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A Glaswegian loses friends in pre-Normandy battle

by BBC Scotland

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Archive List > World > France

Contributed by 
BBC Scotland
People in story: 
William Ward
Location of story: 
Normandy, France
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Claire White of BBC Scotland on behalf of William Ward and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

In July 1944 I was in Normandy preparing for the battle of Caen with my section of the King's Own Scottish Borderers. We went into a field to collect picks and shovels and it became apparent that the area was being watched by a German observation post. All hell broke loose.

My section scattered in the face of German mortaring, shelling and machine-gunning. Two friends and I jumped into a shell hole but soon discovered that our cover wasn't good. I looked around for a ditch, a wall or a thick tree that I could shelter behind but I saw no suitable cover.

Suddenly I spotted what looked like a hole in the ground 30-40 yards in front of me. I beckoned my friends over to shelter and we dived straight into the trench. It was over 6 feet deep, clean cut and shaped like a backwards letter 'L'. I lay down and rolled over but soon realised that if a shell hit the top of the trench I could be buried alive, so I stood straight up.

The German bombardment lasted 10-15 minutes but it felt like hours. I waited for five minutes before venturing out. As I made my way back to our own lines I crossed the shell hole I had left and discovered the dead bodies of my two friends. One friend had been blown to the top of the shell hole and was split in two. My other friend had a massive hole in his back and his right arm was hanging off. I felt devastated but there was nothing I could do.

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