Norman Burns and Alfie Booker with a member of the HMS Westminster crew

A D-Day veteran from Lichfield has been reunited with one of his former shipmates to help mark his 90th birthday.

Alfred Booker – known as Alfie – visited HMS Westminster in Portsmouth where he met up with Norman Burns. The pair had first met as trainee gunners in the Royal Navy on HMS Ramillies.

Norman Burns and Alfie Booker with a member of the HMS Westminster crew

They were brought together after a request from Alife’s son Murray to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and were treated to a lavish birthday lunch, as well as being honoured with France’s highest possible military honour, the Légion d’Honneur.

Murray said: “Everybody on Westminster really played their part in making their birthday celebrations more than special this is, something that we will remember for the rest of our lives.

“Lunch in the Wardroom was something special, especially when the captain served us drinks.”

Alfie Booker during his time in the Royal Navy

HMS Ramillies was sent to support the Allied invasion of France on D-Day. The Revenge-class battleship was tasked with silencing the Berneville Battery, a mission it accomplished by knocking out of the Germans’ six guns in the first 80 minutes before drawing the fire of other guns while troops went ashore.

As well as reliving their memories of serving together, Alfie and Norman – who now lives in Bournemouth – were also encouraged to share their stories of life at sea with HMS Westminster’s commanding officer Simon Kelly who awarded them with their medals.

“It’s an absolute honour to present this award to two of the nation’s Royal Navy veterans,” Cdr Kelly said. “They are a true inspiration for today’s serving sailors. They have certainly inspired the crew here on HMS Westminster.”

The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity said they were keen to make the birthday bash one to remember after being told of Alfie’s bid to celebrate his 90th birthday with his old shipmate.

Lauren Kempton, from the charity, said: “Although reunions are something we don’t normally do, I knew we could help.

“The fact that Norman and Alfie are still friends 73 years since they met as trainee gunners on HMS Ramillies is inspirational.

“I feel lucky and proud to have been a part of their birthday celebrations.”


Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.