Liberating Europe
LIBERATINGEUROPE
From D-Day to Berlin: The Allied Liberation of Europe

The Lead Up and D-Day Itself

  • Day
  • Harry
  • 80; born in 1925
  • Army, Royal Engineers
  • Hessle, HULL
Photo of Harry Day
 

Summary: Harry Day was a Royal Engineer in the army during the war, and was part of the operation to clear mines after his Company landed on GOLD beach.

Mr Day was interviewed at his home in June, 2005.

Right so er, your name is Harry Day?
Yes.
How old are you now?
I'm just turned 80.
How old were you when you were enlisted? or did you...
Er, I volunteered at the age of 18.
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I used to put the tail board of the three tonner down and, er, tie the ends on the four corners and then use it like a hammock.
Harry Day
and what service were you in?
Er, Royal Engineers.
Do you have a Regiment, a battalion, a squadron for that?
Erm, well the Royal Engineers are a corps and they have all different units within it. You could be mine clearing, bridge building, everything under the sun regarding what a modern army, well what an army needs to do regarding the field.
So which one were you in?
Well I was with the Headquarters eleventh army group.
What was your rank at the start of the war in 1939?
Private.
Private.
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Well Driver actually, sorry, because that was my, that was my...my * was Driver.
Yeah, and what rank were you when you demobbed?
When I got demobbed, I was er, Full Corporal.
When you were in England where were you based mainly?
Well when I joined up, er I went to Mary Hill barracks, Glasgow.
How do you spell the Mary...?
Erm, Mary and Hill.
Mary Hill barracks, Glasgow...and that's where you were based?
Well I wasn't based there, that was where my initial basic training...
Ah, right. Your basic training.
And er, it was infantry training at the time.
Yeah, so you did your basic training which all soldiers do when they sign up.
Yeah.
and then you do specific training specific to your job presumably.
I mean, yes if, I mean in my case, when I joined up I expected to go to a port operating group but instead I got sent to a, er, well an eleventh army group RE down in near London, I thought I'd been going to Inverness where there was a port operating group being a crane driver but the army round pegs and all that.
Yeah, yeah you go where your sent don't you? So how long did you train for your infantry?
Er, six weeks.
Six weeks and did you do any training after that?
Er, only the fact I went to...which is all in that letter, I went to a physical training school near Hereford which was now the SAS depot now and I was put on a course there for body building because I was a bit under what I should have been and I came out A1 from that.
So did you er, did you go across to Europe?
Yes, eventually when the * came the Headquarters which I was attached to went on the July the 5th.
Where did you go from in England?
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Went from Tudbury Docks.
Which is, er...
It's on the Thames, the Docks in London.
Ah right, in London, right so you went from down the Thames...
Round towards Portsmouth.
Yeah.
and then cut across.
So where did you land in France?
GOLD Beach.
Oh you were on GOLD Beach?
Yeah.
What were the sort of general ages of your pals in the Regiment?
Well they varied quite a bit because with it being a Headquarters there weren't so many people who were of my age. There were you could say they ranged from 18 to about 25.
Still young men?
Well they were old to me.
Yeah, yeah, so when you were in France did you have to carry your supplies and food and ammunition with you?
We did do but there were depots where you could go and pick up anything that you needed, mainly because not being a front line unit we would have used any ammunition any way so that was just static.
Yeah.
But your main food was compo packs which you went to an ordnance depot to pick up your, what they call composition packs, there were all different things in it, tinned bacon, oats what you put on...and also involved in it was a small, erm, oh what they called, erm, it was like a slab and you lit it and it kept burning.
Oh right.
I can't remember what...something like erm, candle grease but it was in a thick wad.
Yeah.
and you put that on and you lit it and that gave you a flame to heat your billycan out for your tea and such as that.
So you basically ate where you could?
Where you could yes and mainly, it was always biscuits, we never got any fresh bread or anything like that.
So did you find the rations adequate or were you hungry all the time?
Erm, well some...kept you lean and mean. I mean you didn't really eat a lot because obviously you had to exist on the basic rations of the day.
Yes.
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and there was not an outlet where you could go to 'cause I mean going to any of these French farms maybe for an egg or something...they was poorly off themselves so you couldn't really do it.
So you actually had quite a bit of contact with French families and people there?
Er, I didn't no, er, somehow or other we always seemed to be put in a location for most of the time in fields.
Yeah, so you were away from...
Away from towns and things like that yeah.
