Ken Johnson, who has died at 95, was a Second World War veteran from Doncaster whose RAF Lancaster was hit by a bomb a week after D-Day but who lived to tall the tale.
“Despite the horrors and deaths I experienced, it was the best time of my life,” he recalled last year.
“I am the last of my crew; we are a diminishing generation.”
Born in February 1924, he had tried to join the RAF at 17, but was sent instead to the British Ropes factory on Carr Hill in Doncaster, where he put in 12-hour shifts, six days a week, as a machine operator, making the wire cables for barrage balloons.
It was a reserved occupation, and he was 19 before he was released to active service.
By the time of the Normandy landings, he was a gunner with 61 Squadron at RAF Skellingthorpe, near Lincoln. Assigned on June 13 to support the ground troops from the air, he was listening for the code word – Billy Bunter – that meant bombing was no longer safe. But the system failed, and his plane was hit by another British Lancaster.
“We were flying in a formation and I looked up and saw the plane above us open up its bomb doors,” he remembered.
“We tried to radio but it was too late, the bomb dropped and took our tail clean off.
“A Canadian lad got taken out by the bomb. Our pilot managed to fly us to safety, God knows how.”
He added: “I consider myself a very, very lucky man. I did my bit and I’m proud that I did so.”
In 2016, along with other survivors of Normandy, he received the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest military honour.