch him.’
Bill scoured the car park in search of his missing friend. Meanwhile the mayor frantically gave an order for departing coaches to be stopped.
Then, to cheers and applause, Clifford came down the steps – and into the embrace of the comrade he was forced to leave behind all those years ago.

The tearful reunion was filmed by other veterans and their families, who asked the pair to pose for photographs with the sands of Gold Beach in the background.
Arromanches was one of the key targets on the Normandy coastline and both men were among the first ashore on June 6, the opening day of an invasion that changed the course of the war.
The pair had spent more than two years training together as radio operators with the Essex Yeomanry before they were dispatched to France. The last time they saw each other, Bill was lying wounded and telling everyone else to carry on. Yesterday Bill, who lives in Warwickshire, said: ‘Clifford and I were suddenly face to face again so you can imagine how emotional that was. We had a chat about D-Day and events that happened such a long time ago. The memories of it all are still very clear in my mind.’
Clifford, who will turn 98 on Thursday, said yesterday: ‘I was so pleased to return to the very stretch of beach on which I landed all those years ago. The meeting with my old comrade Bill was unexpected to say the least but very happy and emotional. I thought that I’d never see him again.’
Bill’s Story
Bill Betts was 19 when he signed up to serve King and country – and still four months short of his 22nd birthday when the Normandy landings went ahead.
He was to play a crucial role in the invasion, sending radio messages from the advancing front line so Allied guns would not mistakenly shell their own troops. The push across the Channel was punishing. But despite suffering dreadful seasickness, Bill, a gunner private, insisted on joining the first landing crafts.


After picking his way through mines and barbed wire, he was shot in the leg by a heavy machine-gun. As he lay there he saw Clifford running past him.
‘I was angry with myself for getting wounded so early,’ he said. ‘I’d trained for such a long time in preparation for D-Day and here I was immobilised. It was absolute chaos – we caught sight of each other as everyone was running past. I was just telling them all to carry on.’
Bill and other wounded soldiers around him were pinned down by sniper fire. At one stage an injured colleague was shot dead and slumped on top of him. Bill knew if he moved he would be next.

He lay motionless for eight hours before being rescued by U.S. forces. After being airlifted to Southampton for treatment, he rejoined the regiment as quickly as he could.
The Yeomen fought through France, Belgium and Holland, allowing Bill to be among the first to cross into Nazi Germany. Unknown to him, Clifford was also still fighting – but had been assigned to a different unit.
After the war, Bill worked as a manager for the Rootes car company, which later became part of Chrysler. He met his future wife Josephine on a blind date in December 1946. They were married for 61 years and had a son, David. Josephine died in 2009.
Clifford’s story
Clifford Baker, originally from St Helier in Jersey, joined the Army in 1934 aged 21 and was posted to Bombay and Hyderabad in British India.
His experience of battle was widespread, but nothing could have prepared him for the horrors of D-Day. He came ashore in a landing craft – separately from Bill Betts – and had to follow a white tape left by an advance party to navigate around mines in the sand.
Clifford was a No2 radio operator and, like Bill, was responsible for sending messages to command posts.
As he raced up the beach, he could see soldiers being shot, blown up by mines or hit by artillery. But machine-gun fire made it impossible to help fallen comrades – the priority was to secure the beach.
After the war, Clifford returned to Jersey to work as a mechanic for a bus company. There he met his future wife, Merville, from Swansea. Five years later the couple returned to South Wales, where they raised two daughters and a son.
Clifford joined the Port Talbot steel works and stayed for the rest of his working life. His wife died from a stroke in 2001.
Like many who served in the Second World War, he never forgot those days of comradeship and his favourite pastime is reading old war stories from his local library.


He lay motionless for eight hours before being rescued by U.S. forces. After being airlifted to Southampton for treatment, he rejoined the regiment as quickly as he could.
The Yeomen fought through France, Belgium and Holland, allowing Bill to be among the first to cross into Nazi Germany. Unknown to him, Clifford was also still fighting – but had been assigned to a different unit.
After the war, Bill worked as a manager for the Rootes car company, which later became part of Chrysler. He met his future wife Josephine on a blind date in December 1946. They were married for 61 years and had a son, David. Josephine died in 2009.
Clifford’s story
Clifford Baker, originally from St Helier in Jersey, joined the Army in 1934 aged 21 and was posted to Bombay and Hyderabad in British India.
His experience of battle was widespread, but nothing could have prepared him for the horrors of D-Day. He came ashore in a landing craft – separately from Bill Betts – and had to follow a white tape left by an advance party to navigate around mines in the sand.
Clifford was a No2 radio operator and, like Bill, was responsible for sending messages to command posts.
As he raced up the beach, he could see soldiers being shot, blown up by mines or hit by artillery. But machine-gun fire made it impossible to help fallen comrades – the priority was to secure the beach.
After the war, Clifford returned to Jersey to work as a mechanic for a bus company. There he met his future wife, Merville, from Swansea. Five years later the couple returned to South Wales, where they raised two daughters and a son.
Clifford joined the Port Talbot steel works and stayed for the rest of his working life. His wife died from a stroke in 2001.
Like many who served in the Second World War, he never forgot those days of comradeship and his favourite pastime is reading old war stories from his local library.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2050088/Two-D-Day-veterans-reunited-67-years-chance-meeting-Normandy-beaches.html#ixzz1bEqQlLvI
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