HEROES of the D-Day landings are to meet Big Jim the Second World War loco in Keighley.

The three veterans from York, all in their 90s, will ride behind the historic steam engine when they visit the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.

Ken Smith, Ken Cooke and Douglas Petty all fought during the Normandy landings in 1944, helping the Allied assault on Europe that led to victory the following year.

The official Normandy Veterans Association has disbanded because so few members still survive, but the York group decided to continue their get-togethers and the three sprightly veterans are still going strong.

The two former soldiers and one airman will visit the railway on Thursday April 25.

Ken Smith, 94, fought as a private with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry despite coming from Yorkshire.

He said: “Railways were part of our lives in the army. They were how you moved around. I can recall one journey where we travelled in cattle trucks and had to crawl through small gaps in the vehicle sides carrying your rifle and scrambling over sleeping bodies to find a place to sit.

“I put my rifle up against the truck wall but I didn’t realise it was a sliding door: when it opened my rifle fell out onto the track side. I had to get another one!

“I’m really looking forward to visiting the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway and seeing the locomotive. It’ll bring back many memories.”

Ken has a great interest in railways. He is an honorary life member of the York-based Derwent Valley Light Railway Association and has been on the footplate of Sir Nigel Gresley’s legendary express steam locomotive the Flying Scotsman.

Ken Cooke, 93, was a private in the Yorkshire-based infantry regiment, the Green Howards, and has a railway locomotive named after him on the Derwent Valley Light Railway.

Ken, who lied about his age to join up at 16, gained the honour because as an engineer at the Rowntree’s confectionary in York he travelled across the factory site on the same diesel.

He added: “There’s not many of the Normandy Veterans left but we really look forward to seeing each other. It’ll be a great day out on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.”

Former bomber crew flier Douglas Petty, 96, flew in Lancaster and Halifax bombers out of RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire.

He said: “I completed 31 missions over enemy territory and was fortunate to survive when you consider 47 per cent of RAF bomber crews ended up as casualties.

“During the War I tended to see railways from 15,000 feet above the ground but I’m looking forward to our visit to getting a closer a look at both Big Jim and the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway.”