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 Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: OzPar  
Date:   Tue 4 Jun 13:58

On June 6th, it will be 80 years since D-Day, the key event in World War Two.

My Dad, who would be 100 this year, was a Hebridean; his first language was Gaelic. When he was just 20, he was one of the 600 men who parachuted into Normandy minutes after midnight in the first wave of attacks on and around two bridges on the River Orne and the Caen Canal.

Some years after the war, he wrote a book in Gaelic about his war experiences. I have been translating his book these past few months with the help of Gaelic speakers and Google Translate.

Considering global events that seem to point to the dawn of a new World War and Sunak`s recent announcement that conscription may once again be on the cards, it seems timely to post this extract from Dad’s book.

Anyway, here is his story of that night 80 years ago. I hope you find it interesting.

---

Parachuting into war

We boarded a Stirling aircraft at RAF Fairford, just outside Swindon in southern England, and settled ourselves in our designated spots on the floor. Propped up by the aircraft`s walls, we sat facing each other in two rows. With our legs stretched out, our feet could touch the opposite wall.

The door closed behind us, and I realised there was no way out now but through a hole in the floor in this confined space. Grim thoughts of a coffin came to mind. I was sure that was on everyone else`s mind, too, so there was no need to dwell on it. Instead, my thoughts turned to my home in Scotland and my father and mother going to sleep that night, unaware of where their 20-year-old son was. What would their situation be in the morning when they heard the news of the fierce attacks against the enemy in France?

The heavy plane moved forward. A string of other planes followed, gathering to rise into the skies with noise and trembling. We listened to our commanding officer at the front of the aircraft brief us on what was happening. We were on a course to Oxford, where the planes were to gather from all directions and converge into one giant battle fleet before turning south for the coast of Normandy in France. There were some bright breaks in the clouds above and below us, and the city of Southampton, The Solent and the Isle of Wight could clearly be distinguished in the moonlight ahead.

After leaving the coast of England behind, we crossed the English Channel, and before long, we saw an extraordinary sight—the silhouettes of thousands of ships of all kinds in row upon row parallel to the shores of France. In our plane, we all agreed that we wouldn`t want to be down there. They must have all had the same thought down on the ships, looking up to the sky at us.

Our commanding officer, a bright and breezy Welshman in his late twenties, passed boxes of dark camouflage cream around, instructing us to blacken our faces. It was necessary lest the enemy easily spot us in the moonlight.

(Continued...)

Post Edited (Tue 04 Jun 13:58)
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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: OzPar  
Date:   Tue 4 Jun 14:00

Sitting on the floor, I looked through the hatch and saw the sky ahead. At first, I paid attention to the vivid colours before me. It was a beautiful sight, without a doubt. It almost mesmerised me until someone said that the Germans were welcoming us. That put a different spin on things, and fear struck me for the first time.

We were nearing the coast of France, and we received the order to prepare our course, which took us across a stretch of land to the port of Le Havre; after skirting the countryside for a while, the plane turned westward, and in the distance ahead, the pilots spotted our destination, Ranville, a small town situated between the city of Caen and the coast, set on the banks of the River Orne.

With fantastic prescience, our commanding officer ordered us all to stand and prepare for action. Almost instantaneously, gunfire began blazing on both sides of our plane, and through the open hole in our floor, we tasted for the first time the smell and scent of battle. Our heavy plane shook like a small boat in a stormy sea. It wasn`t easy for us to stand on our feet. Through the large hole, we watched the gunfire flashing past us. Then, suddenly, we felt the impact, and the plane leapt. The officer now stood above the hole with a shield of fire engulfing the sides of the plane. He urged us to line up in a queue to the exit. We instinctively knew we needed to get out quickly, or we were doomed.

It wasn`t easy to keep our feet on the floor as we groped forward, trying to reach the hole to get out. There were 20 of us, and I was eighth in line. With the nose of the plane continually dipping and tilting lower and lower, I was mightily relieved to reach the edge of the hole and leap out finally. There was no doubt that the aircraft was losing altitude in the sky, for no sooner had I opened my parachute than I was a stone`s throw from the ground.

(Continued...)