So when you were in France what, how would you describe your role and the duties of your Regiment?
Well the Regiment was, well the Full Colonel was the oversee for us and he was in charge of the groups underneath him and then, er any planning detail, er, I used to take the Officer with him and he used to travel in normally a, er a snipe, er, no not a snipe, erm Humber, Humber staff car which was a sniper and he used to go in that and I followed him with the intelligence Officer and then just took them to wherever they wanted to go for any consultation regarding any plans for what they were doing for any bridging or mine clearing or any attacks that were coming up so to support the infantry in their jobs so that ROC was in charge of quite a number of erm, companies of sappers and of course they had their own, erm, officers but then he went to meet them and draw plans for what they were going to do and mainly my job was just driving the intelligence Officer about wherever he wanted to go and just being his, er, I was appointed in the sense of the word bodyguard for him.
So you drove a Humber...
I didn't no, I drove a jeep.
You drove a jeep.
I drove a jeep all the time.
What kind of jeep is that? Is it the er...
This was a Ford jeep what I had, they are a * jeep.
Where abouts where you mainly stationed in France?
Well we moved all the time as the attack was, the front line went forward we followed behind and kept up within certain distance, obviously in HQ you've got ranking officers, you can't very well have them going and doing the fighting exactly.
Yeah, yeah.
So...
So where was the HQ based in France?
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Well we were always in locations in fields all over the place, what we did when we wrapped up say the first location, St. Gabrielle in France we moved to another location 'cause they were going away from where we were so to catch up we used to go to another location, similar thing, as soon as you got there, tents up, digging, defensive positions, and erm, they had a big listed generator which provided the electricity for the lights for the tents so they could work in the...and he also had a command wagon which was in like a caravan so he could do his work in there, the Colonel, it was all centred towards the people there and the jobs, all had jobs, I was driver and there was Company cook, he did all the cooking and so it went on, so everyone had their own task to do while we was there and while we was in camp we did our own washing and the usual things.
Yeah, so did you er, whilst you were in France and set up did you encounter any sort of enemy, er, aggression, were you bombed or were you attacked from airforce?
No, no we weren't, the airforce kept them away, I mean there wasn't much bombing at all actually from the enemy side, I think on the initial landings there were but after that I think the airforce just kept them out the sky.
Yeah, they were pushed back were they?
Yeah.
So er, yeah, cause what it will do it will help children to realise what went on before you got there.
Yeah.
The work the navy did off the coast...
That's right.
and what the airforce did to clear and make your jobs a lot easier and safer as back up people.
Exactly. Well the thing was it was, erm, in a way it was a mundane job, er it wasn't really what you call being on the front line and all the exciting bits of what children think about war but there is other things that have to be done at the rear which had to be carried out to support them troops.
Absolutely, yeah, yeah. So in today's society if you like, a lot of young people have got mobile phones so that the parents can contact them at any time, how did your men carry on with communication when you were in the field?
Well initially when we got landed there was like a small brown postcard which had on are you wounded? I am not wounded. I'm okay. You crossed out the appropriate one and then you sent that off. That was immediately you got there.
Right. Was that back to the family.
That's back to the family yeah and then after that it was a matter of getting letters.
Right.
Which they were few and far between to start with, I mean after I left home and the last letter it was two month before I got a letter.
Really.
and I wasn't the only one, this happened all over because of the thing was the vital supplies were more important than post.
Yeah so...
Which they needed.
So for long periods your family back in England wont have known what was happening to you?
No, no, not until they got this card, they get that initially and then you would start your letter writing backwards and forwards, you were writing and telling...you couldn't tell them too much because your letters were censored anyway.
So did your parents mention to you later on how sort of concerned they were for your welfare and how difficult it was, were you aware of that?
Erm, well in my case, I don't think my father was so much because he had been through it through the first world war.
Yeah.
So, he was a parent, I've got to say this really that wasn't too bothered in a way because that's the way he was brought up.
Yeah.
and I've tried to redress it with my kids like differently.
It's different times.
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Yeah different times altogether.
Did you...so you got around in a jeep because I've got a list of questions here that apply to different letters some * to other ones, so er, let me see, so in terms of catching up with your sleep and your rest because you were in the Headquarters situation it was fairly structured was it? You weren't often sort of sleeping in trenches, you were billet in big tents?
Well, we were...the officers were in tents.
Right.
But we were in where we could sleep. I used to have what they call a bonnet rug for a jeep and it had a rope attached at the four corners for attaching to the vehicle.
