D-DAY was the decisive military operation which swung the balance of the Second World War firmly in the favour of the Allies. Chronicle reporter ALEC DOYLE met one of the heroes of that historic campaign to hear about his role.
June 1944 and the Second World War was finely balanced as Allied troops sailed the English Channel to Normandy to launch D-Day.
It was one of the few major operations in the latter half of the bitter conflict that Sid Whittle did not beat the rest of the Allied forces to.
Broughton engineer Sid was a member of the Royal Artillery Corps during the war but in 1942 was transferred to an elite special operations division that had just been formed - the Reconnaissance Division, known as the Recce.
'We were the hardest, fastest, most elite unit in the British Army. Winston Churchill visited us and looked at our assault course which we used to develop our fitness. It was then he decided all Army regiments must have an assault course. Recce was a tough place to be.'
Sid's regiment, 53rd Reconnaissance, was not part of the initial Normandy landing but went over with the Welch Fusiliers on June 24.
'The fighting was still fierce,' said Sid, who was a fitter and driver with the regiment. 'We landed and fought alongside the Welch for 24 hours before we could move out.'
After that, 53rd Reconnaissance moved straight to the front line to clear the way for the Allied troops.
'People always talk about the tank regiments leading the charge. The tanks would not go anywhere unless we had been there first.
'Recce was split into squads and each Army regiment on the front line was given a team of Recce soldiers.'
'Most of our work was around the Rhine and the push into Belgium and Holland,' he said.
'We were on our first real mission scouting out a bridge when we had the first of many hairy moments.
'We were told to blow up a German-held bridge.
'We were hidden in the bushes observing for a few hours before we heard gunfire.
'But it wasn't coming from the Germans at the bridge, it was from Germans we had managed to walk right through in the undergrowth.
'We had been sitting yards from them and we had completely missed each other.
'The driver of the other vehicle charged to get across the bridge and unfortunately hit a mine laid by the departing Germans. it triggered the phosphorous grenades inside and the guys inside were horribly disfigured.
'They survived but needed a lot of medical attention.'
Meanwhile, Sid's team was on the way to what would become the Battle of the Ardennes. 53rd Recce were told to use Dinante Bridge to cross from France to Belgium, and to ensure they warned the American soldiers coming back from Belgium that they needed to remain quiet.
'Unfortunately, we got there too late and the Americans were already crossing the bridge with floodlights on and sirens blaring.
'When we got to them their orders were not to let anyone pass.
'Our orders were to cross. Our sergeant, Sergeant Stephens, and the American major began arguing.
'The sarge said we would definitely cross the bridge, to which the major replied 'over my dead body'.
'We would be happy to oblige,' said the sarge and the major laughed thinking it was a joke. He soon realised it was not.
'We had our orders and we would have killed him to carry them out.
The nature of 53rd Reconnaissance's work led to a number of close calls.
'Just outside Ardennes before the well-known battle we went to sleep on a farm,' said Sid.
'My best mate Wally Crowther and me got up in the morning in the dark and the fog to get some water.
'We knew there was a pump because we could hear it being used. We were walking and chatting when Wally told me to be quiet.
'We went on a bit further and saw the pump was being used by a German soldier. I always carried two grenades so I lobbed them at the Germans and sprinted for the camp.
'All night the Germans had been on one side of the farm and we had been on the other side.
'People think that after Ardennes the war was won but there was a lot of fighting and killing still going on.
'We were in front of the front line of all the key battles in Northern France, Holland, Belgium and into Germany from 1944.
'Often we would be required to clear a village of German soldiers before the Army moved in. We would go in, be shot at with anti-tank fire, then have to go in again.
'We would take thousands of prisoners in one go but most of them didn't simply give up, they fought hard.
'We did the most stressful job in the world. I was 20 and I was killing Germans with my bare hands.
'The memories of killing still haunt me. I saw a lot of people on both sides die.'
There are still reunions for the 53rd Recce Regiment troops.
'Me and Wally made it,' said Sid. 'He comes up from time to time. I also get correspondence from families in Holland and Belgium I met when we liberated them.
'It changed everyone who took part in it. Thankfully, most young people do not know what we went through. I just hope they never experience anything like it themselves.'