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Coronavirus: D-Day veteran urges everyone to stay at home to beat Covid-19 pandemic

PUBLISHED: 13:19 09 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:43 12 April 2020

Ken Watts (fourth from right)

Ken Watts (fourth from right)

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A 95-year-old D-Day veteran from Barnsbury has urged Britons stay at home to beat Covid-19.

Ken Watts - thenKen Watts - then

Ken Watts, of Lofting Road in Barnsbury, served in 18 Platoon, D Company, 2 Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment for four years during the Second World War.

He landed on Golden Beach, Normandy, on June 6 1994 and took the offensive to the Nazi troops, but now says the best way to win the current “battle” is by social distancing.

Ken, who is a member of Islington Veterans Association (IVA), told the Gazette: “In the last war you could go out in the shops for rationed goods and there was air raid shelters all around and about, and if the sirens went you dived into an Anderson shelter or the nearest shelter if you wanted to survive. And if you stayed indoors [at your home] and unfortunately got bombed that was your hard luck, wasn’t it? So, basically, if you do what you’re asked you should survive.

“I know it sounds difficult in this day and age when people are always jumping on buses and the underground but do what the government advises and stay indoors, it’s the sensible thing to do.”

Members of the Islington Veterans' Association at the war memorial in Islington Green. Islington ex service men from left are Ken Watts, Terry Parratt, Norman Willson, Mark Samson, Phil Menham, Robert King ,Ron Ranger . Picture by Dieter Perry.Members of the Islington Veterans' Association at the war memorial in Islington Green. Islington ex service men from left are Ken Watts, Terry Parratt, Norman Willson, Mark Samson, Phil Menham, Robert King ,Ron Ranger . Picture by Dieter Perry.

Ken reckons that, were wartime prime minister Winston Churchill alive today, he would be echoing the advice of Public Health England and telling people to stay at home as much as possible.

Ken lives with his 90-year-old wife, who suffers from dementia, but her son brings them shopping, and IVA also regularly checks in on its members.

But he says people shouldn’t “be greedy and clear the shelves” in supermarkets because not all old and vulnerable people have helpers getting their groceries.

On Covid-19, the veteran said: “To be honest I don’t worry about it because, if I start worrying about it then I have a good chance of catching it, that’s the way I think.”

Pictured from left by their stall is Ron Goodere, Ken Watts, Bill Millett  MBE, Ernie Welsh,  Mark Samson, Bob King.   Pic: Dieter PerryPictured from left by their stall is Ron Goodere, Ken Watts, Bill Millett MBE, Ernie Welsh, Mark Samson, Bob King. Pic: Dieter Perry

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The World Health Organisation says coronavirus is passed from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with Covid-19 coughs or exhales.

Ken added: “When we landed on D-Day they said we might not come back to England again, so I didn’t give a toss when we landed.

“I wasn’t scared so much, I always put it down to self-preservation. When we landed two of us were going along together and one of them said ‘there they are Ken’, and then boom he was dead. And when I did eventually get wounded, they said: ‘If it had been two centimetres the other way we would have buried you’, that’s luck.

“With this coronavirus that’s going about if you do what the government asks and stay two metres away from the next person, and stay indoors the you should be okay.”

He added: “I stay indoors and try to exercise if I can but, let’s face it, I’m 95, I’m stiffening up.”

Ken has been painting and drawing to keep himself occupied, and he also recommends doing crossword puzzles.

He used to take an arts class at the Drovers Centre in North Road, which was closed by the council earlier this year due to a funding shortfall, with services re-provided elsewhere.

The site is earmarked for social homes. But Ken says he wishes it hadn’t been closed.

On how long the coronavirus lockdown could last, Ken said: “It’s going to take time but providing people obey what the government asks you to do, it should come to an end quite soon.”

Looking back on the D-Day offensive, when more than 150,000 allied troops landed on an 80km stretch of Normandy coastline, Ken said: “We landed on Golden Beach in the early hours of the morning. Fortunately, for our platoon landing barge, the tide took us about 400 yards past our landing point, so we missed the main onslaught.

“They told us we landed in the wrong spot and had to go back, which we did, and we met them [the Nazi’s] sideways on. Apart from that, we live to tell the tale.”


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