Right.
and I used to put the tail board of the three tonner down and, er, tie the ends on the four corners and then use it like a hammock.
Ah right, so you had to sleep where you could?
Where you could, some slept in the trucks and camouflage netting, things like that.
So did you get a lot of sleep or was it noisy or...?
Well, erm...

(Interruption to conversation...phone ringing)

Er, well, in some cases, when we, our job mainly was we did get what we call proper sleep because our duties was mostly during the day but we could be out two or three days away from the camp with the Officer, er, depending on what he was doing and then you just had to get your kit down where you could.
Yeah.
and that was how it...well I think the children...would kip down, get to sleep where you could.
Well that's, yeah...
and there was a lot going on in the camps, you had your vehicles to maintain and you was on call out on a night if the Senior * couldn't get out because of the roads then they'd use the jeep, so if there was any message that had to be taken to any forward areas and the * couldn't get out, the conditions of the road maybe too muddy, slippery or sometimes at the time we were there especially in France the road conditions were very bad because what we considered our A roads, well our C roads they were like their A roads at the time, they were like just cart tracks and you would thought when you went, the first main road where I thought, I thought well this is terrible compared to what you'd been to like in England.
Right, so even then the roads in France were worse than in England?
Oh terrible, they were very terrible, yeah. So if it happened where the mud was too bad then he would come with me in the jeep and we would both have to find the forward area where we wanted this fax to go and we would have to find it, deliver the message and come back to the camp, so in that instance then we were sort of, the noise of battle and what was going on was more to us then than it was when we was actually in our base.
Did you find it easy to navigate around French sort of er, country lanes or did you get lost or...?
Well we'd decent maps actually but every unit had unit signs out and what they used to do, they used to make a petrol flimsy.
Right.
and this was like a sort of a rectangled squarish tank if you can understand what I mean, and what you was to do, you was to pierce holes in it so that our number was 321.
Yeah.
and then you put a lantern inside, an ordinary oil lamp and then that would light up on the side of the road so you would see 321 with an arrow pointing that way and most of the places where you went was like that.
Right, so you actually just made your own road signs up?
Yes, exactly yeah.
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Did you encounter French people that had stayed in that region of the country often or was it largely empty of population?
Well where we were it all seemed to be empty of population, we hardly had anything to do with the French population at all really, I mean such people were actually going through in the infantry type side, they were probably going through and probably meeting people who were glad to see them and which was quite appropriate but in our case it had already, the euphoria shall we say had already passed over.
Yeah, yeah.
So they were more or less going about the work in the fields and doing their ordinary jobs.
So really you left each other alone, you got your job done...
Yes, yes really yeah that's right, yeah.
Did you, did the supply, did they supply food and drink or did you just cope with what you've got?
Well occasionally we used to try and get some milk if we could.
Yeah.
and we'd probably just go out on what you call a recky scrounge and see if you could get something and barter with them, maybe some cigarettes or sweets so you give them the cigarettes and sweets and they give you some milk which was far better than having the dried stuff for your tea which always looked brown and horrible.
Did you er, did you have anything to do with the American soldiers in France? or were you with a group of English...?
Not initially no, no, they were far away from where we were.
Yeah. They came in on UTAH...
On UTAH yes, there were different areas of beaches where they especially, they were actually going towards Northern France, er sorry, Southern France, we were going up towards the North so you hardly, well I never came into contact with any of them actually except after the War when we was doing some work in H* Mountains and we actually met some Americans there and we got on well with them, they were alright.
Yeah.
and to me, people run them down actually talking about what they're like as fighting men but the utmost admiration I have for them because they did a lot of good work in difficult positions, especially on the initial landings the er, I think it was Hoc...
Point du Hoc.
Point du Hoc, yes, that's where it was a very difficult place to assault.
Yeah, a big battery at the top of the cliffs, I went there when I went to France. Er, what other questions was I going to ask you. You...as part of the engineers' tasks, one of the big tasks was clearing minefields.
Yeah.
What kind of techniques and equipment did you use for that purpose.
Well I didn't use any myself but the units attached to our HQs when they used to have to use the mine detecting which was a flat disc operated off a long pole that you run over the ground with a battery so when the mine was detected it gave a rise in like a sonic noise, as a rise like (Harry Day gives example of noise), so you went louder and then you knew there was a mine there and then after that they sort of dug round with a bayonet to see if there were any booby traps attached and then they disarmed it by taking the detonator out and then laid it flat for the people behind to pick up and dispose of. Well the Intelligence Officer I had ** because they've got a new mine which they couldn't understand and they brought it back to the HQ and it was actually wood so it wouldn't pick up the metallic sound and therefore another means of doing it had to be found.
