UNDER the cover of darkness from nightfall, all that could be heard was the sound of hundreds of ship engines droning on the water.

Royal Marine John Stansfield was just 19 when Landing Craft Flak 24 set sail for Normandy from Southampton.

After sailing through the blackness of night, the ship anchored amid some 800 other warships poised for what would be documented as the largest naval, air and land operation in history.

The operation involving 156,000 allied troops on this day 75 years ago will forever be remembered as D-Day.

Mr Stansfield, 94, still holds a clear vision of the day from start to finish with moments he remembers with pride and others he wishes he could forget.

Mr Stansfield, of Main Road, Dovercourt, had barely reached adulthood when his ship with a crew of 100 men reached the Normandy beaches.

He said: “I was just 17 at the time and did not know what was going on. I just did what I was told.

“As it got to June 4 we were anchored out from Southampton, and on the night of June 5 we set sail but did not know where we were going.

“As we went out further and further into the night there were ships everywhere as far as the eye could see, and there was just the sound of engines in the air.

“The skies then filled with thousands of paratroopers above our heads, and I would not have missed that sight for the world.

“Being so young at the time, I found it all really exciting at first.”

It was Mr Stansfield’s first time out of England.

But excitement turned to terror in the early hours of June 6 when Mr Stansfield and his squadron had to bombard a beach with their guns and missiles to make a clear passage to the land.

When a passage was cleared the Royal Marines climbed out of the boat with air support above to protect exposed troops getting to shore.

The memories of bloodshed and violence which came next are still too difficult for Mr Stansfield to talk about to this day.

After composing himself, Mr Stansfield shared the story of how he was one of just 13 Royal Marines who survived two mine explosions onboard his ship.

He said: “Two mines were planted on our ship by the opposition. Most of the crew were asleep and there were only 13 survivors of the explosion out of 100 Royal Marines.”

Mr Stansfield was on an upper-deck of the vessel and remembers being flung into the sea, fighting to reach the surface for breath.

He said: “I was in the water and getting myself to the surface and saw the ship break in half.”

Mr Stansfield said he lost many friends he had trained with.

His military career started when he was 14, living in London.

He wanted to follow that career path after seeing seeing the Blitz from his parents’ home destroy the city.

He said: “My parents lived on top of a hill and I have a memory of seeing St Paul’s Cathedral with the skies illuminated in flames.

“It was then I thought I need to do something about this and knew I wanted to joined the Royal Marines.”

In 1939, he joined the Royal Engineer Cadets and learned about rifles and drills, before joining the Royal Marines aged 16.

He was based at the Chatham Barracks, in Kent, in 1941, in the 147 squadron.

Three years later he was in Normandy fighting for his country in the Second World War.

Looking back at the war, Mr Stansfield said: “There are memories I would like to forget, but I would not have missed fighting for my country for the world and being part of something so historic.”

Last year he received the Legion d’Honneur for his role in the liberation of France.

Mr Stansfield, has kept his medals, photographs and documents of his time in the Royal Marines which he can pass on to his son, daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Manningtree and District Royal British Legion will be holding a service at the war memorial to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Sunday at 11am.