One of Britain’s last D-Day veterans who served at Omaha beach dies aged 98
One of the last surviving D-Day veterans who was part of the historic Normandy beach landings has died aged 98.
Edward Gaines, who was better known as Eddie, transported 35 tonnes of dynamite and helped troops land at Omaha beach as part of the Allied invasion in World War II.
He died at his home in Poole, Dorset on April 21.
Born in 1925, Eddie joined the Royal Navy in 1943 and was one of a five-strong crew on a landing barge that set off from Poole on June 4, 1944.
They carried huge amounts of TNT and a bulldozer to land at Omaha beach on D-Day, before continuing to work there transporting ammunition, equipment and men until Christmas Eve 1944.
Eddie previously spoke of the trauma of what happened on that fateful day in France, admitting he ‘had nightmares for years afterwards’.
He said: ‘I was off Omaha Beach on D-Day and 3,000 men died there before noon alone.
‘The ramp would drop onto half-submerged bodies, it was quite something…quite something.’
The horrific events of that day were depicted in Stephen Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film Saving Private Ryan, which many veterans have said was a realistic representation of what it was like.
After he’d left the Navy at the end of the war, Eddie worked in a mill in Battersea before helping his parents build their dream bungalow and then becoming a self-employed bricklayer until his retirement at the age of 60.
Later in life, Eddie received support from Blind Veterans UK and became an ambassador after losing his sight due to age-related macular degeneration.
In 2017, he was one of two men from Dorset presented with the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion D’Honneur in recognition of his part in the liberation of France.
He said at the time: ‘I am hugely honoured to be presented with this medal.
‘I feel that we both are receiving it on behalf of all of those who didn’t make it back.’
Eddie also backed the BBC’s plan to scrap the free licence fee for over 75s and said ‘there’s plenty of rich pensioners’ who can afford it.
He said at the time: ‘I suspect another 250,000 are quite well off anyway.
‘A lot of pensioners are better off now than they were for years.’
Following his death, tributes have been paid to Eddie and a fundraising page has been set up in his honour for Blind Veterans UK.
His family said: ‘Eddie leaves behind four children and 16 grandchildren as well as a legacy of service to his family, his country and the veteran community.
‘Eddie was so passionate about his support for Blind Veterans UK that he flew the charity’s flag outside his home for the last years of his life.’
Another of Britain’s last D-Day veterans died last month at the age of 100.
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