A World War II veteran who owes his life to the toss of a coin is in France this week to remember his fallen comrades at the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
Gordon Prime - who chaired the Pembrokeshire Normandy Veterans’ Association - will be the only old soldier from the county being presented with France’s highest decoration, the Legion d’Honneur, in recognition of Britain’s wartime support.
As well as laying a wreath at the commemoration ceremony, 90-year-old Mr Prime will be making a pilgrimage to six individual graves to place six little crosses.
These are the resting places of the six good friends he lost in the conflict - and no better buddy than his ‘number one pal’, Bert Tinscombe.
“We trained together as motorcycle dispatch riders and we went through into France together. We worked side by side and shared everything. Ten days from the end of the war, we tossed a coin to see which one of us would take a certain route, and he got blown up," recalled Mr Prime. "I still go back to his village in Gloucestershire every year.”
Mr Prime, who lives in Jameston, is travelling today (Tuesday) to Normandy with his daughter Christine Jackson from St Florence, and one of his sons, Stephen and wife Lyn from Sutton Coldfield.
It’s a journey he has made at least once a year for 30 years, rekindling the memories of June 6, 1944 when, at first light, he was a 20-year-old driving onto Juno beach in a three-ton truck, loaded with ammunition and petrol, with his Matchless 350cc motorcycle on the back.
Our company motto was ‘bash on regardless; and that’s just what we had to do,” said Mr Prime, who joined the Royal Army Service Corps as an 18-year-old. “You couldn’t give up, it would have been letting your mates down.”
The motorbike-mad teenager had earlier helped the war effort on two wheels when he volunteered with the Home Guard during the retreat from Dunkirk.
Mr Prime was a founder of both the Birmingham and Pembrokeshire branches of the Normandy Veterans’ Association, and the local branch - originally with over 100 members - disbanded last year when its numbers reduced to six.
“I go back to France every year because I really feel I need to go,” he said. “I even go back to the actual field where we were first dug in.
"It’s always emotional seeing the cemeteries, and it will be particularly so this time, as it is the final commemoration being organised by the Normandy Veterans Association."