FLOATING high above France in a glider aged just 19, Cyril Tasker had no idea what lay ahead.

But Cyril and his battalion were about to pave the way for the allied victory and D-Day.

They had to land the wooden glider safely then capture the river crossing without knowing how many German troops lay ahead or whether the bridge was wired with explosives.

Saving the bridge was vital to limiting the German counter attack in the Normandy landings.

Speaking from his home in Ringmer about the most terrifying day of his life, Cyril said: “We were dropped in by glider.

“There were four Jeeps and 12 or 13 men inside this wooden glider.

“We were towed across the Channel and taken up really high.

“They had to get very high to go the right distance. Then we had to glide down without any engines.

“As we were going up I was saying to myself ‘what am I doing here?’

“We were up with the Gods.

“We didn’t know what we would find when we landed.”

Operation Deadstick was the codename for the operation in the early hours of June 6, 1944.

The objective was to save two road bridges across the River Orne in Normandy from German control.

The bridges were heavily defended but the mission was vital to the success of Operation Tonga, the overall British airborne landings in Normandy.

After a brief exchange of fire, both bridges were captured and defended successfully against German tank, gunboat and infantry counter attacks until relief arrived.

Born in East Hoathly, Cyril was one of the youngest members of the 6th Airbourne Division. He said he was well cared for as “the baby of the battalion”.

When he joined the Army aged 18 he said he “felt very proud”.

He said: “There was no question about it, I knew what I had to do.

“I don’t expect a lot of young lads these days can imagine what it was like.

“I think it is important that people keep remembering what happened in the war.”

He found remaining in touch with the men he served alongside helped him return to normal life.

He has continued to maintain contact with his old friends but is now one of the last remaining members of his division.

He said: “I could about things I wouldn’t normally talk to anyone about with them.

After the war Cyril returned to Sussex and met Jeanne, a former Miss Woodingdean, at a dance.

Jeanne said her friend Peggy had set her sights on the dapper hero “but I pinched him off her”.

“Peggy didn’t get a look in,” said Cyril. He and Jeanne married five months later.

The couple later had a son, Les, and started life as parents living in a tent in Cyril’s mother’s garden with him.

They went on to have a daughter, Christine.

Now married for 73 years and with four grandchildren and six great grandchildren, the pair are as close as ever, living at a Parris Lodge retirement home in Ringmer.

Cyril, who went on to work as a lorry driver, and Jeanne have made regular trips back to Normandy for more than 40 years where they are warmly embraced like royalty every time they visit

Cyril said: “It is rewarding to know they appreciate what we did.

“I find it important to go back.”

While he did not talk much about his experiences in the war, Cyril said his experiences would always stay with him.

When his grandson Alan Ward started digging into his grandfather’s past he began to unearth a heroic history.

Cyril proudly wears his medals, including a Legion D’honneur, across his chest.

Alan said: “I didn’t really know as a teenager that my granddad was a war hero. He kept it under his beret.

“We have to keep talking about what these men did and keep that alive.”