AS the country commemorates the anniversary of the D-Day landings, we look back at the life of Ernest Mather, a Cheshire Police Officer and army Commando, who helped storm Normandy beach 80 years ago today.

On the morning of June 6, 1944, the Allied forces launched what became the largest military operation in history, when nearly 133,000 soldiers stormed Normandy Beach on the French coast.

The combined land, sea and air assault on the Nazi-occupied beach saw young men from the likes of the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia drafted in as part of the operation to begin the liberation of Europe at the peak of the Second World War.

One of the thousands of soldiers involved in the perilous mission was Ernest 'Ernie' Mather, a 28-year-old Cheshire Police Officer, who had enlisted as a Commando just two years prior.

Joining the Constabulary in May 1938, Police Constable 92 Ernie was posted in Altrincham, which had yet to become a part of Greater Manchester; he was unable to enlist in the army following the outbreak of the war due to the role of the police officer being considered a reserved occupation.

However, these restrictions would be relaxed in 1942 and Ernie, alongside six other officers from Cheshire, enlisted.

Joining the Commando Unit, a unit keen on recruiting young police officers due to their high level of physical fitness and regimented attitude, Ernie was placed under the Black Watch Regiment and travelled to Anchnacarry, Scotland, to begin basic training.

Graduating from basic training in September 1942, Ernie earned the coveted green beret and joined the Number Four Commandos, who would have a key role to play when the invasion was launched less than two years later.

Initially planned to take place on 5 June, poor weather conditions across the English Channel delayed the operation. Ernie and 'A' Troop, the designated heavy weapons troop, were already on the way to France.

It would be their job to bring weapons including machine guns, mortars and anti-tank artillery ashore, along with all their associated ammunition and spares.

Ernie would have also had to carry a rucksack containing his equipment, personal items and extra ammunition, all whilst facing enemy fire.

As Ernie's A Troop approached the Normandy Coast on the dawn of 6 June, the go-ahead for the invasion was given and the group transferred into the landing craft that would take them onto the beach.

After navigating the choppy sea conditions and avoiding heavy fire from enemy positions on the shoreline, it would be the task of Ernie and A Troop to take a German strongpoint known as the 'Casino' in the port of Ouistreham - just 2km away from where they landed - to provide support to the French Commandos unit positioned there.

Successfully manning the beach, the troops pushed toward Casino in Ouistreham, where a fierce battle ensured. Yet, despite a high number of fatalities being reported and it taking several hours for the Casino to be captured, Ernie made it through unscathed.

The Commandos continued to move inland to provide support to the Parachute Troops holding the eastern flank of the main invasion force, setting up camp in nearby woodland. On June 8, firmly camped and two days into invasion itself, the German Infantry was observed advancing towards their position and Ernie would soon be surrounded on three sides by the enemy.

Forced to make a hasty withdrawal along a ditch, Ernie only had time to take his weapons - leaving behind his rucksack containing his personal items. Like many veterans, Ernie rarely spoke about his wartime experiences, but in later life recalled the story of this hasty forest evacuation from the surrounding enemy forces to his sons.

He told them that in his rucksack, abandoned in the woods, there had been a cigarette case which contained a treasured photograph of his father. He had presumed he would not see this again.

However, several days later, one of Ernie's fellow soldiers returned the case with the picture inside, after he had found it amongst the possessions of a German soldier.

Ernie and the Number Four Commandos remained in Normandy for nearly two months, before withdrawing back to England in August for some well-earned leave. The team would later be redeployed for the invasion of Walcheren, Netherlands, in early November 1944, where they continued to move through Europe, dismantling the Nazi's stranglehold on the continent.

By the war's end, Ernie had left the Commandos and joined the Army of Occupation, who were tasked with protecting reoccupied territory, before returning home to Cheshire holding the rank of Sergeant and re-enlisting with the Constabulary.

Following his return to the force in October 1945, he was promoted to Police Sergeant at Timperley in June 1953, before a move to Crewe Division as a Divisional Clerk in September 1956 - where he remained until July 1965.

Ernie was also involved in moulding the next generation of young people and police officers, being posted at the Constabulary's Training School as an instructor in cadet training, as well as being involved in training and as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.

30 years after joining the Constabulary, in 1968, Ernie officially retired from policing duties and would spend his retirement years regularly visiting Scotland, particularly the area where he trained to earn his green beret.

Ernest Mather passed away in 1985, aged 68.