A D-day veteran says he has “found closure” after Argus readers helped him track down the family of his friend killed in the Second World War.

Ken Smith, 94, has been searching for the relatives of his childhood friend Derek Patrick Billett for 75 years.

The two were close friends in Patcham, Brighton, until they were separated by the outbreak of the Second World War.

Derek was killed eight days after the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, which marked the campaign which to free north-west Europe from the Nazis. He was 19 years old.

After a story about Ken’s search appeared in The Argus last week, we were contacted by reader Derek Patrick Billet.

He said: “I would have been Derek’s cousin, but I was born two years almost to the day after he was killed in Normandy, so I never met him.

“My father asked Derek’s father if he would consent to me being named after his son, and he clearly agreed.”

Ken was elated to hear Derek had been in touch.

He said: “It hasn’t sunk in completely. I’m still recovering from the last bit of news.”

Earlier, a reader named Janet Kerner told Ken she had known the Billett family in Patcham and found relatives living in Milton Keynes.

Since The Argus story about Ken’s plight, military historians, genealogists and readers have flooded the paper with information and family trees.

One reader, Jim Tuckwell, even found that at the time of Derek’s death in 1944, the Army chaplain noted he had been in possession of 365 francs and a Siro wrist watch, which was sent back to Derek’s next of kin.

Ken said the thing that has touched him most so far is a photo of his old friend sent in by Derek’s cousin, a memento he has longed for since 1944.

It is thought Derek would have been about 11 or 12 when the picture was taken.

Ken, who now lives in Yorkshire, was conscripted in 1943 and landed on Gold beach in Normandy on D-Day.

He said: “It was like hell on earth.”

“There were bodies strewn up the beach minus one or two limbs. It wasn’t like seeing a person in hospital. They had no chance at all. There were terrible injuries.

“On October 20 1944 I was wounded by shrapnel. It just tore through the flesh like a knife through butter.”

Since Derek’s death, Ken has visited his grave in Bayeux, Normandy, more than 40 times. He said: “I’m getting on a bit, and this was really my last chance to find Derek’s family. I’ll have to come down to Brighton some time to thank everyone: this has really put some closure on it.”