One of the last surviving D-Day veterans in Plymouth has died aged 94
One of Plymouth's last surviving D-Day veterans has sadly died.
Fred Colton was a 20-year-old corporal when he stormed on to Sword Beach on D-Day – and he was awarded the Legion of Honour in 2015 for recognition of his heroic part in the landmark battle during World War Two.
At the age 94, Fred passed away in hospital on Sunday after being taken ill over the weekend.
His son, Peter Colton, says he will be fondly remembered for his war stories.
In a previous interview with The Herald, Fred recalled the day he landed on Sword Beach on June 6, 1944, and the terror which unfolded around him.
The tens of thousands of Allied servicemen who earlier landed on the beaches as dawn broke experienced the full ferocious force of the German resistance.
But it was Fred and his comrades from The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders – who arrived later in the day – who witnessed the full scale of the devastation.
He said: "I still dream about those things now... the faces, the bodies lying in the sand.
"It was a living nightmare. By the time we arrived at about 6.30pm you saw the horror of it all. The battleships had been bombarding the beach with shells all day.
"I was serving as a vehicle mechanic. Me and my unit arrived to fix the vehicles – that was all really – we weren't really prepared for much else, but none of us were really.
"You just couldn't prepare yourself for what we saw. We were frightened. Everyone was deep down, we just tried not to show it.
"You could hear occasional gun fire echoing around the beach... it certainly wasn't a peaceful place."
"The beach itself was chaotic. There were damaged vehicles and bodies everywhere. "Medics were busy treating the wounded and dealing with the dead. You just tried to ignore what your eyes were seeing.
"Those sort of memories never leave you, and that's part of the reason why I've never been back.
"I have those memories and I don't want to remember any more than that."
Like many other Plymothians, Fred volunteered for active service to protect the realm.
He was actually called up to join the Army in 1943 and he soon joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Fred openly admitted that he – like many other of his comrades – had "no idea" about the scale of the D-Day operation.
"I was taken from a workshop on the Isle of Wight, placed in a unit, and then we found ourselves on the beaches of Normandy," he said.
"I was on leave at the time staying with my mum and dad at their place in Camels Head when I received a telegram saying 'report back immediately'.
"We had no idea what was going on. We never had any training, we just followed orders."
Fred's family will be holding his funeral at St Budeaux Parish Church at a date yet to be confirmed.