How did you discover those?
Well this Officer you see as far as my job was concerned was to take him there, bring him back and then he dissected it and did all the necessary and then sent the * back to the forward units.
Did you see flail tanks in action?
No, no.
You don't use flail tanks.
Well the flail tanks would only be used initially on the beaches.
Right.
So that was before I got there.
Is that a time thing, is that just so you can get across quickly?
Well it's a means of blowing the mines up to make a wide gap so that the tank * could not go over the mines and be blown up. If you only had men doing it there would only be a narrow point just for infantry to follow through so the flail tank made a wide gap so that vehicles could pass behind this and er, well they wouldn't be blown up because the mines would have been cleared by then.
So initially when you got to the beaches, when the first wave got to the beaches there would have been mines everywhere so everywhere you trod potentially you're going to stand on a mine.
Well you would do but all the areas were all taped out.
Right.
So that if you kept inside the white tapes that run off the beach then you would be safe.
What they did was make the runs, tape them off so everybody coming after that knew exactly where they could and couldn't go.
Could and couldn't go.
and as you got further away from the beaches presumably the mines became less?
Well they came less...as far as I was concerned our main danger lay from the verges and all along it used to say keep off the verges mined, so and in a particular instance I was taking this Donr out.
Sorry can you just explain what that is?
A despatch rider.
What did you call him?
Donr, its just er, instead of saying DR Don so you've go the r with like Despatch Rider.
Right, thank you. So you were taking this Donr out...
and I was taking him out to a forward area, on the side it says keep off these verges mines and there was a load of tanks coming the other way from where we were going and in actual fact I wouldn't move over, at this time I was on that side because with it being a left hand drive and he was saying a few choice words like, and I said I'm not going on there if they blow it, it won't harm them. Nothing ever happens but that was the funny part of one particular incident where he was more afraid of the tanks than I was of the mines.
Yeah, yeah, I suppose you get humour where you can in situations like that, don't you?
Oh definite, yeah, yeah.
Did you have a lot of banter with your unit and your comrades.
Oh all the time, yeah all the time, it was anything or something stupid happening and we all have a good laugh about it you know.
Do you keep in touch with the guys...
I mean we had one, we had one chap, he thought he'd wash his clothes so he washed it in petrol (laughing).
I bet he smelt nice for a while.
(laughing) Keep away from the...keep away from the fire.
Petrol?
Yeah. We had another particular one where we were all sat on these...when these jerrys got empty they were like seats.
Yeah.
We were all sat round and anyway there was one of them must have had a bit left in it and all of a sudden the heat of the fire, the evaporation of the thing in the tin just went (Harry makes the sound of the tin), it never harmed him but it brought him off his seat. We all wondered what was happening.
So after you were, you're in France for a while, er, where did you go after France?
Er, we went from where we were stationed and, er, we passed through, we crossed the Rhine at *
Right.
In, er...
Yeah.
and er we crossed the Seine, sorry the Rhine, crossed the Seine at * and there we, from the position we were we could see the * going on for * and actually it was a slaughter for those, erm, I mean you say they are the enemy but in your mind your thinking poor so and so's going through that, that's what war is and unfortunately people have to be killed.
So you actually saw the planes heading towards the *?
Heading in and actually rocketing in and doing a lot of damage to the vehicles and people, as we got nearer there was dead cows and horses.
Oh so you actually witnessed the aftermath?
aftermath yes, we passed through.
So there were cows presumably rotting in the field and causing a terrible stink?
Stink yeah, well the aftermath and what there is of a battle.
Yeah that was particularly nasty wasn't it, the corridor of death they call it.
Yes and anyway it had to be done because unfortunately it was, the war had to be finished as quickly as possible maybe save some more people from that.
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Did you get to...did you see the remains of Caen after the...?
Caen? No we didn't go near Caen we went to the west of it and circled it and come round by another two or three locations, one of them was near Caen which was very badly, was very badly bombed, its only a village but as I've said to other people, erm, where the Church comes into it the only thing left standing was a sort of a monument the figure of Christ on a cross and everything else had gone, you just wonder what they think.
Did er, as engineers you will have had as a Regiment, you will have had to replace the bridges that were knocked out, er, how did you get across rivers?
