/ My D Day story
My Granda, Michael Duffy, served in France during the 2nd World War. I think he was about 20 years old. He was a motorcycle courier, carrying messages, often under fire. Pretty cool. :)
Like most veterans he didn't speak about his experiences. In the 80's I was a typical loudmouth teenager, railing against them! I remember a day when I was blethering away about war and my Granda shut me up by opening up about his experiences. One story stood out. On an off day from the bike he was hunkered down guarding a road, another Brit on the other side. A German soldier comes wandering down the road, dishevelled, lost, probably from battle. My Granda and the other soldier realise they have to capture the German. My Granda starts getting emotional as he tells me this. The German gets down on his knees begging for mercy, crying for his mum etc. sure he's about to die. My Granda and his mate get him on his feet, take him to their base and give him a smoke. Granda's words "He was just like you and me son"
Paratroopers Training for d day at Lechlade, where my dads dad was police Sergeant, got to Know everyone in the village... my dad was 9 at the Time and had a Great Dane who all the soldiers made a fuss of...
when the paratroopers had all gone for d day, my dads dog was missing...
Few Weeks Later he got a card or Telegram, cant Remember Which, From the paratroopers in Belgium or France saying "sorry but we took your dog as a Mascot. Dont worry he Landed safely, and is safe and well"
My grandfather started in North Africa, with the great, well-recorded swings of fortune.
He did two landing craft beach attacks in WWII, Sicily & Salerno, which was a bloodbath. Friends being blown to bits, shells landing everywhere. This is generally not remembered as it was not a great success and really the landing was in the wrong place (too far south). He survived not through skill or judgement. He was not a better soldier than those killed around him, he was just luckier - and for that he was very thankful.
Surviving one is good going, two? Lucky man.
My mother joined the ATS in her teens and trained as an identification, range and hight finder on anti-aircraft guns.
She went to europe, just six weeks after D-day.
She was strafed by german aircraft on at least one occasion. ("Why weren't you in the air raid shelter mum?"; "Because we were running to man the guns - that was our job" - Doh!!) Some of the crew were killed including a boyfriend and some other women!
Another time her crew shot down a german aircraft and she watched the pilot parachute to safety some miles away. She heard later that the pilot asked his capturers if he could congratulate the crew who shot him down. This was granted and he arrived at the gun site. Upon seeing it was manned entirely by women, he refused to get out and insisted on being driven away.!!
She even managed to hitch a lift to the front line, when she heard that her brother was in the front line some miles away. Upon meeting her older brother, my uncle, he immediately told her to clear off or he'd tell their mum upon return home!!!
Like many allied servicemen and women she was taken to a number of liberated concentration camps and saw the ex prison guards reburying the dead prisoners.
There is an elderly woman in our village who waded ashore from the Invicta, a converted ferry, on the French beaches at Arromanches, just two days after D-day. She was in the QANS - a nurse!
To see her walk along our road to church you be able to knock her over with a feather now - but not then when she was younger!
Its a bit of a shame that the women who fought - and were killed don't get a better mention.
Thanks for that, I'll remeber the tales on this thread.
My grandfather (William Last) spent some time in Burma and in Iraq. I don't know much about what he did there, except that he saw Gone With the Wind in Bhagdad (I have the ticket). He fought in the battle of Madagascar against the Vichy French, where he caught malaria. He was shot (he reckoned by an American! I'm not so sure) in Sicily and put out of the war. My gran being a smart young nurse advised him not to let anyone amputate as she was clued up as to the latest surgical techniques and thought they could probably save it and that he'd retain some use. She met him in Liverpool and they got the train back together to London, clearing the train carriage as they went since his arm smelled so bad with gangrene. He kept his arm and although it was of limited use and looked a right mess, he became ambidextrous and eventually became a draughtsman. He never entirely escaped warfare, working as he did on Polaris. He used to make model Messerschmitts and the like seemingly from memory; in my innocence I assumed that as a kid he must have loved Airfix too like I did. He was a grumpy old bugger, but like my other naval grandfather (Jack Martin, of who's naval exploits I know nothing ) I loved him and will always be very proud.
