The apprentices met with Eric on the eve of his sailing into Portsmouth to attend the UK’s national commemorative event marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Krzysztov Bes and Charlie Cross, BAE Systems craft apprentices based at Portsmouth Naval Base, took a week to make the beautiful miniature cannon.
On meeting Eric, Charlie said: "It was a pleasure to be involved in a project like this. Eric is an inspiration for all our generation. We owe him, and all those that served in the wars so much”.
Eric is appearing in a series of promotional material, as part of the company’s headline sponsorship of Portsmouth’s D-Day 75 programme of events.
On receiving his gifts, Eric told Charlie and Krzysztof: "I feel a little emotional actually. The handcrafted decking reminds me of the deck I used to run on when I was a rating.”
Portsmouth is where Eric set sail from on D-Day and he commented: "It’s my home port, it's where I started as a rating. Tomorrow is going to be quite a day. It will be an honour to take part in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen and many dignitaries. It's something for them to come for us. We will be thankful."
Eric is on board the MV Boudicca cruise ship chartered by the Royal British Legion to ferry the veterans to Portsmouth and then onwards to Normandy as the centre part of the 75th anniversary events.
Cal Leonard, Human Resources Director for BAE Systems’ Maritime Services business commented:
“It has been such a humbling experience meeting Eric and a real honour. What he and other veterans have done for our country is quite amazing.
“It’s wonderful to see him talking to our apprentices too, especially as he was an apprentice before he joined the Royal Navy. It reminds us how privileged we are to support the armed forces in the way we do at BAE Systems.”
Supporting and partnering with the UK armed forces is something that runs deep in BAE Systems’ company history.
Many of the companies so vital to the design and manufacture of the air, land and sea craft at the time of the D-Day landings 75 years ago, became part of the company that is today known as BAE Systems. Thornycroft, one of BAE Systems’ predecessor companies, designed and built D-Day’s iconic landing craft in Southampton and another, Airspeed, built the Horsa gliders in Portsmouth which dropped troops behind enemy lines to support the Normandy landings.
Glynn Phillips, BAE Systems' Acting Group Managing Director, Maritime and Land UK said:
“We are delighted to sponsor the events in Portsmouth marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Our long history of supporting the UK’s armed forces stretches back to the Second World War and beyond.
“This history, and what we continue to do today, is a source of great pride to everyone who works at BAE Systems.
“The eyes of the world will be on Portsmouth for the D-Day 75 commemorations and it's a real privilege to share in the recognition of the brave men and women who gave so much to protect our country and help liberate Europe.”
Portsmouth is set to play a central role in UK’s momentous D-Day anniversary this week as it plays host city to the UK’s National Commemorative Event on Southsea Common.
BAE Systems’ sponsorship will help the city stage a series of further events through the week, including two concerts and a 1940s revival festival.