Most of those who landed on the Normandy beaches got off them again as quickly as possible.

But for Desmond Stanford, from Walsingham, it was eight months before he left again.

The engineer, who has died aged 101, landed on D-Day itself - June 6, 1944.

His task at the beachhead was to repair and maintain all landing craft and mechanical vehicles - a job he had to do under enemy fire, while naval gunfire from Allied warships also flew overhead.

"We went in under the guns of the Ajax and our other cruisers that were firing from 15 miles out, the shells screaming overhead," he later recalled.

Fakenham & Wells Times: Desmond Stanford and his wife PeggyDesmond Stanford and his wife Peggy (Image: COURTESY MR STANFORD)

"We were more afraid that some of our ships would drop their shells on shore than what the Germans were throwing at us."

Mr Stanford spent three nights sleeping on the beach, before moving to the seaside town of Arromanches. He did not leave the beach until February 25, 1945.

Mr Stanford was born in Walsingham, the eldest son of Victor, the village blacksmith, and Kate, a nanny.

He grew up with a love of all sports, and later played cricket and football for Walsingham and Fakenham.

Fakenham & Wells Times: Desmond Stanford's medals for his service in The NavyDesmond Stanford's medals for his service in The Navy (Image: Sonya Duncan)

He also enjoyed tinkering with engines and machinery and worked for Edmondson’s Garage serving petrol on the forecourt.

He later became an apprentice mechanical engineer at Massey and Bridges in Fakenham.

On the outbreak of war he tried to enlist.

However, the Royal Navy requested that he finish his engineering apprenticeship first.

He eventually signed up in 1941 and was posted as a Petty Officer to HMS Mastodon, in Hampshire, which went on to play a key role in the preparations for D-Day.

Fakenham & Wells Times: Desmond 'Steve' Stanford pictured here just before his 100th birthdayDesmond 'Steve' Stanford pictured here just before his 100th birthday (Image: Sonya Duncan)

While there he met the King with who he chatted about Norfolk. Later he was promoted to Chief Petty Officer.

For D-Day, at the age of just 21, he was attached to the Royal Marines and was in charge of 12 landing vessels ferrying soldiers ashore.

He had an eventful time before he even reached the beaches.

Mr Stanford - who was nicknamed Ginger in the Navy - set off in a 30ft landing craft on June 4 to head to Normandy but the vessel had to turn back because of rough seas.

It departed again the following day and after a gruelling 14 hours of heavy weather arrived off the French coast.

Fakenham & Wells Times: A postcard of Arromanches-les-Bains which Desmond 'Steve' Stanford has. The D-Day veteran was stationed in the Normandy town for months after the invasionA postcard of Arromanches-les-Bains which Desmond 'Steve' Stanford has. The D-Day veteran was stationed in the Normandy town for months after the invasion (Image: COURTESY MR STANFORD)

He later recalled: "When we got to the fleet, we went to the troop ship, filled it up and took them to Gold Beach. I got off, and stayed on the beach to see if there was anything wrong with other boats when they came in."

Over the next eight months on the Normandy beaches, he saw Winston Churchill and the Free French leader Charles de Gaulle visit.

When he returned to England, he became engaged to Peggy Wright, also from Walsingham. The couple married in 1946.

They had a daughter and three sons and remained together until her death in 2007.

They initially lived in Walsingham and Fakenham before moving to Sawley near Nottingham where Mr Stanford was a transport manager.

Fakenham & Wells Times: Desmond 'Steve' Stanford with his daughter Heather LeeDesmond 'Steve' Stanford with his daughter Heather Lee (Image: Sonya Duncan)

In 1983 he took early retirement and moved back to Walsingham to look after his mother.

When he celebrated his 100th birthday in 2022, friends and family visited from across the world.

His family numbers 58 including, great-great-grandchildren, and is spread out as far as New Zealand, Australia, the USA and Ireland.

Mr Stanford's main interests were photography and ornithology and he won awards for his wildlife photographs. In addition, he enjoyed walking, bowling and making walking sticks. 

He died peacefully at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on February 26, aged 101, after a short illness, surrounded by his family.

His funeral was held at St Peter’s Great Walsingham on March 7, with a packed church, where the Royal British Legion lowered their banner in tribute for his service while a bugler played the last post over his coffin which was draped with the Union Jack and on it were his Royal Navy hat and medals.