A young officer who survived the D-Day landings used his experience to help others.

Lionel ‘Len’ Murray fought for four days after the landings on June 6, 1944, without sleep and with very little food, before coming up against a German panzer division.

The future Baron of Epping Forest woke up in hospital in London with a diagnosis of 'battle exhaustion' - and later suffered from survivor's guilt.

Here his son, David Murray, who is chief executive officer of the RAF Benevolent Fund, tells his father's - and his own - story.

Epping Forest Guardian:

Lionel ‘Len’ Murray, Baron Murray of Epping Forest, was part of the Shropshire regiment that landed and fought in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944

"My father, Lord Len Murray, the former General Secretary of the TUC, was one of 160,000 young men who landed on the beaches of France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Landing on Sword Beach during Operation Overlord on D-Day was the first time that my father, the then infantryman Lieutenant Lionel Murray, had directly engaged with the enemy.

Leaving his landing craft, he made it to the back of the beach with bullets whizzing past his head, but lost many of his platoon.

Many drowned in the sea or were mown down on the beach. On reaching cover, he took command of another platoon whose commander had been killed in action, and they charged on.

In the days that followed he and his men did not sleep and rarely ate.

Exhausted physically and mentally, they eventually found themselves as the most forward platoon of the entire British Army.

They came up against the German 21st Panzer Division, one of the best equipped and best trained Nazi divisions.

After fighting continuously for four days, without any sleep and with very little food, he suffered a complete physical and mental breakdown.

He woke up with a diagnosis of “battle exhaustion” in Guy’s Hospital, London.

The experience scarred him for life and his breakdown led to electric shock therapy and months in hospital.

Long term he also suffered badly with 'survivor’s guilt', not least because he realised that as an officer he had been afforded the luxury of treatment, something that many of his troops, facing the same demons, were not given.

Despite the consequences of his service; he had survived D-Day and had received medical treatment for his ‘combat exhaustion’ as PTSD was known then.

Consequently, he became a driven man, determined that the extra time that he felt that he had been afforded should not be wasted.

He used his experience and his time to give a lifetime of service to others in his work through the trade union movement.

Epping Forest Guardian:

Lord Murray: The former trade unionist and Labour Party member lived at 29, The Crescent in Loughton from 1967 until his death in 2004

Like many others of his generation, he never spoke to his family of his war-time experiences when we were growing up.

I mistakenly thought his reluctance to go into the sea on family holidays was because he could not swim.

I had no idea of the hell he had endured or of the memories that the sea evoked for him.

But to a certain extent, times change, most of the servicemen and women of today’s Armed Forces now have much better access to the support and treatment that they deserve.

As Chief Executive Officer of the RAF Benevolent Fund I am proud to say our work today supports the mental health and wellbeing of all RAF service personnel.

Sadly, for my father’s generation this was not always the case. For the rest of his life he considered himself to be one of the lucky ones.

Work also continues to turn the tide of the stigma attached to mental illness.

When I was serving in Bosnia in 1995, I remember well an RAF comrade suffering a severe mental breakdown as we grappled with the horrors of the euphemistically-named 'ethnic cleansing'.

However, their real condition was not spoken about and never disclosed to those who were not there.

It was still early days in treating mental injury in exactly the same way as physical injury or even acknowledging it.

Since those days, times have continued to change for the better and the RAF Benevolent Fund has developed a leading role.

They ensure that our serving and retired personnel have the tools and the treatment that they need to be resilient in a modern era.

Our aim is to provide support at an early stage and help to resolve issues before they escalate.

The fund’s have launched a mindfulness app, Headspace, which has proven to be one of the most successful welfare initiatives yet, with 2,400 serving personnel signing up to the service.

We are determined that those of our service community whose wounds are ‘hidden’ are treated the same as those whose wounds are more physically obvious.

Headspace is available to download on all smartphones. To make a donation or find out more about the RAF Benevolent Fund, visit https://www.rafbf.org