Well the forward units had what they call burley bridges and they were on pontoons so as the bridge was built on each pontoon it was shoved out a bit further, add another piece on and so forth until it was got to the other side. Then you had men in the forward pontoons trying to stabilise it as best they could, but the thing about it when they made these bridges and we crossed as I say Alboof on the Seine, er in front of us there was a sign on the bridge courtesy 166 field Company, so the way they said it, erm, they'd made it for the * coming behind and that saying by courtesy of the 166 field Company they knew that that was part of our army group that had done it.
Fantastic. I think I've gone through my questions actually now. How long have you been in the NVA, since it was...?
Er, 1995 I joined.
1995.
Because I didn't know there was a NVA branch in Hull, well I didn't know there was an NVA full stop because although it was in the paper about wanting to form a branch of the NVA in Hull I was on buses and my main thing in my life was sport so I never thought about at that time as a younger person joining an association from the War, and as Betty will tell you, my wife she was a Golf widow, football widow, snooker widow, anything in sport I was involved in and erm, so therefore it was only by chance that erm, I was a compare at an over 65's club and one of the artists who I found out I could book, I learnt the job and found that I had to book people to come and sing, was one called Jackie Hall and he was a singer and he came to the club down Cleveland Street and I saw his badge and he had * and I said I was in that and he said were you where was you so I told him like, well he said there's a branch of NVA, we meet at the Railway Club on Anlaby Road, why don't you come, meet some comrades and that, I went and from then we've enjoyed it, Betty has been involved with going away on the pilgrimage and that and wherever we go in England so its been a real nice social life for us.
Did you find it difficult coming out of the army to adjust back to civilian life.
Erm well, I would have come out, er sorry I would have stayed in but I'd met my wife, future wife and knowing that we would probably get married I didn't like married families in the army.
No.
At that time they were very very disciplined by the...if you was an Officer's wife it was the Colonel and if you was an OR ordinary rank as they say then it was an RSM and his wife ruled the wives so the Colonel's wife ruled the officers' wives and the ordinary ranks, sergeant major downwards were ruled by the sergeant major's wife, what she said had to be followed as you more or less might have been in the army. I didn't want that to...with being in the...I stayed in the army after the war for a number of years, seven and a half years, so therefore I got to know what these, what the situation was about being in married families.
So you stayed in Germany for seven and a half years at the end of the year. What were you there for?
Well it was initially what they called the British Army of the Rhine, that was to occupy Germany over our zone which was the British zone and actually make sure there was no acts of retaliation such as that, there were some actually not far from where we were stationed at the time where there was young Nazis who hadn't come to the conclusion that they were beaten, decided to string white hoses across the road and just as I was saying about Danrs, Despatch Riders and cyclists, they were catching them and one of them was known to have been decapitated by one and the other was seriously injured, until they got them sorted out and then that the populous as well realised the damage that they were doing and to their cause they were free now, they were Germans but they were free, they were free from the Nazis and the hitlers and even though they'd gone along with them human nature being wise something...if a political party is doing good for you then you'll support them but once they've got in power and then it becomes a dictatorship then in the mind they are not liking it but they daren't say anything then.
Is that in your experience what you found to be the case with the German...the general population...
Oh definitely yeah.
They were sort of tricked into it.
Oh without a doubt, tricked in some ways but given a good life.
Yes.
Now if that had stayed as it was.
Yeah.
Then I think that Germany could have ruled Europe with economics rather than war.
Yeah. They had bad times before the second world war didn't they? economically.
Exactly after the first world war they were very poor and the actual standard of life in Germany was on rock bottom till Hitler came into power, given jobs, shown a better way of life but unfortunately it went down the wrong track, he preferred war to peace.
I've got to ask you this question, it's a sensitive one, but its part of the curriculum, its part of what the kids must learn about, did you or any of your comrades come into contact with the Holocaust in any way?
The only way I came into contact with was when I was going through Londeburg and the camps had already been opened up and there were quite a lot in these pyjama type suits and erm not knowing what they were we thought they were just somebody out of er...there had been a few before we got there in these asylums, come out on the roadside you know begging for food and you didn't understand, obviously you didn't understand the language but you realised looking at them they were mentally ill because the way they behaved and as we got through we saw these people and then eventually we found out that erm, those people were what they were.
So at the time you and your comrades weren't aware that this was going on?
No, no.
It was only until they were liberated by the Russian Red Army that it came to light.
