A DECORATED Second World War veteran from the Isle of Wight — Roy Hayward — was recognised as a national hero at the D-Day 80 anniversary commemoration in Portsmouth.

It was an event televised worldwide by the BBC and watched by millions.

Roy, of Seaview, lost both his legs at the age of 19, when the tank he was in was attacked in Normandy.

A recipient of France’s highest military honour, the Legion d’Honneur, Roy took centre stage as the nation remembered the many who took part in the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. 

Isle of Wight County Press: Roy Hayward with Prince William, the Prince of Wales.Roy Hayward with Prince William, the Prince of Wales. (Image: Ian Dore)

Roy, now aged 99, was given a standing ovation and was later met and thanked by members of the Royal Family and other senior figures.

But like so many who saw action during the war, Roy did not talk publicly about his experiences — keeping them locked inside for many years. 

Roy joined the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry tank regiment in May that year and landed on Gold Beach in Normandy.

Mr Hayward was in a reserve tank crew and followed in the evening in an ammunition lorry.

But following heavy casualties, Roy was soon called to take his place in a tank and, on June 25, while proceeding down a lane near Fontenay, was hit twice by shells — the second of which exploded in the tank, which immediately caught fire.

His right leg was completely shattered below the knee and part of his left foot was missing, but ignoring his wounds, Roy managed to drag himself out of the tank turret and drop to the ground, slightly burned.

Roy was then taken to a field hospital, where both his legs were amputated below the knee.

After the war, Roy resumed his banking career in London, then Surrey, before moving to the Island in the 1970s.

The national television coverage of D-Day 80 included ITV's commemorative concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday (9).

In June 1944, Sheila Wheble was living on the Isle of Wight, while her husband was away serving in the army.

Sheila wrote a diary about the war, in the form of a letter to her baby son, Tristram. She could see the D-Day fleet growing in number on The Solent.

"If anything happens to me, at least it'll tell you that I love you very dearly," she wrote.

"Outside, the sea was a mass of ships, landing barges of every shape and size, sort and craft — so extraordinary, we couldn't even begin to guess what they were there for.

"Never have I seen so any ships. It was difficult to see an inch of water between them — and what a target!

"Night after night, day after day we waited for the Germans to start their bombing attacks — but they never came."