- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Frederick Glover
- Location of story:
- Normandy, France
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 May 2004
Fred Glover on a Normandy beach in 2004 (Photo: Mark Collins)
This is Frederick Glover's account of his D-Day experiences:
I was 18 years old on D-Day, and a member of the 9th Parachute Battalion. I was part of a special volunteer force that was assigned to crash inside the Merville battery, landing on the concrete emplacements and engaging the enemy inside while the remainder of the battalion attacked from outside the perimeter wire.
Our training for this operation was thorough. The Royal Engineers built a replica of the battery near Newbury, and we rehearsed our operation there for about two weeks, day and night.
Flying to Normandy
At this time in my life I had never even heard a shot fired, and in the run-up to D-Day the uppermost thing in my mind was how I would react once the shooting started. I was very aware of the honour of the regiment, and I also felt very strongly that I did not want to let my comrades down. In a parachute regiment you are isolated right from the word go, but relying on each other is an essential part of the job.
On the flight over I had a moment of panic because I just couldn't remember anything. Where were the machine gun posts? Where was the flag tower? What am I doing here and what have I got to do?
The other thing that was on my mind as we were flying over to Normandy was my weapon. Because it was expected that we would be in very close contact with the enemy after landing, each of us was armed with a submachine gun and I kept thinking about how many rounds there were in each magazine. I feared that at a crucial moment, I would just hear a click and nothing would happen.
Almost right from the word go, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. One of the three gliders were hit by anti-aircraft fire. I was wounded in one leg first, then we circled around and I was hit in the other leg. I hoped he wouldn't go round for a third time! We almost crashed into a minefield, but the pilot just lifted the glider over the perimeter and we crashed into an orchard about 200m away. Fate intervenes in these situations.
We crawled out of the wreckage of the glider and were immediately engaged in a fierce fire fight with a unit of German infantry that was coming to reinforce the battery. So, in a peculiar way, we fulfilled a very useful role because we stopped them from attacking the rest of the battalion, who were attacking the battery.
The battalion was scattered all over. There was heavy flak crossing the coast, and the navigators mistook the River Dives for the River Orne. We lost, regretfully, a very large number of men who were drowned in the flooded area by the River Dives. At the time, we didn't know that we had lost so many men in this area, a good third of our total strength. Many of these men were good friends. One of the things about the parachute unit, of course, is that everyone is a volunteer and wants to be there. That's what made it a good unit, and of course, you make very firm friendships.
Wounded and captured
I had been wounded in both my left leg and right thigh, where a piece of shrapnel had become lodged. I tried to keep up with the battalion but because of my wounds I fell further and further behind. Another group caught up with me and it was decided that I should stay behind with two wounded Germans to wait for our troops advancing from the beach.
In the hours we spent waiting, I administered some morphine to the German with the worst wounds, an act that later turned out to save my life.
In the late afternoon, we were spotted by an enemy patrol. As they approached I dismantled my Sten gun, but I had forgotten that I also had a fighting knife and a Gammon bomb on me, and as the Germans handled these weapons I feared for my life. But the young German suddenly spoke up and pointed to his comrade, the one I had given morphine to. After he spoke the atmosphere changed immediately. I was put in an ambulance and taken to a field hospital, and from there transferred to a hospital in Paris.
In Paris I managed to escape from the hospital with the help of the French Resistance. When the city was liberated they contacted an American liaison officer with the Free French division, and I was taken to an American field hospital and then flown back to Blandford in Dorset, to an American military hospital. I eventually ended up in a British military hospital at Shaftesbury.
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