Great story and you're right enough about women's roles in the war
My grandfather was a logistics officer in the RAF. He went over a few days after D-Day but in a support role rather than a fighting one. He wrote a couple of cheap thrillers under a pseudonym when he was based in Germany at the end of the war, one of which, The Woman in Puce, is set immediately before D-Day and is about an attempt to sabotage the invasion. I never met my grandfather, but his two novels - which tbh are pretty trashy - have given me the chance to hear his voice.
IIRC, the Vichy French in Madagascar surrendered after a year and a day. Active service of one year ensured they got much better pensions.
I can think of some adjectives.
One grandad was a gunner, don't know when he landed but he was killed six weeks after D-Day, circumstances unknown (maybe I'll look up the unit's war diaries in Kew?) and is in the cemetery at Bayeux. My dad unborn so never knew him, says that "I vow to thee my country" chokes him up whenever he hears it. Grandma re-married to his best friend who he ran a scout troop with, who could not enlist due to a medical condition. Looking at old photo albums the other day I found photos of him and his Scout Troop in Betws-Y-Coed at a place I recognised from a trip a year or so ago. Spooky.
Other grandad on my mum's side was a mechanic in the Royal Tank Regiment - captured in Crete, escaped from captivity and spent a year or so in the hills in Greece before escaping and making his was back to friendly territory. Rejoined his unit and went to North Africa and then the Italian campaign, was at Monte Cassino and also went back to Greece in 46 when the civil war there was hotting up, IIRC British troops played a part in some of that and I guess as he spoke fluent Greek from his time on the run he got dicked for it. Ended up a Staff Sergeant and learned enough to set up his own business and become a very successful man, said the war was the making of him.
Blimey, what tumultuous times.
My grandfather flew with bomber command as a navigator. He crash landed in kent on returning from a raid early in the war. He and his pilot Jim were the only 2 on his crew to survive the crash. One sunny summers morning shortly before they were declared fit to return to service they were relaxing on the lawn of the convalescent home in Hove, when a passing column of troops started heckling them as dodgers, a pretty young nurse at the home walked out into the road and stopped the trucks and yelled at the soldiers explaining they had been injured. My grandpa married that nurse 1 month later the day before he started flying again. She counted them out and back in again everyday.
He and Jim flew active service until 1943, when they started training the new recruits.
A few years before he died, he dug out an old picture he had of his squadron when they formed at the start of the war. Only He and Jim were still alive at the end of the war. They remained good friends until Jim died about 10 years ago, but never talked about it.
My dad looted Lord haw how's office in Hamburg radio station, we have some scripts and german notes of British pows for propaganda broadcasts back to uk.
He mentioned landing d+6 and a few incidents but not that they'd been up against ss panzer divisions maybe three times (jaw dropped when I found that). He said as a signaller he wasn't in the front line during an advance. Was more forward in observation posts when the line was static.
The pre d day training looks tough, 3 day route marches, night week (night exercises and sleep during day) , 25 mile day marches all in the battalion war diary.
Managed to identify the battalion knowing the regiment and that they landed on 12th June.
One Grandad was a bomb aimer the RAF, flying Hanley Page Halifaxes. He joined up in 1941, did his training in America in 1942 and then got shot down in 1943. He flew with 102 squadron from RAF Pocklington in Yorkshire. He got shot down on his second op and bailed out. Of his crew, three of the guys died on the way down. I've got a great picture of him taken when he was a PoW, shortly after he'd been shot down. He looks seriously pissed off. Angry and this very stern look on his face. He then spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft IV (4) B.
Interestingly the incident that's shown in the film The Great Escape, where the JU 88 buzzes the camp and kills two PoWs didn't actually happen at Stalag Luft III, it happened at IV, where Grandad was.
The other grandad (sadly now no longer with us) was a tankie first in North Africa (came in at the tail end of El Alamein) and then went up Italy. He died a while back and I never really asked him much about what he did in the war and he certainly didn't talk about it at all. I'd give a lot to have a night in the pub with him talking about it. But there we go.
