Why VE Day is doubly special for 96-year-old Newport war veteran

FOR armed forces veteran Tony Clark, VE Day is a day for celebration as well as commemoration. Newport-born Mr Clark, a lifelong resident of the city, served in Europe from shortly after D-Day until the end of the Second World War and beyond. And he had been born on what came to be VE Day, though when he came into the world on May 8 1924, it was still recovering from the Great War, and people could not imagine that less than two decades later another horrendous conflict would break out.

Mr Clark, who lived his early years in Lewis Street in Pill, was one of seven children, and the youngest of three boys. Just 15 when war was declared on September 3 1939, he subsequently watched his older brothers Jim and Jack go off to serve their country in the Army and Navy respectively. Sadly, Jim Clark, did not make it home.

He died in combat in Benghazi, in Libya, on December 1 1942. He is buried in the war cemetery there, and there is a memorial to him in St Michael's RC Church in Pill. The teenaged Anthony Clark - known as Tony - was determined to do his bit for the war effort however, as his daughter Helen Harper explained.

"He wanted to serve his country, and as soon as he was able he joined the Home Guard and served through this until he turned 18, and was called up," she said. "He joined the Royal Artillery and served in the 30th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment."

After call-up, Mr Clark (above, in uniform) was initially stationed on home shores but by 1944, with the war set to take a decisive turn, he began along with thousands of other services personnel, to prepare for D-Day. "He spent his 20th birthday in Portsmouth as his regiment waited to cross the English Channel," said Mrs Harper. "He was a driver, so after D-Day had to wait for the Mulberry Harbour to be built where he and his regiment were heading in Normandy.

"A few days after D-Day he crossed the channel with his regiment and arrived in Arromanches towing his Bofor 40mm anti-aircraft gun with his Bedford QL truck." The Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches

Through the rest of 1944 and into 1945, as the Allies advanced, Mr Clark travelled through France, Belgium, then Holland, where he spent his 21st birthday on what was VE Day itself. "In all the stories he has told about his experiences, he has been positive - to this day, he says he was very lucky and that God was looking after him," said Mrs Harper. "He eventually went into Germany.

Once the war had finished, he remained in the army for a few more years, including driving for the Minister for Education who was then responsible for assisting in the rebuilding of the education system in Berlin. "He eventually returned home and later married Shelagh, and they have lived in Newport ever since." READ MORE:

Some 70 years after he landed in Normandy, Mr Clark went back with his family on holiday, and was able to show them many of the places he had been during his time there. One of these was the famous Pegasus Bridge where, at the instigation of a tour guide with whom he had been speaking, Mr Clark told a group of tourists all about it. "Many of them were French and Dutch, and many of them came up to him afterwards to say "thank you".

It was lovely," said Mrs Harper. Why VE Day is doubly special for 96-year-old Newport war veteran Mr Clark after receiving the Legion d'Honneur in 2016

"As we were leaving, the tour guide told us about the Legion d-Honneur - the French Government was awarding it to all surviving veterans.

"We looked into it, sent off his details, and in 2016 the French ambassador awarded it to dad at a ceremony in Cardiff."

Today, Mr Clark is celebrating his 96th birthday - and the 75th anniversary of VE Day - at home with his wife.

You may also like...