- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Ken Oakley
- Location of story:
- Normandy, France
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 May 2004
Ken Oakley on a Normandy beach in 2004 (Photo: Mark Collins)
This is Ken Oakley's account of his D-Day:
I was 22 years old on D-Day, an ordinary seaman and assistant to the beachmaster with a Royal Navy commando. Our job was to get everything organised on the beach, mark where the landing craft should come in, and call in supplies.
The night before D-Day, the senior army officer said to us, 'You're with the first of several waves. If you do not survive, we will send in the second wave, and if they do not survive, we will send in a third wave, and so on until we have captured the beach.'
That was a very nice thought to go to bed with.
At 3.30am on D-Day we were woken up and told to get ready. We were within sight of our objective. At 5am we got into the landing craft assault (LCA) to make for Sword beach. There were several other LCAs around us. The sea was choppy, and many of the soldiers were sick. We were looking out for the dreaded stakes with 50 six-pound bombs or mines attached to them, and when they came into sight, the coxswain steered towards a gap to our right. It was very, very tight but he did a marvellous job and just missed one shell that would have blown us completely out of the water.
And then, bang, we were on the beach, down the ramp.
Everything had been kept so secret, we didn't know what was going on around us at the time. We just saw our own landing. I was the beachmaster's bodyguard, and the two of us ran forwards up to the beach. We were targeted by multiple mortars and the fire from them was very, very heavy. All around us were landing craft coming in bang, crash, wallop and out you get, and everything was absolute chaos. It was 6.10am and we were among the first wave to hit the beach.
A bit later the commander came up to me and said that Sid had been severely wounded, and could I help him. I went along the beach and Sid was lying in the sand, very badly wounded. I pushed his kidney back into his body, and told him to be careful, I didn't want him to spill that out again. I managed to get him along to the first aid post and they looked after him. Sid made a good recovery, and was eventually the best man at my wedding!
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