Bedfordshire D-Day veteran says key to a good life is freedom

D-Day veteran Doug Baldwin
Doug Baldin was aged 18 when he landed in northern France [PA Media]

A World War Two veteran who fought at Normandy 80 years ago as a teenager before becoming a prisoner of war has said the key to a good life is freedom.

Doug Baldwin, from Caddington in Bedfordshire, landed in northern France aged 18 - three weeks after D-Day in June 1944.

He was later captured by German forces and made to mine for coal during nine months spent in multiple POW camps.

He said "freedom to do what you want" was the secret to happiness.

In 2021 Mr Baldwin, now 98, received the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest military honour, in recognition of his service during the war.

He grew up in Sheerness, Kent, as one of seven children and enlisted for army training at Colchester and kept in reserve before being sent to Normandy on a landing craft on 25 June 1944, to serve with the 6th Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers.

Mr Baldwin said: "All the way over I was quite calm. It was still an adventure to me."

He said many people waved and blew him kisses as he left British shores, adding: "I felt like a hero before I even landed in Normandy."

D-Day veteran Doug Baldwin's medals
Mr Baldwin received the Legion d'honneur, France's highest military honour, in 2021 in recognition of his service during the war [PA Media]

When he was captured alone in the village of Estry on 8 August that year he said he "thought I was going to die, but it didn't bother me. I didn't think it was going to hurt much."

Instead of being killed, he was taken at gunpoint to a car before being transported to Germany in a railway truck, reported as arriving at Stalag 12A on 28 August.

Spending time in several camps, Mr Baldwin said prisoners were treated like "cattle" and got to "think like an animal" as he ate dandelion leaves.

He recalled the suddenness of leaving the camp when it was liberated by Allied forces.

"We woke up one morning and we could not see any guards about.

"We were walking towards the sound of the guns, which turned out to be the American lines."

After the war, he relocated to the Luton area for work and described himself as a "jack of all trades, master of none", working in a variety of jobs including at Vauxhall and Luton Airport.

The veteran has visited Normandy many times through trips organised by the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, which he said had given him "a new lease of life".

D-Day veteran Doug Baldwin
Mr Baldwin has revisited Normany many times since the war [PA Media]

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