He looks seriously pissed off. Angry and this very stern look on his face.
One of the old boys on the radio the other day was talking about how when he got onto the beach he felt it was time for payback for the Blitz etc.
Interesting knowledge there.
I'd give a lot to have a night in the pub with him talking about it.
Not a "D-Day story" per se ... BUT
Wouldn't wanna be ya.....
My Grandad was a excellent young pilot, which would normally have meant he ended up flying a spitfire (and most likely being killed), but by some twist of fate he got chosen to be an instructor and sent to Washington DC to teach in the US airforce, who were somewhat behind in the war effort. On returning to the UK he flew glider tugs at the Rhine crossing and dropped operatives and kit to resistence fighters in Norway, and was nearly shot down flying through the Fjords with anti aircraft guns being shot across them. His tail gunner was shot off the back of the plane, something he struggled to live with seeing it as his responsibility as the pilot to bring them all home, and eventually threw all his medals in the bin when moving house. For his 75th birthday my dad manage to track down a little 2 seater plane the same as he taught on in the US and paid for him to have a flight in it, on hearing his history the owner handed the controls over to my Grandad and let him fly the whole trip (except take-off and landing), the first time he had been behind the controls since flying his last plane to North Africa where it was scrapped at the end of the war.
My other Grandad was medically unfit for military service as a result of a motorcycle crash in the 1930s that left him in a coma for 10 days!! He work as a bus mechanic by day, then went up onto the roof tops to man the air raid sirens at night, and then when the bombers had been, he went out as a fireman.
I don't remember either of my grandads. One died before I was born.
I have a photo of the other one though: http://www.deepsoup.f2s.com/UKC/Bill.jpg
He was caught by the blast from a grenade I believe, came home missing his right eye and spent a fair bit of time at Stoke Mandeville having (fairly pioneering I'd imagine) plastic surgery. He ended up with skin grafts covering the eye-socket completely.
Sadly I have no idea where he went or what he did though. His health was never quite 100% again and he died while I was a toddler. He didn't talk to my mum about it, and if he ever told my gran the details she didn't want to talk about it either. My mum had never even seen that photo before my gran died, she found a cache of letters and photos while clearing out the house.
My Granddad was on anti-aircraft guns, never fired a shot in anger.
He was also the first to liberate Belsen, with the Canadians. I can't imagine what that was like, they had to keep the prisoners prisoned up so they didn't spread typhoid and cholera for a few weeks. Their regiment were issued with a sort of news letter afterwards which described the liberation and clean up of the camp, which I have - it's not a very jolly read.
He preferred the Germans to the French - "You knew where you were with the Germans"
But his second wife was French after his first died of TB!
Funny when you realise that isn't it :)
I remember reading "All quiet on the western front" at a really early age and not really understanding it - I thought it was about British troops in the first world war, but it quickly dawned on me that it was about German troops.
Bent my head a little bit - up until then, the only way I'd ever seen 'Germans' portrayed were as evil, nun-raping, baby eating nazi stormtroopers.
This portrayed them as ordinary men...boys actually, torn away from their homes and shitting themselves on the frontline. I can actually remember the feeling of having to put the book down for a little bit and think really hard about having to change my mindset about what I'd accepted about other people, and actually 'feeling' that mindset and opinion changing.
Just ordinary people.
Probably not explaining that terribly well. Different war as well, obviously.
Same as my dad, luckily for him (and me, as the rest of the group he trained with went to pilot bombers - not a good survival rate). He finished as top cadet in his training group in Arizona in 1942 (joint RAF/USAF base), which included Brian Trubshawe, later test pilot of Concorde. Then became an instructor.
His older brother was captured at Tobruk and spend the rest of the war (5 years!) in POW camps in Italy and later Czechoslovakia, where they were forced to work in the mines and were bombed by the Allies. One day all their German guards had vanished, he and another guy started walking west until they were picked up by some US soldiers in a jeep.
