- Contributed by
- Radio Ulster
- People in story:
- Richard Keegan
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 February 2005
This story was given to Conor Garrett and transcribed by volunteer Mairead Gilheany
My name is Richard Keegan from Lurgan and I fought with the Second Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles. We landed on Queen Beach which was divided into three sections: Sword, Juno and Gold. The Canadians landed on Gold and the British Army landed on Sword and Juno. The Yanks landed on Omaha. We were on the big landcraft that held more than a company, and it had two ramps down the side. We also had to carry bicycles which would carry 60lbs of equipment. When we landed there was a high swell on the tide, and I remember when I was getting ready to come off the boat, I put a pair of socks into my mess tin so that my feet would be dry whenever we first got the chance to change. Any landings we did in training we only got our feet wet but in this landing we were soaked from head to foot. The swell was so bad it was almost over the top of us. My head was soaking at the time.
We got up the beach which had already been opened by the engineers and the commandos that went in in front of us. This meant that the mines were cleared. We went through that area and up a wee side street onto our bikes and we went to a place that they named the Orchard. There we had the rollcall to see that all was correct. We then moved on from there to a farm area and we dug in for the night. We were about 4 or 5 miles in then. Our beachhead was more or less secure. Then we were briefed for our first attack which was to take place in June. The first shell that came over that morning wounded the man I joined up with. We left our bikes at that stage. I was a platoon runner and operator and the wireless was soaked and I said to my Officer: “This wireless is useless”. He told me to dump it with my bike so I left it there. I never saw the bike or the wireless again. We went on from there on foot and the Germans came over and machine-gunned us as we walked along the road. We were very fortunate — whenever they were shooting, they machine-gunned up the middle of the road and we were able to lie into the ditches quite safe. Our company - D company- was lead company for the attack on Wood Gazelle. We moved across a cornfield about 1600 yards and came to the wood where there was a wall. One half of the company went to the left and one straight on. Whenever we got in we could see personnel mines hung in the trees and mines on the ground. Machine gun fire opened up on us and we were pinned down. My platoon officer told me to tell Captain Montgomery that we were pinned down and we were going to pull out. So I crawled the whole way back through the wood and up the other side to where the Captain was and told him. He agreed and I went back and told the platoon officer. We had to leave the wounded behind. Later when we came back to try again we found that the Germans had shot them in the head. The company commander was also dead.
In that second attack I was shot on the right hand side. I damaged my foot and it wasn’t until I went back in a visit to Normandy that I thought about what I had done that it suddenly dawned on me that I had put that foot in a shell hole and broke bones and ruptured ligaments. I was moved from there onto the beach and I was shipped back to England. Whenever I got out of hospital, I was posted to the Royal Corps of Signals and I used to tow their vehicles back and get them repaired if necessary. In 1946 I was due for demob and they wanted me to stay in the army but I decided to become a civilian again.
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