Exactly yeah. I don't know why it was kept under wraps but nobody ever thought about it I don't think.
I don't suppose the Allies would have known about it until they got to it, would they I suppose?
Well I think there's two thoughts on that, I think regarding politically it was, but I'm not quite sure on that part, I won't go into that.
No, no.
But after the war finished and I was saying I stayed in Germany for 8½ years I actually took a course because we got in a place called Oldenburg and in the army when you get a unit disbanded you get put to somebody else to make up their unit and this is how the army functioned after the war to bring it down to the strength which, all the men had gone on demobilisation back home, they'd done their job and went back home. I had actually signed 7 years for the colours so I still had some time to do and I actually went on a cinematic graphic course.
Oh right.
A 16 mm and I passed the course and I set up a small cinema in Oldenburg and we gave tickets out and the service came in from all the areas where they were to come into the cinema and my Officer came to me one day and said I've got a job for you Day, you have to sign the official secrets act. So I said what's all that about. So he said you're going to get some films to show and he said no one else was to know about them at the moment but some R ranking Officer would be coming to the cinema and they'd be watching it. Anyway so I signed this and I got this tin can like, anyway I set it up and I started it off and it was * and * camps, uncut photographs which some * had taken them how they treat the people, in the ovens, all the necessary things that they did in the camps and then they were showed them marching them to the pits and booting them and throwing them...all the things that they did and there was two reels of that and as I say to this day there are only two or three people I told that.
So the cinema was full of people that to an extent had never seen any of this and not have even heard of it.
No. There was sort of Brigadier Generals who had to go and see it, I don't know the reason.
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Probably preparing for what they might see later on.
Probably.
So what was the reaction to that then was it...
Very mute.
Was it revulsion.
Very mute.
Was they angry as well to...
I just well...I think being officers they would be contained.
Right.
But I think it was very mute and after they had them the showing of the films then another person came and took them, took them away. So I don't know where they are to this day now, but I witnessed that, we know what the war was about now.
Yes, thank you for that. I think I've gone through all my questions.
Yeah, well I can understand there was...I was a very very small cog in a huge wheel and we all were in a way, you all had a different job to do and in my case I wasn't up to physical strength to be in the infantry so that's why they sent me there to this physical training school in Hereford to get built up and from that I believe that's why I got sent to the Royal Engineers Depot and learnt how to drive rather than being infantry and sometimes you just think that you might have contributed to it, I don't know.
Well yeah I mean my wife's granddad was an Engineer so...he was in North Africa.
The actual engineers, I mean going through the actual fact they were assault engineers were landed on D Day to clear the beaches.
They were the first guys on weren't they?
and it was the same with the assault engineers in the airborne, so...
They did bridges across the Ore.
Exactly yeah, so it just wasn't, but as I say every person that was involved did their little bit towards bringing the war to its conclusion. In fact in a way when we're talking to some of the old chaps after the war when we were disbanded and sent to various, I went to just outside Hamburg, a place called Rhine Beck and the unit there is quite a few older ones waiting to be demobbed and we was talking about the town where you lived and I told them, I said I came from Hull, I don't know about being in the front line I said, we were bombed that night after night so I had a right so I said I had a right baptism of fire before I came here. So one of them said lived in Liverpool, he said I was bloody glad to. He said I was glad to get back to where I was where it was nice and quiet.
Did you witness any of the bombing of Hull? Did you see that?
Yes, from the time it was actually started spasmodically until it accumulated at the full Blitzes on the 7th and the 8th of May it was horrendous, the noise, we lived near the railway line in a little street called Little Londesborough Street and it runs alongside the line that leads into Paragon Station and when the actual Blitz were on there used to be a * on a flat top on the railway line, and it used to run up and down blasting away and that was the noise you got from that and you got the noise of the flat bullet in the roofs, then you got the noise of the bombs coming down and there's, I don't know whether it was a mine or a parachute, from where we lived you could see where they used * and * and the bus sheds and they say that a parachute of a German bomber, one of them landed in there in the fire and I saw the chute coming down but it could have been a land mine, you don't know and people said who were actually near there that the old shed when this parachute went in but who would have laughed at that in normal circumstances.
So they used to drop explosives from aircrafts attached to parachutes.