My dad's dad survived WW1 as an infantry soldier, so I am lucky to be here...
My mum had never even seen that photo before my gran died
Very sad, not lost on me.
> My grandfather started in North Africa, with the great, well-recorded swings of fortune.
> He did two landing craft beach attacks in WWII, Sicily & Salerno, which was a bloodbath.
Sounds like your grandfather and my paternal grandfather might not have been too far away from each other. He served in Iraq, Egypt and then Italy with the Royal Berkshires. He received the American Silver Star for his part in an action at Anzio.
This is one of grandfathers who sadly died this year, also won the legion of honour that the French award.
Sounds like he was a top man. Really lovely thread this.
Poignant when my uncle explained he'd insisted his eldest brother (my dad) went to the photographer for a portrait so they had somethiing to put in the local paper and on the mantlepiece if required. Not how the world should be.
My father was a Desert Rat, got through El Alamein and Italy. After the war his regiment were told they had to do parachute jumps to qualify for airborne operations. Not quite sure how this worked seeing he was in tanks! Anyway, as he was older than average, he refused to do the jumps, but still got given a red beret.
My mother joined the Wrens in 1944 and worked in Kent. Her brother was a tail end Charlie in Halifax bombers and completed a full tour, flying out of RAF Linton on Ouse.
None of them really talked about the war in any great detail.
That's a heck of a life he led. Thanks for linking to that.
My grandfather dropped in to disable the Merville Battery with the 9th Paras. After being hit in the leg by AA in the plane on the way, he jumped anyway.
Being wounded, he soon got captured defending a crossroad with his bren gun, first saw Paris by gun point and spent the rest of the war as a POW.
Very interesting and influential man.
My dad (he had me when he was a lot older) was a steward in the Merchant Navy. He told me 2 of his stories:
1. he was part of a fleet of Merchant Navy ships that circled a German sub, signalling to the Allies where it was
2. He saw his best friend's ship blown up just after he had transferred onto it
He was very matter of fact about it, he had obviously buried his emotions very deeply.
My g/f is German, and lives soberingly close to Bergen Belsen. Her dad was sent to the Russian front near the end of the war when he was only 16, at which point he abruptly thought the German equivalent of "f*ck this for a game of soldiers" and deserted, surrendering to the Americans, who then passed him on to the British. He spent the rest of the war in Yorkshire, working on farms and building roads, and was one of the very last POWs to be repatriated. He kept in touch with the British family of the farm he worked on for the rest of his life, and held them in great affection.
My Grandad was in the 8th army as well. He was a Sherman tank driver. he spoke about Salerno. He landed with just his standard issues Smith & Wesson side arm, and him and his mate legged it to what they thought was a small hill for cover but it was a pile of bodies. I think he said they were the New Hampshire regiment. He was also on leave when they bombed Monte Cassino. He had a couple of bottles of wine on a nearby hill and watched the whole thing happen. A great and gentle man who I will never forget.
My father was on patrol over the Western approaches flying out of St Mawgan, my uncle was working on a farm in Cumbria (as an internee), his brother (Gunther Mirauer) was was fighting the Russians on the Eastern front and his father (Walter Mirauer)was the director of the Jewish Hospital in Berlin (the Gestapo "offered" him the job). All survived the war. All are dead now, but I've got some great photos of Dads training (In Canada and Bermuda) and Flying Ops and Miraurer story is worthy of a book.
my other granddad was a cook in the army, who along with his uncle and another bloke from his home town got separated from the main platoon( if that's what we have) after heavy shelling in France.
They decided to hide in a farm found a pig, killed it and eat it. after some days they left the farm to find the rest of the regiment, on leaving the farm they discovered more pigs eating the bodies of German soldiers!!
that was the only story he ever told me of the was.
It didn't put him off pork either.
Well, as this has turned into sharing stories of what the relatives did in WWII and not strictly a D Day thread..
