In light of the recent D-Day 75th anniversary commemoration events, Looking Back tells of a local veteran's role in Operation Overlord.

AS a 22-year-old, Denis Over saw horrors much beyond his comprehension.

He was a lieutenant in the fifth battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, who followed Canadian assault troops to Juno Beach, Normandy, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Their job was to organise the beach for the landing of stores and further troops.

Denis, now 98, of Broadmayne near Dorchester, remembers: "We were the beach defence unit. If there had been a counter attack we would be there to repel it. We saw men who had been killed but our senses had been dulled."

The ship Denis was on awaiting the invasion, known as Operation Overlord, was anchored off Cowes on the Isle of Wight for a week before she set sail for France.

"I knew it would be some time before I saw old England again," he recalls.

The night before D-Day Dennis remembers having about three hours of sleep.

"We were woken by a voice shouting 'Wakey, wakey rise and shine it's 4am and a fine morning and you mustn't be late for the party. We washed and shaved and went along for breakfast. A gale was blowing and the sea looked pretty rough."

As they boarded the landing craft Denis remembers a very choppy sea and 'being tossed about like a cork'.

"We got quite damp," he said.

"Despite taking anti-sea sickness tablets before breakfast a lot of men were sick and I didn't feel too great."

Denis was met with quite a sight when he arrived on the beach. Landing Craft Tanks (LCTs) and LCAs (Landing Craft Assault) were on the shoreline with many of the LCAs having been wrecked on the beach obstacles.

"There was rows of iron girders about 4ft long splayed out and piercing the bottom sides of crafts trying to float over them. More than that, there were fused shells fixed to many of the girder ends so that a craft only had to touch one and it would explode, blowing a hole in the boat. I saw water rising in the bottom of the craft and realised one of these girders must have pierced the side of the boat. Fortunately there was no shell or else several men would have been killed or wounded."

Denis attempted to grab hold of his backpack but realised it was water-logged and too heavy to carry so had to leave it. But he did pick up two shovels. It was very quiet when Denis arrived on Juno Beach apart from the occasional crack of a bullet blasting by from a sniper.

Along the sea wall was a 'terrific crush of Canadians', Denis remembers with 'numbers of them lying prostrate on the sand'.

"The fact that these chaps might be dead or dying didn't seem to register. It was as though our senses had been dulled, This was war. You got on with what you had to do. Those who were alive were tended, wrapped in blankets and given cigarettes, and laid out in rows to await evacuation."

Denis and his regiment then travelled to Germany from France through Belgium and Holland. He later served in East Africa.

In 1963 he met his future wife Mary while on holiday in Israel and the pair moved to Dorset in 1971. The couple have a daughter and three grand children.

Denis attended a recent commemoration of D-Day at Broadmayne, where a stone was dedicated to the American soldiers who were stationed in the village prior to Operation Overlord.

"It was very good and a fitting memorial to the US soldiers who were killed," he said.

Denis will never forget D-Day, he says.

"War is a terrible thing. Nobody in his right mind wants war. I didn't want to go into the Army. But Europe was threatened and we were faced with a situation where civilisation was under the threat of Nazism. We were taken right to the edge of destruction."