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King meets D-Day veteran ahead of first foreign trip since cancer diagnosis

The King met a D-Day veteran in person to give him his 100th birthday card ahead of the anniversary of the allied landings in Normandy next week.

Jim Miller was invited to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, where he shared his experiences of the Second World War Nazi-occupied France with Charles.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Miller said: “I was totally surprised and delighted to be invited to Buckingham Palace.

“It was a special day and a real honour for me to meet the King and be presented with my 100th birthday card.”

He added: “I am humbled to reach such a great number, especially when I think of those who fell on the Normandy beaches all those years ago.”

Charles and other royals will be attending commemoration events in the UK and France for the 80th anniversary of the 6 June, 1944 D-Day landings next week.

The events will mark the first overseas trip for King Charles since his cancer diagnosis earlier this year.

Mr Miller, who lives in South Wales but is originally from London, crossed the Channel on an American ship and landed on Juno Beach on 9 June. He was 20-years-old.

He said: “I am proud that I can still share my memories with the generations that come after me.”

Mr Miller described the “momentous and harrowing” experience of the landings to the King as he was given his 100th birthday card.

He joined the Army as a volunteer at the age of 18 after he failed a hearing test for the Royal Air Force.

Mr Miller was a driver and wireless operator in armoured vehicles.

Handout photo dated 1945 issued by the British Red Cross of Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses with wounded D-Day soldiers at Cowley Hospital in Oxford, UK. The experiences of the youngest British nurse caring for Allied troops returning from the D-Day invasion have been shared ahead of the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings. Issue date: Friday May 31, 2024. PA Photo. Naina Cox (nee Beaven) was aged 16 when she volunteered for the British Red Cross as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse at Portsmouth, the headquarters for the military units destined for Normandy's Sword Beach. See PA story MEMORIAL DDay Nurse. Photo credit should read: British Red Cross/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Naina Cox (nee Beaven) was aged 16 when she volunteered for the British Red Cross as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse at Portsmouth

Photo credit should read: British Red Cross/PA Wire

While 23 surviving British D-Day veterans will travel to Normandy, 21 veterans, including Mr Miller, are expected to attend an event at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Charles, Queen Camilla and Prince William will take part in a national D-Day commemoration in Portsmouth next week.

The King, who is the patron of the Royal British Legion, also plans to travel to France for a commemoration event at the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer.

Philippa Rawlinson of the Royal British Legion said: “These incredibly moving and poignant commemorations will be our last opportunity to host a significant number of Normandy veterans.”

Naina Cox, née Beaven, the youngest British nurse who cared for D-Day soldiers returning from the Normandy landings, shared her astonishing D-Day experiences.

She was 16 when she volunteered for the British Red Cross as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse at Portsmouth, the headquarters for the military units set to land on Normandy’s Sword Beach.

The British Red Cross has shared a letter Ms Cox wrote to the charity in 2005, which was the same year she is understood to have died, describing her remarkable experiences caring for returning soldiers.

In her letter, which is part of the charity’s museum archives, Ms Cox wrote: “My memories of D-Day are very clear.

“I was 16 years and eight months old. I joined our local Red Cross division when I was 15, Hans 28 its title.”

She added: “As far as I can be known, I was the youngest nurse in the country to be on official duty and active duty on D-Day.”

Ms Cox wrote that she had no idea what was taking places on the shores of Normandy during D-Day, saying: “Not surprisingly a war-weary people did not live with their ears glued to the radio.

“It was after midday when the full story emerged. My commandant burst into the office and said ‘Beaven, you must get permission to go home at once, put on your Red Cross uniform and report to the matron at Queen Alexandra’s Hospital.”

She added: “On the walk there an unending stream of big army lorries passed me.

“I soon found out they contained either four or six soldiers lying on stretchers in shelf-like fashion. These were the first exhaustion cases back from the French beaches.”

She continues: “Under orders from senior nurses who had been evacuated from St George’s Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, I set to work stripping dirty clothing from the casualties, taking off old dirty emergency dressings and washing tired faces and bodies.

“As each one slowly revived, we fed them and administered cold or warm drinks.

“I don’t know how many people we helped but when I had a half a minute to stand up straight I looked outside and it was dark.

“After this, I was asked to work on the German prisoners, which I could have refused.

“In a Nissen hut away from the others, about 20 German boys occupied the beds, all about 16 to 18 years old.”

Ms Cox describes her shock when she realised the German prisoners of war were boys her age, saying: “Never in my short life had I seen anything so startling. Painfully thin bodies, long grey hair, shallow skin and eyes popping out of their heads.”

She added that the soldiers were stunned to be helped by nurses like her and said: “The British Army guard told me they were all petrified and thought they were going to be poisoned. I got one to take a drink through a feeding cup; the tension eased a little.”

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