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Well being near Hull you used to get sea mines dropped in the Humber to disrupt shipping but they did have land mines which were like a huge cylinder, I would say about 4 to 5 feet long and they were attached on parachutes and then wherever they landed it was devastation and then one didn't go off in the Liverpool Street tram sheds as they were then and someone had to go and diffuse that and luckily they managed to do it otherwise it would have blown the whole sheds out and the immediate area around would have been devastated but we experienced in the town when first sirens went the Authority then decided to build shelters in the middle of the streets and they were wooden structures and then sand bags laid round it so that the sand bag would have been the shelter from the bomb splinters and the bags got rotted and people wouldn't go in them, they were smelly, it was terrible you couldn't go and sit in them, they would rather sit in the house under the stairs than go and subject themselves to that stench, so eventually they got knocked down and they built brick ones with a fairly thick, I would imagine about a foot and half thick concrete on top of the bricks, and then you had compartments so that if one compartment got hit you could get through a hole like a square hole between the shelters but if one part got hit it didn't kill all of them in there in the shelter unless it was a direct one in the middle but there's, we had a narrow escape at the back of the house where we were, it was terraced houses and we lived on the corner onto the street and my brother he was born on May 8th, sorry May 4th and on the Blitz when they started on the 7th and 8th he was, well he was still a baby and...no that was a different time but after the Blitzes when this happened he was ill, we couldn't take him in the shelter so we had to stay in the house with him, there was my father, my mother, my brother and myself and the other sister, because her husband was away in the navy, she lived near us but she was due to come round to the house and all of a sudden it wasn't anything that you would imagine it was just like a, you know like a train going through a tunnel.
Yeah.
Like that sort of noise and next thing all the soot came down the chimney, the windows came in and when we found out afterwards that the bomb had dropped just at the back at one of the terrace houses, it was at the back of us, and if it had dropped in the front I don't think I'd have been telling this story, it dropped at back so it took the main force of the blast of the bomb onto the house that was just behind it.
So what kind of destruction would one of these things reap.
Well it completely demolished the first and second house in the terrace and then all the way along were all damaged with blast.
So these were massive massive devises that really caused some...
Well they definitely, I think fortunately they were only a I would say a 300 pound bomb compared to what the eventually the Allied airforce were dropping a 1000 pound bombs and I think they did get what they called a blockbuster which was 2000 pounds.
It could probably take out a whole town.
Probably a whole street yeah.
Have you been back to France or Germany since you came out.
Since I came out the army, I haven't been up to the * I joined the * veterans because a) it was cost, we got married, my wife and I and we had four children so therefore money was tight so we couldn't afford...when I worked on the buses at the time, there was one man used to, no children and he used to go to Spain and we used to say you lucky so and so being able to go to ...but they aren't now, package holidays, you can just go for the weekend if you want but in them days it was very hard to get anything and that sort of thing. Nobody had any cars, it wasn't until I would say the late 60's early 70's that a lot of people started getting cars, it was mostly cycles and walking or the bus so when I joined the * veterans they used to as they do now go on pilgrimage to pay homage to the men who were killed there in Germany, er sorry in the War, and I said the other day funny enough that I'd never been back to Germany since and it was going to seem strange going back into Germany after such a long time, but I remembered that when I was on the buses one of the chaps had decided to run a trip as they call it and it was going to Koblenz and Cologne, which, that was the American sector, Cologne and Koblenz, that's south of the Rhine and it was funny to go back but at the same time it didn't seem any different from going anywhere else, you know, people are just the same as us, they all had their jobs and they were in the cafes and restaurant serving us and, you know, it was just as though nothing had even happened.
So you went to Germany, have you been to France?
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Er, we've been to France on the pilgrimages and we usually go on the beaches and we usually attend ceremonies at the cemeteries and we lay a wreath and we usually sing a hymn and stand there and just remember the people who didn't come home.
Did you go back to GOLD Beach?
Er yes, I was at the place where I actually landed.
So you recognised it a lot?
Yes.
Has it changed much?
No, the actual...the beach hadn't nor the houses, obviously some of the houses were rebuilt but there were some of them that had been sort of built up from the shell.
Yeah, So they will look exactly the same.
Exactly, yeah.
But they've been modernised. Because as you were approaching the beach you used the houses to navigate on to your sector of the beach.
Well that would be down to the landing craft commander where he was going to take you and put you on, he'd know where the part of the beach which had been cleared of mines so that when he dropped his ramp that you went off on your vehicle up the...down the ramp up the sand and I sort of went up the right hand kerb through er, it was like a wall and the wall it was still there, the brick...like a concrete wall rock and I recognised it straight away.
Did you?
