Christmas is a time when many people become reflective over the past – and nobody more so than Boston man Ted Eaglen.
As he settles down to enjoy the festive period this year, the 88-year-old will be casting his mind back 68 years to December 25, 1944.
Ted was a 20-year-old lance corporal with the parachute regiment at the time, and on that morning he was told to rouse the troops from their camp in Epsom as they were going on exercise.
“I said to him ‘but its’s Christmas Day’, and he just said it wouldn’t take long,” Ted said. “They were all grumbling about going out on exercise on Christmas Day and saying they wanted their breakfast, but he said it wouldn’t take long.”
The troops were herded into lorries and then onto a boat, where they were given ammunition.
“It was clear we were going into action,” Ted said.
They certainly were, as they were on the way to join troops in Ardennes in France, where fighting was already taking place.
He added: “When we got there the Americans were retreating and the Germans were pushing them back. The Americans were saying ‘You don’t want to go up there Limey’”
The regiment was knee deep in snow as they took their places in the trenches, where they would remain for several weeks.
Ted left the front on January 24 after he was wounded and taken to hospital in Lille.
Shortly after he returned, by which time he was a sergeant, he was sent on a mission to parachute into Germany. His plane was one of 20 dropping people into the fighting zone, and of all the soldiers dropped he, only five survived.
Ted was wounded in his arm, and was sent to hospital in Belgium, which is where he saw in the end of the war in May 1945.
It was only when he returned home that he discovered that his mother had sent him mince pies and sausage rolls as a Christmas treat, which he never got to eat.
He said: “I will never forget that Christmas.”