WAR heroes who survived the D-Day landings have carried their group’s standard for the last time.

Members of the Colchester and District branch of the Normandy Veterans’ Association retired the flag after a last procession yesterday.

Tony Booth, 89, was appointed as the final standard bearer at a service held at St Mary’s Church, in Wivenhoe.

Veterans came to the church service decorated in their medals as a crowd of more than 200 people sang hymns, reflected in prayer and listened to a speech by Eddie Slater, association secretary and national chairman.

They finished the service with a rendition of the national anthem before moving on to a gathering at the Royal British Legion.

Mr Slater, 87, said the group would continue to meet and reminisce over their experiences.

He said: “You can have anyone carry our standard but we have always said we wanted a veteran.

“It’s a proud thing to have.

“It is heavier than it looks and it was time. Now it will hang in the church for ever more.”

The group consists of just 12 surviving members, from an original 200.

Organisers decided the standard was too heavy for the veterans to carry, the youngest of whom is in his late 80s.

Members will continue to meet every month and at special services. Many of them look forward to the social occasions as a chance to reflect on what they saw.

Stan Parker, 87, of Fordham Village, landed on the beaches with the Royal Corps of Signals.

He said: “I remember the shells flying over our heads towards the Germans and the sound they made.

“The landing craft was quite choppy as it pulled up to the beach. You could walk from boat to boat there were so many of us. Then I noticed the bodies.

“It all happened so quickly.

“We hold these services not for us, but for the lads that never came home.”

Joe Dutch, 91, Havering Close, Colchester, served in the 51st Highland Division and was just 17 years old on D-Day.

He said: “It was an emotional experience but we are all getting old. It was nice to see so many old mates. We had our serious moments, but we also had our humorous times.”

The branch is planning to be part of the 70th anniversary of the beach landings in 2014 by traveling to France to meet service veterans from all the nations involved.