Popular Tesco worker and World War Two enthusiast Andy Hughes was among those who travelled to Normandy earlier this month for the commemorations to mark the centenary of the D-Day landings. During the trip, Andy spoke to the Queen and also met Ed Miliband. He has written this account of his trip for the SNJ.
IT all started on June 5 2014, when I woke up at 5am I felt like I was taking part in one of the biggest anniversary celebrations ever.
I arrived at Stroud bus station at 6.20am to catch my coach to the celebrations, the journey took 16 hours.
When we got to Dover, I could not believe my eyes. It was just like stepping into a time-warp.
There were WWII re-enactments, approximately 300 WWII military vehicles of every description and around 25 coaches of D-day veterans.
When I was on the ferry, I was able to speak to a few veterans about their experiences of June 6 1944. It was an emotional story that they told.
We arrived at our hotel in the early hours of June 6 on the outskirts of Paris. We all had to get up at 5.30am to make the first trip to Caen.
When we were 25km to Caen, we had a shock when three motorcycle policemen stopped the coach and told the driver to follow them to the rendezvous point.
When we arrived, it was an amazing sight; there must have been 300 coaches in the vicinity.
We got off the coach and had to be searched, due to highly important dignitaries attending the ceremonies.
When we got back onto the coach, we had a police convoy escort us to Bayeux cemetery.
On our arrival we were greeted by a guard of honour, consisting of the British Navy, Army and Air Force, and the French Army.
We were all escorted to the commemorative area to wait for the Queen to arrive.
At 11am I heard a sound that gave me goose-bumps; it was two Spitfires, a Dakota and a Lancaster Bomber of the RAF memorial flight.
When they went over, the Queen arrived and started speaking to the crowd.
She came over to me and asked me why I was here, to which I replied: “To honour my dad who died 24 years ago, who was an artillery man who took part in D-Day and 24 days after the initial landings.”
She then asked me where I was from.
After the ceremony at Bayeux, we boarded the coach to go to Arromanches for the second ceremony, again escorted via police convoy.
When we arrived at Arromanches, we were met by a colonel of the British Army, who told us about the ceremony.
After the briefing, we were escorted down the hill and saw a very emotional sight.
It was hundreds of WWII re-enactors and military vehicles.
In the sea, there was a Sherman beach recovery tank going up and down the water, trailing a massive union jack (only the British!).
On the sea front there were Jeeps, Dodges, GMCs and Sherman tanks of every description.
It felt like I had gone back in time to 1944.
My dad would have been very proud for paying this homage to him and I wish he could have been there with me.
When the ceremonies had come to an end, we all went back to the coach feeling very proud to have taken part on this very special day.
On Friday, July 4 Andy will be holding a small exhibition outside Antics in Stroud High Street displaying his D-Day models.