- Contributed by
- Warwickshire Libraries Heritage and Trading Standards
- People in story:
- Ted bedford
- Location of story:
- England and France
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 June 2005
After the hours PT we were allowed back on board the landing craft and got on to our canvas bunks.The craft held about 200 men and was different to what we had been used to in training. We had a final briefing as to what to expect and then to settle down to sleep,those that could sleep,and then during the night I got up as I needed fresh air as the smell of deisel oil made you feel sick. On deck I looked around and we had been at sea some hours and I couldn't see anything in front of us and I thought that the plan had been changed and that we were going in first,then I looked behind and there was an armada of ships in line abreast. Some of them had barrage balloons attached and I thought how stupid it was.They might not see the landing craft but they would certainly see the balloons approaching.Then after a while I returned to my bunk then we had some breakfast.I was one of the few who could eat which was strange because all the time we had been training I was always seasick.But this time, I dont know why,I didn't feel a bit seasick and felt completely calm.Then after a while they said get ready we'll soon be landing and at that time there was a lot of explosions going on.I dont know where they were going off, on land or sea. We had been swerving to avoid mines.Then I had to go to the toilet but found I couldn't get out,I didn't know if we were still at sea or had grounded on the beach.I was banging to get out and eventually the door opened and I found that some ammo boxes had been stacked against the door.I went on deck to go ashore and myself and three others were the last to go. The landing craft next to ours had its ramps blown off and so they were coming on to ours to get off and then ours had a ramp blown off so there were 400 men to get ashore from our craft.
We were landing on Sword Beach and it was a fantastic sight,there was just one craft to our left and the rest stretched away to our right so we were on the extreme left of the landing. The first thing I remember was seeing a Navy bloke half in and half out of the water and the surf was rolling him over and over.My platoon sergeant called for me to get off and at the time a machine gun at the front of the craft was firing at a fortified house where they were firing at us,and they knocked them off. As I got on the ramp it broke loose from the landing craft and pitched me on to the beach,I didn't even get my boots wet.Some blokes had waded ashore with water up to their chests and carrying their folding bikes with them.I threw my bike on the beach but we were being fired at and I thought I would pick it up later. The sergeant called us and there were about ten of us including our officer, and then this machine gun opened up on us and the bloke on my left got it in the side and the bloke on my right got it in the throat. I think they were both killed and I thought how the hell did they miss me. So I ran towards the other blokes who were at the side of a jetty.There was a hold-up and we found that our officer, not frightened, had just froze and was saying "My wife, my baby" and we couldn't get any sense out of him but we found that his wife had given birth just two days before and that was all he could think about.We had to force him off the beach and then we raced from the beach along a narrow passage with a factory on our left and houses on our right, and the factory was burning. We had arranged that we would gather at a cemetery and we got to the edge of this little village called Hermanville where we got organised in to platoons and companies.
No sooner had we got to the cemetery when a machine opened up on us from a bell tower so we had to deal with that one and killed the two enemy who were there. Then we set off towards Caen. The plan was that the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry were mounted on tanks and were going on the main road to Caen, we were on the left and The Royal Norfolks were on our our right. We were going across country parallel to the road when we heard firing from behind us by 41 Royal Marine Commando,who thought we were Germans and we sorted that out and carried on.We carried on and came to a little wood with German signs warning us that there were mines. Our officer called for the Royal Engineers and when they arrived we found that there mine detecting kit was not working as the batteries were useless. He was furious, I've never seen anyone so furious . Anyway he asked for volunteers and I was one of three blokes to go through this minefield in single file and we were lucky enough to get through.When we got to the other side and in to the open we received a radio message that The Royal Norfolks, doing the same as us on the other side of the road,had been crossing an open field and had 150 casualties. So we went back to Hermanville again and waited several hours waiting for further orders. It appeared that there was a Panzer Division right in front of us on our way to Caen.
Then there was a change of plan and we went to assist the airborne at Pegasus Bridge. We were fired on quite a number of times and when we reached the bridge we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening looking for German sniper who were harrasing the airborne. In the mean time a Frenchman had come out of his house and I well remember his family at the window looking down absolutely petrified at all the noise that was going on and all the troops that were about.He had a bottle of wine and he gave me some and he eventually went back indoors.We spent the night expecting a counter attack and none came.In the morning I made a bit of porridge for breakfast and that was the last meal I had for 4 days, it was almost a repeat of our training.
About 2 o-clock in the afternoon the Company Commander said that we were moving on to help the rest of the battalion which was engaged in attacking a very strong position just a few miles away north of Caen.So we made our way forward to Bennoville where we came across one of our tanks.The turret had been blown off and there was one chap half out of the turret and he was dead and another lying on the ground without any clothes on and completely scorched and burned while trying to get out of his tank.They were the first casualties I had seen.We searched around the area but couldn't find any others, German or English, so we carried on.
We went through a gap between some houses, down hill, and when we came to the bottom we came to a cross roads where we found a few blokes from the battalion who had been on the first attack that had been put in against this ridge.Then lots more that had been killed, I think about 300 altogether.It was the heaviest casualties in the Normandy landings.
Our Company Commander told us to take our equipment off and to carry ammo in our pockets and inside our battledress blouses.We had grenades and bren gun ammo and approached the hill,firing from the hip as we went.There were no casualties,we were dead lucky.We took 2 machine gun positions on the way up and when we got to the top we were looking down a road that went between our ridge and the next one.There was a German tank down there with prisoners being guarded by Germans but we thought it was too risky to shoot in case we hit our blokes.
Then we got orders to return to the anti-tank ditch and so we went back down hill. I was running and zig-zagging and finally thew myself in a shell scrape fully expecting the Germans to be behind us and I thought it was going to be my last hours alive. But I thought I wont die hungry so I took out some chocolate and some sweets,and eventually got back to the ditch.
Our commander then gathered us up and said that we were going to attack the ridge from the side. We set off in single file along the ditch until we came to a road which was the main road to Caen.We ran across the road and came to an orchard and beyond some open ground where we came under fire. There was only one place that could be hiding a sniper and that was a group of 4 trees. So I fired in to each tree, I dont know if I hit anybody but we didn't get fired on again.
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