CLEETHORPES, England — Some brothers you’re born with; others you choose.

War took one from Eric Gower, but it gave him dozens of others, bonded by a singular experience 70 years ago.

They took part in the largest amphibious assault in history, against an enemy that held Europe in its grip. On June 6, 1944, wave after wave of Allied soldiers and equipment landed in Normandy, France, launching a massive operation that lasted more than two months and precipitated the defeat of Nazi Germany.

When the war was over, many of the fighters returned to “civvy street” here in Britain, to wives and kids and work, and a country eager to put the war behind it. Memories of the “Longest Day” receded, at least for those not involved.

“It was never brought up in conversation,” recalled Gower, 90. “If you said to somebody, ‘I did this in the war,’ they said, ‘I did this, and the sooner I forget about it, the better.'”

But some old soldiers, yearning for the comradeship they shared in the military campaign, decided to band together again. Thirty-six years after the end of World War II, four men gathered in this wind-swept corner of northern England to revive the spirit of D-Day – and to keep alive the memory of those who didn’t make it back.

That seed grew into t, which at its height had more than 100 branches across Britain and 15,000 members.

But with only a few hundred members still alive, the association has decided to dissolve. This fall, the group will hang up its banner for good, in a ceremony next to Westminster Abbey.

“It’s rather upsetting. … We’ve been together all these years, since 1981,” said Walter Marshall, 89. “When they lay the national standard up in London, in Westminster, that will be it. It’ll all be finished.”