How a Northampton veteran reunited with the man who saved his life on the beach on D-Day

It took 65 years for veteran Mark Cudby to be reunited with the man who saved his life on Juno Beach in the D-Day landings.

Wednesday, 5th June 2019, 6:40 pm
The crew of HMS LCT 574 shortly before the operations. Mark is second from the left on the back row - Don is on the furthest right.

Mark Cudby, 94, still has the scars on his arm and chest from the German bomb that destroyed his ship on D-Day.

At 19 years old, he and his company on-board the HMS LCT 574 were tasked with delivering four tanks and the Canadian forces of the Royal Winnepeg Rifles onto Juno Beach in Normandy.

But it would be 574's last mission.

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Mark Cudby with his Legion d'Honneur and his framed photo of the 574 crew.

Mark, from Roade, was the ship cook and a gunner on the 574 where he held the rank of Able Seaman.

He told the Chronicle & Echo: "The problem was it was a bloody rough trip over to France.

"All of the boys on board with us were seasick."

It wasn't just because of the choppy seas. German shells exploded in the waters around the approaching ships while bomber planes circled overheard.

Mark, right, was only reunited with the man who saved his life, Don Bass, after 65 years. Both thought the other was dead.

Mark said: "Because it was so rough we had to leave the port late.

"We landed the tanks and got them on the beaches. But because we were late the tide had gone out and stranded us.

"We were a sitting target. And I could hear the bombers flying around nearby."

Mark doesn't remember the actually attack.

In the 65 years between them meeting again, Don Bass used the original plans of the 574 to build an exact model that is now in the British History Museum.

A German bomb exploded in the sand alongside the stranded 574. It devastated the ship and killed five men on board.

All Mark remembers was his shipmate Don Bass packing a bandage onto his heavily-bleeding left arm and carrying him up the beach.

Mark said: "I woke up three days later in a French church in Caen. My left arm, my chest and my head were all in bandages."

The bomb had blown away a great deal of muscle in the 19-year-old's upper left arm. It took three more days just to get evacuated from Caen because of sniper fire and German bombers.

But eventually, Mark was shipped back home to Britain. He never saw the 574 again

It wasn't until 2008 while at his home in Roade when he got the phonecall.

"He asked, 'have you still got your left arm?'", Mark told the Chron. "I told him, 'well I'm holding the telephone with it'."

It was Don. 65 years after the D-Day landings, Don had seen Mark's name in a book of veteran's as part of the Landing Craft Association. Up until that day, Don had thought he had left his pal for dead at the medical tents on Juno Beach after rescuing him from the wreck of the 574.

Mark said: "We had a good chat for sure. It was overwhelming."

It led to the two of them finally reuniting in Normandy for the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2009, and the two kept a close friendship until Don's death in 2017.