How went the first hours of D-Day? In these personal stories glimpses are give of some of the actions and incidents that made June 6, 1944, memorable as the actual commencement of the greatest combined operation known to mankind – the mighty assault on Hitler's fabled fortress in the West to free the enslaved peoples of Europe.
We landed soon after seven a.m. on June 6, from an assault craft. As our line of craft approached the shore the Navy's guns were blazing and smashing shells into fortifications guarding the strip of the beach we had to take. Just ahead of us, tank landing-craft were already inshore and tanks were racing up the shingle. German 88-millimetre guns got on to them and there were several direct hits which knocked out the tanks. Others came on.
We had no time to see how they got on, as our craft were by this time bumping on to the beach. Three hundred yards ahead of us was a concrete wall about 20 feet high. It was really a road embankment with a road running along the top. It was embrasured and the Jerries were lining the top and potting away at us, sweeping with their machine-guns and hurling down hand-grenades as we swept forward.
Several of our lads fell, but we dashed forward and got under the base of the wall where the Jerries couldn't get at us. More of our landing-craft were coming inshore. I took a glimpse backward and saw one go up in flames. It had hit one of their underwater obstructions. I had seen these poking up out of the water as we came in, but we missed them. They were long ramps sticking up from the sea-bottom like inclined planes, and intended to rip the bottoms out of our craft. In addition they had bottles of explosive attached to the protruding end, which went up on contact. It was one of these that apparently upset the craft I saw go up.
Jerry was fighting hard to stop us landing but soon the beach was swarming with our chaps. My party worked along the base of the wall and then charged over the open beach. There was sloping ground away on our left which led up to the top of a road where the wall petered out. We fought our way up this slope and got into the wooded ground above. This was full of Jerries. The wood was criss-crossed with low stone walls, just like Sicily. There were snipers behind these walls and they let us have it. The chaps next to me fell, shot through the neck. He was dead. Among the woods there were also trenches which the enemy was defending strongly. We drove them out with Tommy-guns and rifle fire as we advanced, but the men behind the walls were causing us a lot of trouble and casualties. The first of our chaps had got through the wood and were working round the Jerries manning the top of the wall when a grenade lobbed over and exploded at my feet. I got this smack in the head and was out of the battle. Jerries were by this time popping off with their mortars.
The beach and wood became very hot places, and there was a certain amount of barbed wire among the trees, but us was low and we had got through it without much difficulty. When Jerry went back a but still fighting pretty hard, I made my way back to the beach and, with other wounded, was loaded on a ship – and here I am. It was a lively party, but we shifted Jerry from his strong points and everything was going well when I left.