Grandad who was at Normandy landings at 17 wants to share his experiences

PUBLISHED: 15:10 05 August 2011 | UPDATED: 10:22 06 August 2011

Arthur Gardner with his wife

Arthur Gardner with his wife


A grandfather who was at the Normandy landings at the age of 17 wants to visit schools to tell children what life was like when he began his education 80 years ago.

Retired builder Arthur Gardner, 85, of Faygate Crescent, Bexleyheath, started at Uplands Infant School in Church Road, Bexleyheath, exactly 80 years ago in September and wants to mark the occasion by sharing his experiences with the school children of today.

The former able seaman who joined the navy at 17, four years into the Second World War, claims life was more difficult for pupils when he was at school as they had the cane.

The father-of-two said: “What they had then is entirely different to what they have now. We had no computers, telephones, electricity or hot water.

“We never stayed indoors. After our meal, we would be out playing. Nowadays kids stay in, in front of the television and the computer.

“When I came out of the navy in 1947, I couldn’t get a job so I went to night school to learn building and then became a builder. I ended up teaching building to special needs kids at Churchfield School in Plumstead.

“The old people get ignored today and some see them as a nuisance.”

Mr Gardner joined the navy in 1943 and was stationed on the Westcott Destroyer which took part in the Russian convoys in the Arctic Ocean, encountering floating mines and German bombers, as they tried to supply the Soviet Union.

He said: “I would describe the war as frightening. There were aircrafts and submarines after you.”

Less than a year before joining the navy, he was sent with the Westcott to the Normandy landings to protect the Rodney battleship from submarine attacks, successfully.

He said: “The Normandy landings were ok for me as I was on the ship but it wasn’t so good for the soldiers who weren’t.”

To contact Mr Gardner call 01322 407501.

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