Bury war veteran meets Prince Harry

Dennis Walton with Prince Harry and Jack Dixon, right

Dennis Walton with Prince Harry and Jack Dixon, right

First published in News Bury Times: Photograph of the Author by , education reporter

A BURY war hero had his service to the country recognised by Prince Harry at a special remembrance service.

Colonel Dennis Walton, aged 94, is honorary president of the Royal Artillery Association Central Lancashire Branch.

He shook hands with the Prince in Italy for the 70th anniversary commemorations of the Batlle of Monte Cassino, one of the most significant conflicts of the World War Two.

Mr Walton was accompanied on the visit by Sgt Jack Dixon, branch chairman of the association. They have known each other since the 1950s when they were with the now disbanded 253 Regiment of the Royal Artillery based in Bolton.

They were guests in Italy of the Not Forgotten Association.

Mr Walton saw action in the battle to cross the Rapido River, where American forces were trying to reach heavily defended Nazi positions.

He said: “I was a mobile gun officer trying to bring fire down on the other side of the river.

The enemy had guns, mortars; they massacred the Americans.

“I could see the bodies floating down the river. I still think, ‘Could I have done better?’”

Prince Harry spent more than than an hour chatting to veterans following the service at Cassino War cemetery.

The Battle of Monte Cassino was a crucial campaign that saw Allied forces launch four major attacks to destroy Nazi forces holding a strategically important rocky outcrop, home to the 1,400 year-old Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino.

The monastery was bombed and destroyed but was rebuilt.

Prince Harry said: “At the end of the day this has always been referred to as the forgotten campaign — to me that makes no sense at all. Those guys in there are as important as everybody else.” The Prince also defended his great-aunt Nancy Astor from the much-reported claim that she described the men of the 8th Army fighting in the Italian campaign as “D-Day Dodgers”.

He said: “She always denied she ever made that remark. In fact, she swore to her dying day that she never said it.

“She had three sons and four nephews fighting in the war, including in Italy, so it seems very odd that she would say such a thing. The story just doesn't make sense.”

Commenting about Lady Astor's supposed remarks, Mr Walton said: “I don’t think she probably meant what she said because it was so stupid.”

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