- Contributed by
- Sally Ann Clarke
- People in story:
- Jim Aldred
- Location of story:
- Gold Beach, D-Day, 6th June 1944
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 20 January 2006
Private Jim Aldred, aged 21 1946
Jim Aldred was interviewed by Sally Ann Clarke. This story was submitted by Sally Ann Clarke with Jim Aldred's permission. Jim fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
This is his story of the day he landed on Gold Beach.
“I was called up and joined the army when I was 18 on 16th September 1943. Before that I was working on a lorry for a brewery, a drayman. I felt happy as I wanted to go in. I had been through the bombings in London in 1939/40 and I just wanted to get back at them.
I had Infantry Division Training in Northumberland and ended up at Greys in Essex. They said, "would 14665183, Private Aldred step forward" and I was told I was in the Hampshire Regiment, A Company.
On Sunday 4th June 1944, we all went to Southampton. No one knew why we were going there. It was beautifully sunny, we were all in the backs of lorries, all the people were waving and everything and there we were, we were charging down the roads. When we got to Southampton there was this big boat. It was the first time I’d ever seen a big boat, it was the Victoria. (I didn’t know that then). We got on the ship, I nearly fell over the steps and a sailor turned round and said ‘Pommy, you would do that!’ (that’s the nick name they gave us — it’s to do with the horses). The sailors had no time for the Army. Anyway, we all got on the boat and we had our first meal. We went into the Solent and all the big ships were all in a line, war ships, everything was in there, landing craft, you name it, they were there. And then, on the Sunday night we had prayers then we were given a room. D day was on Monday which was the original day, and then it was postponed. That was when we first knew we were going, but we didn’t know when. We set sail Monday, the weather was rough.
At 4 o’clock in the morning, Tuesday morning, 6th June, we heard over the tannoy, ‘Man your craft, man your craft.’
Our boat had 6 LCA’a — Landing Craft Assault —which each holds 30 men. We all got into our boats; we were told which boat we were in, and then we were lowered, circled and then went out. But you’ve got to imagine, what the weather was like, it was rough, choppy. Boats were being sunk with the waves. We touched down, it wouldn’t go in far enough. While we were in the boat, a young lad was saying the 23rd psalm ‘The Lord is my Shepard….’and as we went down the ramp, he was killed. That was the first killing I saw.
We waded through, onto the beach, laid down. In front of us is what they called stacks or telemines which were hidden. I wasn’t scared. In fact my brain was dammed, numbed, all I knew was I was trying to fight. There right in front of me was the enemy. It was kill or be killed and that is what we were trained to do. I knew that I could die.
Up the beach I was lying beside these telemines, and my Corporal, Corporal Rose, was lying beside me. I was a young soldier and he was older. All of a sudden a bullet riquocheted across the water and hit him right in the head. I got up and ‘pepperpotted’ under heavy machine gun fire.
I got to the sea wall of Gold Beach. The whistle went which meant we were to go over the wall. But the Germans opened up with Spandoes [machine guns] and whipped across. By luck, I fell down; I think I must have slipped as it was very damp. It knocked most of them out; I don’t know how many were out. I lay with my back to the sea wall. Coming across the water’s edge was my Major, although I didn’t know he was a major at the time, and three other men. And he hollered out ‘If there’s no wounded, follow me.’ I followed.
As I followed, it seemed to become quiet, then all of a sudden I felt I’d been hit. I keeled over and I lay in the water. I don’t know how long I was in the water but I crawled, I couldn’t walk as I was paralysed down one side. I dropped my rifle and crawled along and as I looked up there was a blast and the left eye of my glasses shattered. So I turned on my back, got into my ammunition pouch, found my spare pair of glasses I had. I took my old ones off and put them into my pouch and put the other ones on. So as I looked up I was able to read ‘Achtung mine field’, I was crawling into a mine field. I didn’t know that until then, lucky I had learnt to read by then! I carried on crawling, and as I was crawling, I took my bayonet off, 9inch bayonet, and I was prodding the ground all the way to the wall I could see in front of me. I was laying flat out, just creeping along. If I found something hard, I just moved around, taking another chance as you don’t know what’s on that side. I kept doing that until I got about half way, I’m not sure.
From that Tuesday, I lost all track of time. I don’t know if I was in the water or out of it, I know I was wet. My brain was numbed all I kept hearing was bullets that kept passing near me. As I was going towards the sea wall I saw a figure in white and he was beckoning me to come closer. I thought the white figure was St Peter. I must have been delirious. Right in front of me on that sea wall was this figure. Now, that might have been a post, painted white but my mind is focused on it and I wanted to go towards it. But I’ve got to cross this mine field. When I got there, the figure had gone. It gave me the strength to live.
I got to the sea wall. I got to a green bit, like grass and I lay on it. All of a sudden I heard voices and I looked up and I gave them my name, number and rank. This is what you do when you become a prisoner. A voice turned round and said ‘Tommy, we are prisoners. We are here to pick up the wounded’. They were German. They tried to stand me up and I screamed out because my ribs went (cracked). So he took his over coat and he laid it on the floor, they did something, I don’t know what they did, but they laid me in it, and pulled me along, the 2 of them, to an over turned tank. In front of it was a big hole and they put me in the hole. The medic that was in there, a kind of trench it was, he saw blood coming out of my side and put a label on me saying ‘No Water’. The blood coming out means it was my lungs that had gone. There was an officer in there that said ‘For God sake, give the soldier some water.’ So he gave me a sip of water.
They told me I was on the beach for 2 or 3 days before they picked me up. Then they hoisted me up, put me on a Bren gun carrier but this time it was carrying stretchers and I don’t know where we landed but we were taken. This officer, who came with us, he turned round and said ‘Lift these men up high, for these are your assault troops. Most of them died so you could come onto this beach’ and I was lifted up high on their shoulders. I was trembling, but proud of what he said and the words will always come back to me. ‘This is my today, for your tomorrow’.
I can’t say I was scared. I was a trained soldier, to kill or be killed. I can honestly say that I wanted to go further. I wanted to fight, what I was trained to do. I was knocked out too quickly. When I was on that boat on the Sunday, I turned round when we were having the religious service. I asked a question ‘Don’t you see the Germans over there are Christians?’ ‘Put that man on a charge!’ The German army was not like the SS, they were like us, and they were called up like us.
I found out later that it was a sniper that took me out because it was a single bullet. I’ve got no grudge against the man, I suppose he might have been killed, the man who shot me. He was doing his job like me and he was defending and I was attacking. Its kill or be killed. The only regret I had was that I didn’t go further.
The figure I saw saved my life what ever it was……Life is funny, was it my imagination? An hallucination? I was in pain, I could hardly move, I was paralysed all my left side. I wanted to get out. I think it was my imagination that saw him in front of me. From that day I became a Christian. Some how or other I turned religious. I don’t know how true it is or was it my mind playing tricks?
I don’t know how I survived even to this day.
I feel delighted I’ve told it, now it’s all off my chest.
I’ve been waiting to tell it.
End of story.”
Jim lives in Hastings and will be 81 in 2006. He lost a lung and several ribs that day on Gold Beach and he still suffers pain from his war wounds.
He retuned to Gold Beach for the first time in 2004 for the 60th anniversary celebrations of D-Day. He found it very emotional but was glad he went back.
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