THEY waited quietly in the English Channel.
Three British Navy men, on separate ships, serving different functions, but playing an important part in the D-Day landings at Normandy.
David Birt on HMS Ajax, a six-inch gun cruiser, Phil Sutton on the ex-merchant ship HMS Lothian, and Tom Duckworth on HMS Roberts, a monitor gun ship, could not have imagined that years later they would meet in Orange to relive their World War II experiences.
The three are now Orange residents and members of the Naval Association, and they all had different experiences on June 6, 1944 , the day that would turn the tide in favour of the Allied forces.
“We were just all following orders and we didn’t know the specifics,” said Mr Sutton.
“But we were all very much aware that something was going to happen. I just stuck to my job looking at the radar.”
All three men said they made their way in darkness to the English channel to join the flotilla involved in bombarding, radar detection, and landing of troops. But they were surprised by the sight that greeted them when dawn broke.
“There they were - 702 warships all together and all covering the coastline,” Mr Duckworth said.
Mr Duckworth was part of the medical corps on hand to deal with the inevitable casualties.
Mr Sutton said the success of the landings was in the planning by Allied forces.
“The whole operation was just so well planned for weeks and weeks before the day,” he said.
As one of 550 seamen on board the gun cruiser HMS Ajax, Mr Birt was involved in the initial bombardment.
“We were the first ship to open fire on the placements on shore,” he said.
“We helped destroy them and get the job done.”
Mr Salmon believes the superior equipment on board the warships made a huge difference to the smooth running of the operation, allowing the enemy ships to quietly make their way into the channel undetected to surprise the German forces.
“Our operational equipment was just far more advanced than the Germans,” Mr Salmon said.
Mr Duckworth said while he remained on board in the channel anticipating the numbers of wounded who would be brought back to the ship, his thoughts turned to those who stormed the beach.
“We were all thinking about the fellows who went ashore,” he said.
All three men were just teenagers when they signed up to serve in World War II.
Mr Birt was 17-and-a-half, Mr Sutton the same age, and Tom Duckworth was 18.
“The war was coming our way and I wanted to be part of it,” Mr Birt said.
Mr Birt came to Orange with his wife Marjorie and two daughters from the United Kingdom in 1970.
Mr Sutton was so taken with Australia during a visit here during the war he decided to emigrate after the war and make Australia his home.
Mr Duckworth came here to work at Orange Base Hospital.
“I was in charge of setting up the sterilisation unit at the hospital,” he said.
All three men say although their individual experiences during the war were quite different, they are united in their attitude to “doing it all again”.
“We would all volunteer just the same again,” Mr Sutton said.