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#326352 - 6th Jun 2009 7:25pm June 6th - a day to remember
Snodvan Offline

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Registered: 19th Mar 2008
Posts: 1256
Loc: Wallasey Village
Being June 6th, and as a tribute to all concerned I would like to post the D-day landing extract from my dad's wartime memoirs

Dad is now 91

We arrived off shore at about twelve noon, about half an hour late, and the flotilla formed roughly line abreast and we moved in against heavy shell fire. There were many near misses, fortunately no hits, but it was wise to pull out. The flotilla reformed and moved in again. One LCT received a direct hit but my vehicle on board was not damaged. At about this time the skipper handed me a glass containing a large scotch saying, “you’ll need this”. I poured most of it over the side but the tot left helped a lot. I had intended to walk ashore when the ramp came down to make certain there were no hidden obstacles but the number one volunteered and insisted on performing this task telling me that he could come back on board and get dry.

We hit the beach and all my vehicles made excellent landings in three to four feet of water. This is a bit misleading as there was quite a swell and some of the smaller vehicles such as jeeps were swept away, adding to the chaos at the water’s edge. The skipper of our craft did a great job for us. I was glad I had arranged for cards on the drivers windscreens telling them what to do, signs to follow, etc as there was no chance to form up on the beaches which, although the battle had passed them by, were fairly chaotic. There were damaged and waterlogged vehicles, wounded being attended to and shells exploding. There were dead floating face down in the water and knocked out vehicles on the beach, but I had no time to take in what was really happening on the beach. The Military Police, who were as steady as rocks, did a great job with the signs and wanted us off the beach as soon as possible.

As we approached the beach exit I saw one of my vehicles ahead of me and signalled the driver to lead the way out through the signed exit. As we came into the exit a shell hit the offside front of the leading vehicle. We stopped and I jumped down. I found the Cpl, who was in the passenger’s seat, badly shaken but otherwise O.K. The driver of the lead vehicle was obviously in a bad way. He had been thrown out of the vehicle, was unconscious and his right leg was badly damaged. We tried to make him comfortable and I left the Cpl to straighten his leg while he was unconscious and use a rifle as a rough splint. I was very saddened to learn later that they were unable to save his leg.

I turned to the other men and started doing the obvious, putting a field dressing on a wound. The man shouted at me, saying the others were in need of more urgent attention than him. He was quite right, I did not panic but I felt completely inadequate. I just did not know what to do with so many wounded. I never felt so useless in my life.

I pulled myself together and realised that I had a much more important duty to perform. The Cpl fortunately had a motorcycle in the back of the vehicle. I sent him walking back to the beach to find medics and bring them back to the wounded. He could then catch me up on the motorcycle. The damaged vehicle had almost blocked the cleared exit and we had no alternative but to drive round it and take our chance with mines.

We passed through the exit and turned into the first parallel (the road running parallel to the beach). I had a man in the back of the vehicle with a Bren Light Machine Gun which he used to make snipers keep their heads down. While the drivers were de-waterproofing we came under some sustained shellfire. I dived for a trench (dug by Fritz or by us I did not enquire). As I went in someone was just a bit quicker and I landed on him. When we sorted ourselves out I found that the chap who broke my fall was a Sgt. Vlissidis who was at school with me. We had not time to chat. I proceeded along the first parallel and was pleased to get my remaining vehicles together.

My report centre was in a courtyard surrounded by a thick wall similar to those round castles in this country. I had the vehicles parked spaced out and started to walk round the wall to the gate, a big studded thing, when I heard mortars pass overhead. I ducked down behind the wall and heard them explode in the courtyard. The mortaring went on for some time and, as soon as it stopped, I went through the gate to report to 9 Brigade H.Q. and found that the mortars had badly wounded the Brigadier and a number of others of his staff.

It took a little time to reorganize and then the Brigade H.Q. moved forward. We followed and, on passing through a village, we came under fire from snipers again. We had two Brens and engaged them from the backs of vehicles. I also alerted some infantrymen, with what I think was a six-pounder gun, and they, with two or three rounds, blew the top off a church spire and the sniping from that direction stopped.