Yeah.
What did you drive off the landing craft in?
I drove off on a jeep.
In a jeep, right.
Yeah, which had been waterproofed and that had a snow planet from the carburettor so water didn't get into the mechanical parts and then...
So it was the water you were driving though then?
Well luckily I'd only about 3 feet, I mean when some of them when they landed hadn't any water at all because the initial landings were done when the tide was out. They thought it was going to be better than seeing the obstacles rather than the landing craft go up to the beach and then landing on top of them, and then they dropped the ramp and then off you go and I went off me and my Intelligence Officer, Captain Wilson, we went off together alone actually to get the location for the rest of the unit which were coming off on the jetty because they'd made a jetty out to the sea so ships could pull alongside and then discharge that way and then drive off the jetty onto the beach and in that way I was probably well I think I was probably one of the last people to land on the beach because by that time they'd got the jetty working and you didn't need to land on it.
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So when you landed had all the obstacles been cleared away?
Yes, done a good job, yes cleared everything.
What did they do with it all did they just pile it up at the side or?
Well what they used some of it for was to attach to the front of tanks to run through the * and believe it or not because that was a very bad thing to negotiate for the fighting troops, the tanks would just get through it and get tangled and couldn't get through.
So they took the metal * welded them to the front of tanks and used the tanks to smash through the banks and the hedges.
Through the banks and the hedges so that it would make it easier for the infantry to do their job.
That's ingenious isn't it?
It was, whoever thought it up.
Fantastic. Another question I've got for you please if you don't mind is nowadays obviously you attend functions and commemorations and you get dressed up in your, its not your uniform is it, its your NVA...
It's our standard dress which is a blazer and flannels and we all try to be fairly uniform in colour.
How does it make you feel when you put that on again.
Oh very proud, very proud, without a doubt. Cause we think that by us keeping it to the forefront of people's minds that hopefully that people will realise that war isn't any good and it may make them think, that the world could become a safer place and I hope that in the future that there won't be any wars and that the future adults who are at school now will try their utmost to find another way of doing it instead of fighting with weapons, try and do more talking, you can't hurt anybody with talk can you?
How would you like to be remembered by the young people in this country, do you want them to think you're heroes, do you want them to be thankful, do you want them to just remember or...how do you feel about that?
Well I would think myself I would like the children to think about me and my friends who actually helped to finish this person Hitler off so that the world would be a better place, that they would think of me as a person who helped to give them their freedom and if they think of this country as being free and this is why we went to war initially did the nation but you have to know what its like to be conquered to be free as when you go abroad to * they appreciate it immensely for what people did so that they can go back to being free and living the life what they want to lead, they can have a democratic government instead of one that's forced on you and then if I can be thought of like that through the children's eyes then to me it would be a lasting memorial for me.
Fantastic yeah. Did you end up with any medals?
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Yes, we got issued with what they call campaign medals, and each one denotes a phase of the war when it happened. For instance, there was a 1939-45 star which denotes that you were actually involved in the war between those times, and then you had a Germany medal, France and Germany medal, which was another one to say that you were involved in the campaigns in France and Germany during that period, and then there was a defence medal, which, I got my defence medal being in the Home Guard which had been...this Home Guard had been raised in the early 40s because we thought we were going to be invaded and therefore the populous, most of them of that age group, had actually fought the First World War up to the 50s, 60s mark, and they were all well trained men. So they were given the title of LDV, which was Local Defence Volunteers, which they had an arm band and initially it was a bit pathetic. Somebody had a shot gun somebody had an old sword and actually they made a comedy programme called Dad's Army about it which I'm sure some of the children would have seen but I think when they really got down to it being trained by these old soldiers as well, that it became really a fighting force that would have been reckoned with, it would have been a good back up for the regular army at the time and thankfully we weren't invaded and that brings me back to the point that this country has never been invaded so they take democracy very lightly and they should fight like hell for it because when you've been invaded and then you get liberated you know what it means to be conquered, and this country has never been conquered, so the children of the post war period didn't know what it was like to be under the heel, if you like, and therefore their freedom was, to me it was, I don't know, what shall we say, a façade where they didn't know what had gone on actually and from that time to the present day the children now are fathers that have never been involved in any conflict so they can't tell them what it was like and this is the reason why as veterans we are trying to tell you what it really was like and why you should think about your freedom and how you should fight for it democracy wise through the ballot box.
That's it, that's what it boils down to, doesn't it?
Yeah.
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