My father was in the Paras and dropped over the Rhine towards the end of the war. A supposedly successful drop but in reality an arguably unnecessary huge set piece battle fuelling Monty's ego to upstage the Americans who had already secured crossing points further south. Anyway, the only time he ever told me about it was the memory of, having landed successfully (dropped from Dakotas), watching gliders being blown apart mid air by the very effective German AA batteries, troops and light vehicles spilling out. Injured by machine gun fire crossing a field in the days that followed, he was repatriated and eventually equipped with what remained of the available airborne divisions to invade Japan, which was never necessary, thankfully.
My paternal grandfather flew bombers throughout the war and miraculously survived. He also towed gliders on the Rhine crossing (someone else referred to this higher up the thread). I recently saw his log book of the time.
My uncle packed parachutes and he and my father use to joke about whether he had packed my Dad's parachute for the Rhine. They didn't do many training drops in those days - there were no reserve chutes and it didn't pay to push your luck. My dad eventually transferred to the medics and went to Palestine with the Paras.
My grandfathers were both born in that small period of time which meant they were too young to serve in WWI and too old in WWII. My maternal grandfather was a civil enginer and involved in desiging a lot of the temporary bridging equipment used in WWII, most notbly the mulberry harbours which were used after the initial landings to convert the beaches into ports, bring shore tanks, artllery and basic supplies.
My paternal grandfather's elder brother signed up for WWI, lying about his age to do so. i think he was 15. When he reached the trenches, he wrote home saying 'please, get me out', but he was killed a day or two after the letter was sent.
My former father in-law, long dead, was a German soldier who spent the war in Warsaw and on the Eastern front. I saw two pictures of him, one in celebratory pose, as close as they got to Moscow when things were still going well, and one taken much earlier in 1916 when he was two, next to his own father who was wearing one of those spiked helmets and big moustaches.
I don't know what he did in the war, but he was paranoid about Russians and Jews and bitter to the core about his experience as a PoW in France afterwards.
I couldn't like him but it was clear that the whole era had messed him up properly, for good. Thinking of him reminds me of W Sebald's book The Emigrants, which (if memory serves) is about how the war touched peoples' lives not just while it lasted, but for long afterwards.
For a brief period, in the early 90s, I worked with the physicist Heisenberg's grandson who was then a student. The physical likeness between him and his grandfather as a young man was striking, but what struck me also was that the academically elitist patter of the younger man so closely reminded me of the sophisticated nationalism of his grandfather, all those years ago, during the war, where he remained while others left.
My Dads uncle was on a "landing craft large" with the 3rd canadian flotilla at D day, i never met him or heard of his stories but on VJ day (victory over japan) he celebrated and got drunk but sadly drowned on his own vomit, such a sad end for my hero uncle. RIP uncle Jimmy Rackley
My grandad was a anti-aircraft gunner on Bofors guns on Malta, so he certainly got to fire in anger, although like many of those who suffered in the war he never spoke about it.
My mate's dad, who was decorated in the second world war, also had more time for the Germans than the French.
It's interesting how much of the strategy in WWII was fuelled by petty rivalry and egotism.
My Dad commanded a Squadron of Lancasters (619 Squadron). He said the worse thing he had to do was to write those letters to the next of kin who failed to return from raids. He had two brothers, Australian pilots in the Squadron. One night one of them and his crew failed to return. He had to write those awful letters to the families of all 7 men. He offered the surviving brother leave and the chance to stand down from further ops, but the pilot refused and insisted that he and his crew should carry on with their Tour. Two weeks later the other brother and his crew went missing (my dad was also on that raid) and Dad had to write another 7 letters, including a second one to the parents of the Australian pilot. He was subsequently tortured by remorse that he hadn't ordered the second pilot to stand down from ops, but he knew that had he done so the man would have felt he was being branded LMF - something all bomber crew feared more than death.
The strain those brave bomber crews lived under was appalling, they were very brave men.
And he could have been a young man writing those letters. How old was he?
