Second World War veteran Richard Aldred said that “when I go to Normandy, I’ll guarantee to you I will shed a tear”, as he spoke of the effect returning to France will have on him ahead of the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

The 99-year-old counted himself “lucky” as he reflected on his experiences during the war when he served as a tank driver in the 7th Armoured Division.

Mr Aldred, from Cornwall, said he went to Normandy after D-Day on about July 12 of 1944.

He was driving a Cromwell tank in August of the same year when the tank was blown up in Bourneville.

“God I was bloody lucky,” he said.

Mr Aldred said he had just turned right to avoid another tank when the vehicle was hit by an armour-piercing shell, so it did not hit his tank on the front “which would have been my demise”.

He added: “I do remember this terrible thump and we came to a direct halt and we all got out, very luckily, under a crucifix.

“And I’ll guarantee to you, that every one of my crew said a prayer, including me.”

Mr Aldred said the crew had eight seconds to get out of the tank before they “burned alive”.

A Cromwell tank was “a gorgeous vehicle to drive” and like a “great big sports car”, he said.

He added: “If you fell in love and took it seriously, that Cromwell would talk to you. It was like a monster boy’s toy – but I suppose it was a bit dangerous too.”

Mr Aldred plans to go to Normandy for the anniversary with the Spirit of Normandy Trust.

He was told about the trust at a Buckingham Palace garden party.

Reflecting on his time in the war, Mr Aldred said: “I was lucky. No doubt about it, I was lucky. Lucky I wasn’t killed, I had to bury two mates of mine. Awful, awful.

“It’s only when you go to Normandy amongst all those crosses, if you don’t cry, there’s something wrong with you.

“When I go to Normandy, I’ll guarantee to you I will shed a tear. Can’t help it, I’m sorry.”