When 16-year-old George Wootton was told to "bugger off" for being too young, by the English Army in 1942, it might have saved his life.

He went right next door and signed up with the Marines, as they took men as young as 17.

Fast-forward two years to June 6th 1944 and Mr Wootton was driving landing craft, shuttling tanks and troops to the beaches of Normandy in the largest amphibious assault in history.

"I'm lucky I did what I did. If I had been in the army I might have been one of the poor buggers going ashore," Mr Wootton said.


The D-Day landings were a complete blur for Mr Wootton, now 90, who had no time to stop and consider what a monumental day in history it was.

"I just did what I was trained to do. We were young lads and we just got on with it. We had done a lot of exercises and this was just another one, really."

Driving a LCVP (landing craft, vehicle personnel), bringing people to shore and back out, Mr Wottoon said they kept having to pile up the bodies of killed soldiers to make room for fresh men.

He remembered a "hell of a lot" of banging and loud noises, but was so busy he barely noticed much else.

Mr Wootton's reason for joining up to fight in World War II at such a young age was simple.

"They [the Germans] had been bombing London, so I thought I'd get back at them, in some way at least."

When the war ended in 1945 Mr Wootton retrained as a commando and was readying to go to the Far East just as the Japanese surrendered.

"They must have heard I was coming," he joked, and he and some mates had a few beers to celebrate.

His already extraordinary life was not going to dull down by any means.

After a stint as a London policeman, in which Mr Wootton received a medal for rescuing a drowning dog from the Thames River, he then joined the New Zealand Army in England and emigrated in 1952.

As a member of the military police and eventually a major, Mr Wootton travelled to Vietnam during that war, where he was tasked with being sole bodyguard to the then-New Zealand Prime Minister Keith Holyoake.

"After a couple of days he turned to me and asked, 'What's your job then, George?' I said 'didn't you know, I'm your bodyguard!'

"Old LBJ [Lyndon B. Johnson, American president] had three companies of American marines," Mr Wootton laughed.

He said he must have done something right because later on, when he was sent to Singapore, he looked after the Duke of Edinburgh.

While most proud of his time served as a Marine, Mr Wootton had a large collection of medals from the course of his life in service, most recently receiving a French Legion of Honour medal.

For Anzac Day this year, Mr Wootton said he would be doing what he usually does, heading along to the dawn service in Mount Maunganui where he lives.

He said the service meant a bit more to him and had more atmosphere of remembrance.

Anzac Day services:
Mount Maunganui Dawn Parade

* 5:45am: Assemble at Mount Drury Reserve

* 6am: Service Mount Maunganui Cenotaph

* A park and ride service will be available from Kawaka St (behind Blake Park) to Maunganui Rd behind Mount Drury.

* Buses will run from 5am to 7:30am.

Tauranga Dawn Parade

* 5:45 am: Assemble on Hayes Ave

* 6am: Service Tauranga RSA Cenotaph

Katikati Dawn Service and Memorial Service (Katikati RSA, corner SH2 and Henry Road)

* 5:45am: Assemble at Memorial Square

* 6am: Service

* 10am: Assemble at Uretara Domain

* 11am: Service

Memorial Service - Mount Maunganui Cenotaph

* 9:15am: Assemble at Mount Drury Reserve

* 9:30am: Service

Memorial Service - Tauranga Memorial Park

* 8:30am: Assemble at Memorial Park

* 9am: Service

* Free park and ride services available from Tauranga Boys' College on Devonport Rd to the Queen Elizabeth Youth Centre between 8am and 8:40am, and again after the service finishes.

* Please note: No service at Tauranga Domain.

Memorial Service - Te Puke Memorial Hall

* 10am: Assemble opposite Kiwibank beforehand.

Pyes Pa Remembrance Service - Pyes Pa Cemetery

* 10:30am: Public invited

* More online: www.tauranga.govt.nz/anzacday