You are right. My mum was a WAAF at Biggin Hill during the Battle of Britain when it was bombed and a number of her fellow WAAFs were killed. Subsequently she was posted to Palestine where whilst flying from one airfield to another the Hudson carrying her and some other WAAFs crashed killing half of them. She subsequently returned on a troop ship to the UK on one of the Malta convoys which lost a number of ships to Axis air strikes.
He was actually an "old man" in the Squadron - 30 years old. His crew were all 19/20 and thought he was "very"" old!
What does LMF stand for?
My Dad's dad was a torpedoman. The only thing I know is that he was involved in the 'channel dash' where we were chasing the Prinz Eugen. I have his medals and some papers, the best being a 'certificate of wounds and hurt' which he received due to a side of beef falling on his foot and breaking bones in it when they were provisioning the ship in port!
LMF = Lack of Moral Fibre, probably would be diagnosed as PTSD these days
Lack of Moral Fibre, i had to google it (sounds mainly like PTSD) but refusing to fly
.... bit late there
Except that in WW2 it had a stigma attached to it. Aircrew who had LMF stamped in their logbooks were withdrawn from active service and in effect branded as cowards. PTSD wasn't recognised in those days, at least not officially and Bomber Command used the derogatory expression "Lack of moral fibre" "pour encourage les autres". Absolutely shocking and unacceptable by today's standards.
The strain on bomber aircrew was appalling, and many were a complete bag of nerves drinking heavily and having sleepless nights. Many would have finished up in psychiatric hospitals had they lived, but the attrition rate was so high that few survived a Tour of 30 trips. They were all volunteers and deserve the utmost admiration for doing such a terrifying job.
Bomber Command losses were the worst for any Arm in the Second World War (apart from the German U Boat Crews). 50% of them were killed.
Who knows, your dad may have commanded my uncle - he was a Lancaster rear gunner and thankfully survived. No idea what squadron.
My dad's rear gunner was Sergeant Ernest Martin. My dad died in 1979, but I had the privilege to meet Ernest Martin at Duxford in 2001. We met by the rear gun turret of the Lancaster which is on display there, and Ernest recounted tales of what it had been like. The first thing he told me was that any gunner worth his salt would remove the perspex around the guns because this distorted his vision and reduced the risk of him blazing away at a speck of dust on the perspex! The downside of this was that in spite of having an electrically heated suit it was very very cold. My dad always had a very high opinion of Ernest and his incredible eyesight at spotting enemy night fighters and more than once he (the gunner) would shout "corkscrew" which instruct my dad (the pilot) to put the plane into a complicated corkscrewing dive to shake off a Junkers 88 night fighter.
During a raid on the Dortmund-Ems Canal at Ladbergen on 3rd/4th March 1945 Ernest spotted a V1 in flight (probably aiming for Antwerp). He and the mid upper gunner (Sergeant Longworth) succeeded in shooting it down. This was a remarkable achievement for the gunners of a bomber!
Sadly Ernest passed away in 2010
You may be interested in the first half of this programme:
Great thread, very humbling. We don't know we're living nowadays.
My dad flew for a while in Mosquitos for Coastal Command as a navigator but he was violently air sick - nav's flew facing backwards at the bottom of the aircraft apparently-so he got trained as a meteorologist. He was in training to be shipped to the Pacific when they did Hiroshima - apparently the Plan B was invading Japan.
He had a cousin, tho, George (Dody) Leggate, who did Burma, was captured and spent 3 years as a prisoner of the Japanese. Don't know any detail but some other inmates turned up ( courtesy of the British Legion) at his funeral and made clear that Dody was reponsible for keeping quite a few of them alive by just not letting them give up. He was a charismatic camp leader.
Best Dody story was from his long suffering wife. On holiday and visiting the Vietnam Wall in Washington there were some Japanese youth misbehaving, drawing tutting sounds from most other visitors. Dody (aged in his high 70's) strode towards them. Not sure what to say to remonstrate he used the only Japanese words he could remember. They scattered. Asked what he had said, his reply was "I don't know, but that's what the guards used to shout a at us in Changi"
We'll no see their like again....
To be fair it didn't really start that way, my OP wasn't a D-day story either.
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