D-DAY was the largest seaborne invasion in history — marking the beginning of the liberation of France and western Europe — and Isle of Wight veteran Alec Penstone was right in the thick of it.

The Shanklin man, who served the Royal Navy throughout the Second World War with distinction, took part in Arctic Convoys and had been on one to Russia, when his crew was diverted.

Alec remembered being anchored off the Isle of Wight and could see The Needles and The Solent being "covered in ships".

Alec Penstone may have lost his sight, but in his mind's eye he can see D-Day just as vividly now as he did 80 years ago.

The Royal Navy veteran was in Normandy for France's 80th anniversary D-Day commemorations to pay his respects to his shipmates.

The last time he was in Normandy he was shown the grave of his cousin who had to crash land just before midnight on June 5.

Alec's role was that of a submarine detector on board an escort ship, working 27ft below the waterline, with his only means of communication to the bridge being a telephone.

What crossed the English Channel was a huge armada of ships — Alec was in the thick of it.

"It was one of those very important jobs. As far as the eye could see," explained Alec, on an item recorded by the BBC for its D-Day 80 live event in Portsmouth yesterday (Wednesday).

During the early hours of June 6, 1944, Alec was part of a major Allied invasion going to Normandy on a vessel acting as cover force, protecting the invading craft from the U-Boats.

Alec was at 'Action Stations' for about 40 hours.

Without his boat and others like it, there would have been a massacre, says Alec.

"We were doing our job. Each one knew what they were doing and, if one didn't do their job properly, the whole ship was in danger.

"It was a question of doing what you were trained to do — and hope for the best."

Once everyone was in position on the French coast, the Allies opened fire — the huge crash of guns bringing an immense cacophony of noise.

"All we could hear below was explosions. I can't remember being scared."

Alec, now aged 99, has been a regular visitor to Normandy ever since.

"Even now, whenever I go over to Normandy, I feel an immense sense of pride, to have taken part in the invasion."