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15 October 2014
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D-Day a bird in the water

by A7431347

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Jack Moxey
Location of story: 
Channel on D - Day
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
11 May 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by a volunteer from Broadstairs Kent on behalf of Jack Moxey from a tape he recorded 20 years ago before his death. His son has given his kind permisssion for the tape to be transcribed onto the site.The story from the tape is as follows:

"This is my story as an Officer of the Fleet Air Arm and my experience of the D-day landing

I had been trained as an aircraft observer and navigator but was unusually seconded to Motor Launch duties prior to D Day where I was to navigate Motor Launch 269. I would be guiding up to twelve landing craft full of Canadian and British troops for despatch to Juno beach —Normandy.

On June 4th we passed from the Hamble in the Solent and picked up our 12 landing craft. Unfortunately bad weather ensured and we were asked to hold our position. The conditions would either lead to cancellation or postponement of the invasion date. Prior to leaving the Hamble we were given sealed orders only to be opened when at sea to ensure complete secrecy. When the postponement came we had already opened our orders and as such were not allowed back into port and had to endure an unpleasant period of bad weather and rough seas overnight.

We finally sailed on June 5th with our cargo of troops. The Canadians were in fine fighting spirit wanting revenge over the failed landing at Dieppe when so many of their kind had died. To increase their ferocity they shaved their heads leaving only a band of hair down the middle looking like a cockatoo! They then painted their faces and heads brown and red, wearing no helmets, a terrifying sight calculated to frighten the Germans as they came up the beaches.

The number of landing craft and naval vessels assembled in the Solent were so numerous you could have walked from the mainland to the Isle of Wight by leaping from deck to deck!. The ML passed through the gate out into the Channel. The gate was a gap in submarine nets that all going craft to Normandy passed through, it was about 200yds wide. We were in Juno J force and had our funnel painted with a red strip for identification, all our landing craft had similar markings. Craft going to Sword beach were painted blue and those to Gold beach green. We proceeded to Juno beach at a steady 7 knots through the night, no one leaving the bridge having feelings of fear and trepidation as we plied our steady course.

When dawn arrived, the guns from the large Royal Navy vessels in our flotilla opened fire onto the beach sending down a barrage to clear it for the troops. This was followed by rocket firing craft that again cleared the beach and beyond. There appeared to be little sign of life but we later found out that the troops had a harder time of it when going over the ridge at the back of the beach. Our Srn office decided to take the ML in as close as possible dropping off the landing craft 400yds from the shore. The original distance was supposed to be 1 mile. At this point the tanks rolled off and the landing craft spilled out their precious cargo unopposed.

Having despatched the landing craft we reported to Admiral Vine on his vessel for further orders. We were to return to England with despatches. This we did and were greeted with an astonishing sight. From bow to stern in two columns there was a continuous stream of landing and support craft all the way back to England. For 24 hrs since we left, the craft had not stopped coming. We were not allowed to dock until all had left. When eventually we did arrive at port we were ordered to escort a further 12 landing craft across to Juno which we proceeded to do.

Other duties we had were to patrol off Juno for possible E-boat attacks on our shipping. It was on one of these day/ night patrols that we witnessed the '1000 bomber' raid, as they became known, pass over us on their way to bomb Caen where the British advance had heavy resistance from the crack German Panzer division. Our position was 12 mile out to sea and Caen was 12 miles inland, totalling a distance of 24 miles. By the morning our ML was covered in dust and grit from the bomb dust of Caen and was even getting between our teeth. We guessed the destruction must have been complete to create that effect.

My watch off the Normany beaches continued until August when after the ML was refitted I returned to my Fleet Air Arm posting. I like to think of myself during this period as not a fish out of water…. more a bird in the water!

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