I’m conscious of the fact it is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day this year, and we’ve never actually done a podcast looking at the topic, its such a big topic we will cover it, though probably over numerous episodes.
Meanwhile I thought it might be interesting to gather first hand accounts of the day that people have come across, and share them.
Of course the top brass quotes are ten-a-penny, my favourite being General Patton. In a pep-talk to the troops on the 5th of June having already bluntly told the men that they weren’t all going die, only 2% of them, closed his speech in typical blustering style:
“There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON’T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, ‘Well, your Granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.’ No, Sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, ‘Son, your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and a Son-of-a-Goddamned-Bitch named Georgie Patton!”
Reminisces from the regular soldiers are often much more affecting. Private Stanley Gardner wrote in his Journal:
“On board the Empire Battleaxe, a converted American freighter, the boys were playing cards gambling away their last English money and starting on their French money. At 2045 the decks were crowded with troops – hundreds of sun-burned fit young men in khaki with their safety belts on and everyone with a black triangle on their arms…
Dawn was just breaking and when we looked out over the rough sea we could see a huge red glow on the horizon. This must be France. A destroyer speeding by about eight miles from us struck a mine and blew up, scattering wreckage in all directions. At 0330 we queued up with our trays for a breakfast of porridge, two hard boiled eggs, four rounds of white bread and butter and jam and a mug of tea. We gave our rifles the once over, filled the magazines and made sure our ammunition and grenades were ready for use. At 0445 the word came over the loud-speaker for us to get dressed [for battle]. At 0450 the Captain told us he could see the French coast – a blazing inferno with the navy shelling it and the RAF bombing it. Then came the order “Marines of ALC 23 lower away”. Slowly the winches began to turn and we slid down the ship’s side into the stormy sea. We were seven miles from shore. We made ourselves as comfortable as possible, some sitting, some standing but all singing. New songs and old – sentimental – patriotic and ballads but we all sang.”
The Army Chaplin Reverend Leslie Skinner, landing on Gold beach wrote in his diary:
” As we beached at 0725 our LCT hit a mine. Men either side of me wounded – one lost leg. I was blown backward on to Bren Carrier, but ok. Landing doors jammed. Gave morphone injections and rough dressings to injured men. Water about six feet deep – sea rough – coconut matting would not sink…”
It had been issued to prevent vehicles from getting bogged down in the wet sand.
“Sellfire pretty hot. Infantry carriers/jeeps baling but left us no matting as tanks revved up. Chaos ashore. Germans firing everything they had. Road mined – great hole. Bulldozer unable to get through because of mines. Spent an hour with some Engineers demolishing remains of pillbox to make another exit from beach. Heavy work with pickaxe and chest hurting like hell. Finally got halftrack into queue. Along line on foot, saw CO and a Sqdn waiting to get on faster and further. No RAMC [Royal Army Medical Corp] landed as yet on our part of beach. Some casualties. Got Sgt Leader to bring halftrack back to beck, hull down behind sand dunes, Started gathering wounded, mostly infantry. More as day went on from further down beach. No news yet of Beach Dressing Station.”
If you have have any good quotes please email them to us, reply in comments, or via Facebook or send us a link and we’ll try and do something with them for 6th of June this year.
The latter two quotes were take from Marching to the Sound of Gunfire by Patrick Delaforce.