One of the legends at the Southport War Memorial re-dedication by Princess Anne in 2023 - Harry Howorth, aged 102, a D-Day veteran who landed on Sword Beach on 6th June 1944 . He was invited with his daughter; Edna English as a guest of honour to meet Princess Anne. Photo by Andrew Brown Stand Up For Southport

By Andrew Brown Stand Up For Southport

An heroic D-Day veteran from Southport has died at the age of 102.

Harry Howarth was one of the UK’s last surviving troops who landed on the beaches at Normandy on 6th June 1944 as the liberation of western Europe began. 

He spoke just a few weeks ago about how much he was looking forward to the 80th anniversary D-Day commemorations which are taking place this week. 

Harry was a popular figure among veterans in Southport, and often shared his stories and his experiences at The Cleveland cafe on Lord Street at the regular Tuesday morning SAAFA coffee mornings. 

Five years ago Harry was recognised for his bravery, receiving the Legion d’Honneur medal – France’s highest honour.

Harry, who lives in Birkdale, was presented with his medal by the French consul to Liverpool after the Royal British Legion submitted an application on his behalf.

Harry was a signaller with the 2nd Battalion of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and landed on Sword Beach on 6th June, 1944, with the aim of getting ashore and then ultimately capturing the city of Caen – one of the Allies’ objectives for the first day.

The British troops were met by a concerted German counterattack from the 21st Panzer Division and Harry’s battalion lost 113 men on that day – roughly one in seven of his comrades.

There was fierce fighting for the next six weeks, known as the Battle for Caen, but Harry’s battalion eventually helped to capture the devastated city.

Harry said: “When I landed on the beach, the ramp on our landing craft

dug into the sand and I was thrown into the water, but somebody pulled me out.

“I then had to run up the beach and silence the guns, which we achieved.”

Harry Howorth with Paul McDonald at Cleveland Cafe in Southport. Photo by Paul McDonald

Harry Howarth with Paul McDonald at Cleveland Cafe in Southport. Photo by Paul McDonald

Harry, a great, great grandfather, who was a central heating engineer in Southport during his working life, said in 2019: “I’ve never picked up any of my other medals, because I know people who were promised bravery awards and never got them, so I did that to show my support, but this is entirely different, so I will wear this one with honour.

“Before I went on the Legion cruise to Normandy, I’d never spoken about D-Day, but since meeting up with other veterans on that ship I’ve felt able to share my experiences, so from that point of view it was a wonderful thing to do.

“For 75 years I’ve just never talked about it, it was too painful.

“But I’m pleased I went back to Normandy in the end.

“We got a hero’s welcome in France, although I really don’t see myself as a hero, we simply did our best.

“I’m just so glad that the people of France have seen fit to give me this medal.”

In March, Harry was at The Cleveland Cafe when he spoke about a recent visit to France. 

He was delighted to have been invited by Southport Dramatic Club to be their guest of honour at their performance of the D-Day inspired play, Pressure, at Southport Little Theatre on Saturday 2nd March 2024. 

Major Tom McKenzie the Fundraising and Awareness Manager for SSAFA in Merseyside presents Harry Howorth with a commemorative Royal Mail 2024 80th anniversary D-Day £5 coin cover. Photo by Andrew Brown Stand Up For Southport

Major Tom McKenzie the Fundraising and Awareness Manager for SSAFA in Merseyside presents Harry Howarth with a commemorative Royal Mail 2024 80th anniversary D-Day £5 coin cover. Photo by Andrew Brown Stand Up For Southport

Harry was accompanied by his daughter, Edna English, to the show.  

Harry and Edna were delighted to be invited to the production as special guests having recently returned from a visit to Normandy. 

While there, Harry vividly recognised the beach where he came ashore, Sword Beach – “you never forget” he said – and helped to uncover a forgotten German gun emplacement that he and his comrades had attacked on the morning of 6th June. 

Harry said: “We really enjoyed our visit. We stayed with a lovely couple who showed us around and really looked after us. They were incredible. I can’t thank them enough, they were very kind to us. 

“I am also very grateful to the people who look after the war graves over in France.

“The London Taxi Drivers Charity were fantastic too.”

D-Day is a time which Harry would never forget, when there were an estimated 10,000 Allied casualties on the first day alone. 

He said: “D-Day really was the longest day. 

“I was the third one ashore from our landing craft.

“I just kept my head down and kept running forwards! 

“I have many memories of that time. I remember on the night of D-Day, the General from 2nd Division came over and shook my hand and said ‘well done’. The next day, he was dead. We lost so many people. 

“We could have taken Caen with a Platoon if we’d moved fast – but we were told to dig in and wait, and we lost the opportunity.”

Accompanied by Edna and his great granddaughter, Kerry Dewhurst, he discovered the old German bunker he and his comrades had attacked on D-Day, which had been lost to nature. 

After D-Day, Harry and his comrades carried on fighting through France. 

Two months later, one of his friends, Major Peter Wheelock, aged 27, was wounded and later died. 

Harry went to pay his respects at his grave in France. 

He said: “He was just a couple of years older than me. He wasn’t married. 

“He was shot in a field of corn and was wounded. 

“I thought he would live. But he just passed away in the night in a field hospital and he was gone. 

“We carried on fighting our way through Europe. We fought through France; through Holland; and into Germany. 

“After that we were ordered over to serve in Palestine, flying first tio Cairo West in the bomb bay of an RAF Lancaster. That was the worst place because you didn’t know where your enemy was going to come at you from and when.

“I was there over Christmas and managed to go into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Midnight Mass which was very special.

“After the Armed Forces I returned to Southport and resumed my career as a heating engineer working for Hayes Brothers. 

“I have lived in Southport all my life and love living here.

“I definitely want to go back to Normandy for the 80th anniversary.”

On 29th September 2023 Harry was a VIP guest of honour when Princess Anne visited Southport to rededicate Southport War Memorial 100 years since it was unveiled.


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