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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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by proach

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Patricia Roach
Location of story: 
Felpham West Sussex
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
15 June 2004

When D-day arrived it was really no surprise to us. I was fourteen years old at the time and lived with my family in a village called FELPHAM about two miles east of BOGNOR REGIS in West Sussex. Our home was on the sea front so we were in a grandstand position for any of the wartime activities that occurred. For some months before D-Day, we noticed the build-up of the numbers of troops in the area. We already had for several years been living with the Naval School of Photography as our neighbours. They had taken over many houses on the estate where we lived.

Canadian troops arrived in Bognor Regis followed by a large number of American troops. The latter brought a huge number of vehicles all marked with a white star. The house at the bottom of our garden was taken over by men of the Liverpool Scottish Regiment. They appeared to own only one gramaphone record, which they played incessantly!

Another hint to us that something big was going to happen shortly was the appearance of objects that looked like concrete blocks which were anchored off Selsey Bill. I could see this from my bedroom window. Two or three blocks would appear each day and it grew to look like a village which is what we eventually called it. This turned out to be the Mulberry Harbour.

On waking on D-Day itself, I noticed that the village had disappeared, when I first looked out from my window. (A couple of days before this the troops had gone from Bognor Regis and the house at the bottom of the garden was strangely quiet, no record playing, and we realised our neighbours had departed).

I went to school as usual and at 9.30 that morning we heard the voice of John Snagge on the wireless telling us that troops had either landed by glider, been dropped by parachute, or gone across the channel by boat, and were now on the beaches in Normandy. One thought- at last - the end of the war might now be in sight. There was a feeling of exdpectancy, of hope, tinged, of course, with a feeling of anxiety, wondering what was happening to our lads "over there".

We were sent home from school early that day and the wireless was never turned off just in case there would be more news. My brother, Michael Long, was in the Glider Pilot Regiment, and at the time we had had no word from him. Aroound 8.0 p.m. that evening, we heard the sound of aircraft approaching so we all made our way onto our balcony overlooking the sea.

Within minutes, the sky was filled with gliders and the tugs (aircraft that towed the gliders were known as tugs). Apparently there were 250 gliders, plus the 250 tugs - so the sky was full of 500 aircraft as far as the eye could see. I think Armada is the only word that can describe this scene.

There were aircraft to the right of you, aircraft to the left and aircraft as far as you could see. It was an amazing experience and one I shall never forget. We put up the Union Jack (always kept at hand!) and waved our hankies madly. The aircraft were flying fairly low so they could easily see us.

There was a strange silence after they disappeared over the horizon. We were still anxious for my brother as the phone had remained silent.

Later that evening, about 9.30 to 9.45 p.m. (I remember we had a marvellous sunset), I went up on the balcony by myself and listened to the lapping of the waves. Suddenly the drone of aircraft could be heard - the tugs were on their way home. It was a very poignant moment.

I remember tears pouring down my face as I thought of all those young men who were now in France - wondering what was happening to them - was my brother amongst them. It was a very sad moment and one I will never forget.

Around 10.00 p.m., the phone rang. It was my brother, Michael, telling us he was still in England. We were very relieved. He went to Arnhem three months later, was shot through the leg, and taken prisoner. But that is another story.

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