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The 80th anniversary of the D-Day Landings on 6th June, 2024 could be the last significant landmark for surviving WW2 veterans. 

During the D-Day Landings, 19-year-old Roy Hayward lost both of his legs when his tank was shelled.

80 years later, at the age of 99, he still sees it as “a bit of bad luck”.

He, like many others, received vital assistance from Blesma. Our mission has always been to support veterans like Roy, ensuring they receive the help they need to lead fulfilling lives despite their injuries.

Blesma has been committed to supporting wounded veterans since World War I, and our work continues today.

Your donation can make a significant difference. Help us continue our support for wounded veterans by donating today.

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D Day Landing Normandy Beach 80 Years
D-Day took meticulous planning and execution but, above all, it required selfless bravery. Those who perished and those who returned all deserve special recognition on 6th June.

Roy Hayward's Life-Changing D-Day Experience

Roy’s tank unit – Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, had pushed on into France from the D-Day beaches, and had been involved in heavy and almost continuous action around Bayeux as German forces resisted the Allied invasion in June 1944.

His tank’s tracks were interrupted by the thud of a shell bouncing off its armour plating. Seconds later, a round penetrated the metal and 19-year-old Roy Hayward was plunged into agony and the beginnings of a terrifying inferno.

Despite his right leg “hanging by a thread” and his left leg smashed into pieces, he managed to pull out a comrade through the tank’s turret.

“I was getting burned – another minute and I think I would have had it – but somehow I got him out of the hatch, dropped down onto the lane and crawled away.”

At Blesma, we are proud to support injured veterans for life. To support Roy and other injured veterans you can make a donation. Be a supporter of those who have given so much.

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Allies Normandy Beaches
The D-Day landings were the largest seaborne invasion in military history.
Allies Sherman Tank
Soldiers sat on top of a M4 Sherman tank, which was the same type of tank Roy used.

I turned over and saw that my right leg was completely smashed and the front of my left leg had disappeared – there was just a bit of the heel left. I think that was what let me stand, otherwise I don’t think I’d have got out of the tank.

D-Day veteran and Blesma Member Roy

"I had burns to my right hand and forehead that hurt more than my legs. It was pretty bad and at one stage I thought: ‘I have a revolver; is this the time to use it?’ Fortunately, I didn’t try but my right hand was so burned that I would have had difficulty operating it anyway.”

Roy was rescued by two medics and taken to a field hospital, where his legs were amputated below the knee. Just weeks after his 19th birthday, Roy was transported back to England for hospital treatment and the start of a new life. His D-Day campaign had begun when he landed on the Normandy beaches on 6th June, and it ended 19 days later.

 

Roy comes into contact with Blesma

Roy remembers being contacted by Blesma the moment he got home. “I didn’t dwell on losing my legs, but viewed it as a challenge” he says.

Roy was fitted for some “new legs” which were made from metal and attached by a leather harness over his shoulders. By April 1945, he was working; cycling to Hampton Court station, commuting to London Waterloo, and then walking across the bridge to the Covent Garden branch of the Westminster Bank.

Today, Roy’s humour and modesty shine through; he is very reluctant to show his Légion D’Honneur, the exalted French decoration for bravery, but he keeps two model tanks – a British Sherman and a German Tiger – facing each other on either side of the TV in his lounge, and memories of D-Day and the subsequent events that changed his life are never too far from his mind.

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The Légion D’Honneur is the highest French order of merit
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Roy Hayward had two prosthetic legs fitted below the knee

It is important to remember D-Day as this will be the last big anniversary for us; there can’t be many veterans left – most of us will now be in our late 90s.

“I didn’t know the importance of D-Day at the time, and didn’t think of being involved as a sacrifice. My injuries were just a bit of bad luck, and although I wish I could have contributed more and been involved longer with my regiment, I might not have come back at all. I appreciate that I survived and have had a good life, and will always look at events that way.

I’ve always had the feeling that Blesma was behind me and would make sure that I got whatever I was entitled to, fighting for things I might not have been able to get myself. I didn’t need too much to start with, but it was good to know that Blesma was in my corner as I got older. That gave me a feeling of confidence and now, at the age of 99, I can look back on a very happy and full life.

Remember veterans who gave so much on D-Day and during WW2

Your kind donations are helping us currently support over 2,600 Blesma Members live independent and fulfilling lives after suffering the loss of limbs, use of limbs, sight, speech or hearing.

With your support, we can continue to help WW2 veterans like Roy Hayward, and further veterans across the UK who have suffered a life changing injury.

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