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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: OzPar  
Date:   Tue 4 Jun 14:02

Oddly, my first thought on landing was how far I was from the safety of my home. It was only a little past midnight on the 6th of June, and I was in the middle of a barley field in France with moonlight on one side and heavy gunfire on the other.

I watched my companions make for the edge of the field to find shelter among the trees. The gunfire and the noise of the aircraft passing over us made for a strange feeling, and it wasn`t long before the enemy spotted me and fired in my direction. I dropped to the ground and lay still for a while, and they stopped firing. Regardless, I didn`t intend to stay there and gingerly moved forward on my hands and knees each time the ears of barley above me caught a whiff of wind. It was a painfully slow process, but eventually, I reached the trees` safety without being spotted.

We gathered in the bushes, and it was there that we noticed the wires strewn across the field and the signs saying "Achtung Minen", beware mines are here. It was a miracle that none of us had ignited them by accident.

Taking stock of our group, it was clear that only nine of us had made it from the plane, and we were miles short of where we were supposed to be. There was much to take in. Our war had barely begun, and in the past few minutes, we had lost our commanding officer, ten paratroopers, and two pilots. We had also lost all the equipment that was meant to fall with us, so we only had our guns, what was on our backs and our parachutes, which we had already discarded.

It was obvious to the nine of us that we were far behind enemy lines. We would need our courage and good luck to reach safety, for none of us wanted to be taken prisoner so early in the battle. As we pointed ourselves toward Ranville, we could hear loud gunfire ahead. Sunrise was still hours away, and we had much to do.

***

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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: LochgellyAlbert  
Date:   Tue 4 Jun 14:34

Heroes!🙏
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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: veteraneastender  
Date:   Tue 4 Jun 16:15

Fascinating stuff Oz.

Was your dad in 2nd Ox & Bucks ? The first Allied troops to land in Normandy just past midnight on morning of 6th June.

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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: MikeyLeonard  
Date:   Tue 4 Jun 16:53

Good read Oz, thanks for posting.
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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: wee eck  
Date:   Tue 4 Jun 17:00

I`ve been enjoying all the programmes about D-Day particularly the tapes, spoken by actors, of the reminiscences of those who took part in the invasion.
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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: OzPar  
Date:   Tue 4 Jun 17:18

No VEE. My Dad was in the 6th Airborne Division. The 180 men of the Ox and Bucks were in the six Horsa gliders that landed close to the two bridges. Some 600 paratroopers of the 6th Airborne supported them, following in powered aircraft shortly afterwards. The 6th Airborne was tasked with holding the area around the bridges until Allied reinforcements arrived from the beaches. The beach landing started about six hours later.

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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: Buspasspar  
Date:   Tue 4 Jun 17:27

Great read Oz .. heroes every one of them



Post Edited (Tue 04 Jun 20:23)
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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: veteraneastender  
Date:   Tue 4 Jun 18:12

Thanks Oz.

We visited Pegasus bridge a few years back and had coffee etc. in the well known cafe next to the river.

A museum close by dedicated to British Airborne had reclaimed a bunch of souvenirs acquired by the cafe over the years, causing bad blood between them.

Actor Richard Todd who played Major John Howard in "The Longest Day" had become good friends with the owners and was a trusted go between with them and the museum officals.

He had been a para officer in 6th Airborne on D-Day and landed close to the Orne River action where he incidentally met Howard and helped repulse German attempts to retake the bridge.

They were all heroes.



Post Edited (Tue 04 Jun 18:13)
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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: JTH123  
Date:   Tue 4 Jun 22:01

Thanks for that Oz. We visited Omaha beach last year and it was an experience.
My sister in law has a house in Normandy and she`s researching the allies advance through the local area. She`s shown us maps showing the day by day situation. Its fascinating stuff.
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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: veteraneastender  
Date:   Tue 4 Jun 22:31

Omaha was a bloodbath for the Americans and came close to being a failed landing.
The one thing that impressed me at the military cemetery was the impeccable way it was (and is) maintained by the French authorities.
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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: Raymie the Legend  
Date:   Thu 6 Jun 20:44

Good read, Oz, and very humbling. Look forward to reading some more




It`s bloody tough being a legend
Ron Atkinson - 1983
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 Re: Remembering D-Day
Topic Originator: weeman56  
Date:   Fri 7 Jun 10:12

Thanks so much for sharing this.

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