6th June 1944
Beach , France
Queens Own Rifles
D-Day Normany 6th June 1944
After leaving our camp enclosure we boarded our ship, an armed merchant
cruiser converted to a landing ship infantry. We were told the invasion
date was June 5 but, owing to the atrocious weather conditions,
it was delayed for 24 hours. Even then the weather didn't improve
much at all, so it was to be "June 6" at early light.
We knew that it was France, as we had been paid out in francs (invasionmoney).
We could only take ten shillings English currency with us, anyother
having had to be changed into francs.
Of our beach signal section, combined operations,
only myself and a sergeant were accompanying the assault troops
of The Queen's Own Rifles. Another seven members of our section
were to follow later. This was to be repeated on the other two sectors,
plus the CO (28 in total). The sergeant and myself shared a cabin
with two QOR sergeants.
Reveille was about 3:30 am on June 6 and before
breakfast we all lined up for our rum ration, after which it was
absolution, followed by a short service conducted by the Canadian
padre. We then boarded our L.C.A.'s landingcraft assault. Boarding
the L.C.A.'s in that kind of stormy weather and the heavy swell
was a very risky situation. It was a case of climbing down the scrambling
net and judging when to drop into the landing craft. You can imagine
the ship rolling one way and the L.C.A. the other. If it was nottimed
accurately, it was possible to drop between the ship and the L.C.A.and
be crushed to death. In any case you wouldn't survive in that heavy
sea, not being able to ditch your equipment (50 Ibs plus a 46 wireless
Together, with troops of the QOR, we were seated
along the sides of the L.C.A. under a steel overhang about 30"
in width. We pulled away from the "mothership" and nearing
the coast we heard the guns from the warships pounding away at the
coast and the rocket ships lighting the sky where previously the
air force had had been softening up the shore defences.
By this time things were really "hotting"
up with the shells and bullets splattering all around up. We were
now nearing the shore, approaching the crystal defencer, concrete
pyramids and angle iron set in concrete with mines fixed to them
plus barbed wire, and pointed metalstaves capable of ripping out
the bottom of landing craft. Fortunately our craft managed to squeeze
between these obstacles more by luck than judgment. Others weren't
so fortunate and there were many casualties. The rough sea did not
help at all.
Then came the shout "Downdoors!"
The ramps went down and we raced down the ramp quite orderly only
to find ourselves up to the waist in water. On reaching "dry"
land we raced to reach the sea wall (quite high). Actually not being
a good sailor and a bit queasy, I was relieved to get my feet on
the ground in spite of the horrific circumstances. All hell was
le tloose, with heavy machine gun fire from beyond the seawall,
which we climbed and crossed over, and the coastal railway line
with more barbedwire obstacles, plus mines. I count myself very
lucky to have survived firstly the assault and then the rest of
the war. In Normandy there are many cemeteries containing the graves
of thousands of allied service men.
In memory of
a man from '43
He came from a land across the sea
"Hi there, Limey!" he yelled with a grin
"Hallo!" I replied, "how've you bin"
"Go inside and stow your gear
Bring your pals, we'll go for a beer"
From this moment a friendship grew
We ate, we trained, and socialised too
Then one day the orders came
Realising now this wasn't a game
We boarded ship, then on our way
During the night we gathered to pray
Landing craft lowered seven miles from land
We scrambled down nets, hand over hand
Into the boats, a fearsome task.
Look after us Lord, that's all I ask
Sea was stormy, we had a rough ride.
Looked at my buddy who sat by my side
"Take care Limey, you'll do fine,
Good luck Canuck, old friend of mine"
Ramp went down, we plunged into the swell
The beach before us a living hell
Our feet on the ground, we dashed to the wall
From the comer of my eye I saw him fall
Again and again I still ask why!
My friend from Toronto, why did he die?
This poem is
dedicated to Freddy Harris, a sergeant in the Queen's Own Rifles
of Canada. Killed in action on D-Day 1944. "My Buddy"