- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Frank Clinton
- Location of story:
- Hermanville Normandy Beaches
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 19 November 2004
This story was submitted to the People's War web site by a volunteer from Age Concern Dorchester on behalf of Frank Clinton and has been added to the site with his permission. Mr Clinton fully understands the site's terms and conditions
The tide was right out and engineers were destroying the obstacles that damaged our Landing Craft on D-Day. The General in charge of the beach asked me to take two older men and a truck and pick up the dead bodies and bits of bodies that we could find on this large beach. We did just that and drove the truck up to Hermanville where we were stopped by the Military Police. The officer said to me that there is a sniper in the church tower. I replied that it would make no difference to what I was carrying on the truck. He took a look and said ‘Get the hell out of here’.
I noticed that there were three or four French lads standing around and they followed the truck as we took it up to the Field Hospital. The Padres at the hospital did not know what I should do with the dead bodies, so I said ‘I will place them in that field over there’.
The truck was backed in and these young French lads helped my men get the bodies on to the ground. We laid the complete bodies on their backs with their name tags exposed, but the bits and pieces we tried to assemble as one and did the same. There were no name tags for some of them. We just did our best and later in the day, a smaller, second load was also dealt with.
I was at Hermanville Cemetery sixty year later and there was a Service, with about 10,000 people. The priest in charge told the people I had started the cemetery sixty years ago and had come over from Canada to be there. There was a General present who wanted to talk with me. He shook my hand and said ‘I know it is Monty’s Division, the third division.’ I told him I had landed behind the South Lancashires on Sword Queen White Beach. He told me that only six men of the South Lancs. survived the landing.
I was then introduced to the Mayor of Hermanville and he confirmed that every year, on the 6th June, the children place flowers on the graves — 1003 of them. The second priest in charge then spoke to me and told me he was one of the lads who helped and remembered being told by the Military Police that there was a sniper in the church tower. He was one of the lads who helped and was now a Parish Priest. We shook hands — I was pleased and amazed to meet him after all these years.
At the time I was a Junior Officer just doing my job.
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