We followed 9 Brigade H.Q. and opened an assault ammunition point in Colville-sur-Orne at 23.00 hours. We were in the courtyard of what appeared to be a large farm. It was pitch dark. A little bit of humour crept into the situation. We had a sniper. Now the object of a sniper is to shoot with deadly accuracy and then disappear. This chap was so anxious to get out of the way that his marksmanship was well off target. To make the situation even more ridiculous, I spotted him for a fraction of a second pointed my revolver and pressed the trigger - it just went click, the firing pin had dropped off, obviously over–enthusiastic cleaning by my batman. It was the first time I had fired the thing in anger. Shots into the building soon flushed him out. He looked a rather pathetic figure and we were just brewing up. Feeling sorry for him I let the men give him a cup of tea. I sent him down to the prison of war cage and a large “rocket” came back with the men who took him. They told me that the M.P. officer’s language could not be repeated when he heard how we had “molly coddled the bugger”. He preferred to receive his prisoners scared stiff and ready to talk.

The drawings from the ammunition point were light during the night. I think more through tiredness and lack of appreciation of the situation than the lack of need for replenishment. It was at that time much safer to replenish during the night than during the day when unnecessary movement in the forward areas would bring mortars or shells. During the day the brigade’s infantry battalions were obviously heavily engaged but we managed to get a bit of rest.

At the end of the day, as it became dark, we were informed the R.U.R.’s (Royal Ulster Rifles) and the K.O.S.B.’s (Kings Own Scottish Borderers) had been heavily engaged, were running short of ammunition and were afraid of being cut off. It was dark and we did not know what we might meet so we were given troops that, if the need arose, would help us get through with the ammunition. In the absence of regular infantrymen, the troops were drawn from clerks, signals staff, etc. They sat on the ammunition in the backs of the trucks and I have never seen an unhappier set of men.

We moved off making as little noise as possible into no-man’s land. Not the no-man’s land of the first world war but land that had been fought over during the day with the probability that both sides had drawn back to “lick their wounds”. There can be no doubt that the enemy knew something was happening but it was pitch dark and they no doubt decided that the wisest thing was to keep quiet.

I did mention earlier that it took four folded maps to cover the area but what I did not say was that they were not always completely accurate. They were made up, I believe, at least partially from air photographs. The map I had showed the road going right through a village and continuing the other side. In actual fact one road went into the village but two roughly equal roads went out from the other side. As we came in sight of the village I stopped the vehicles and waited and listened. There was a deathly silence. I then crept forward with a rifle, though I do not know what good that would have been if I had run into trouble.

As I came to the far edge of the village the silence was broken by the sound of an engine coming closer towards my side of the village. As it came nearer I recognized the sound as that of a motorcycle, which was rather less worrying. I was ready to deal with the rider but quickly recognized him as British. He was a R.U.R. Officer. He told me that they had a lot of wounded and that he was going back in search of ambulances and medics.

We went back to my vehicles and it was quickly decided that my Sgt, whose motorcycle was in the back of one of the vehicles and who was more at home in the rear areas, should go back and bring ambulances to rendezvous with the officer at the village. The officer would then lead us back the way he had come to get the urgent supplies of ammunition to the unit.

When we got to the battalion’s area I could well see that they had been through a rough time. I went into what seemed like a sunken road due to the high hedges on either side. There were dead and wounded lying on either side of the road and smashed bicycles and equipment lying all around. I think I might mention here that we were in Bocage country, where the fields are mostly surrounded by very high hedgerows, which made it much easier to defend and for the enemy to infiltrate. We offloaded the ammunition they wanted, which was a large proportion of what we carried, and headed back to H.Q. It was getting a little lighter and we came under some fire but we went as fast as we could and got back safely. The Sgt later informed me that he had been successful in getting ambulances to the rendezvous point.

We should all remember, especially today

5 Precepts of Buddhism seem appropriate. Refrain from taking life. Refrain from taking that which is not given. Refrain from misconduct. Refrain from lying. Refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness

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#326359 - 6th Jun 2009 7:50pm Re: June 6th - a day to remember [Re: Snodvan]
bert1 Offline

Wiki Veteran

Registered: 27th Nov 2008
Posts: 7852
Loc: tranmere
I enjoyed reading your dads full memoirs, thank him.
God help us,
Come yourself,
Don't send Jesus,
This is no place for children.


#326408 - 6th Jun 2009 11:34pm Re: June 6th - a day to remember [Re: bert1]

Wiki Master

Registered: 29th Aug 2008
Posts: 19082
Loc: Bob Land
I felt emotiönal reading this. Thanks to you and your dad
Mia Mabel


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