- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Douglas Williams
- Location of story:
- France and Holland
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 20 February 2005
The Quiet Commando -Sgt. D.H. Williams RASC I Cdo Bde
The Quiet Commando
My father was a modest man, and never talked about “the war”. It wasn’t until after he died that I discovered the box containing all the things he had kept. There were his medals and Sergeant’s stripes and photographs of him in uniform looking like a young vulnerable boy. I found maps of France dated June 1944, along with a detailed report of D Day and the following days: “Operation Overload: An account of the part taken by No. 1 Special Service Brigade”. This is an 18 page detailed document, so a short extract will have to give the flavour of the full descriptive account.
“The original intention was for the first flight of assault troop consisting of the 8th Infantry Brigade to silence such beach defences as remained after the softening up air and naval bombardment and to form a beach head through which 4 Commando was to pass.
But when 4 Commando came in 0820 hours they found the assault troops pinned down by intense machine gun and mortar fire from a strong point at the back of the beach. Some had not got beyond the water’s edge and were still in 2 feet of water.
Mortar bombs were falling in and around the LCA’s as they touched down and the Commando suffered 40 casualties including the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col RWP Dawson, who was wounded in the leg”.
So, dad was a Commando, he had a certificate of Appreciation of Loyal Service dated 1946, and his name was published in the London Gazette on 4th April 1946, as mentioned in a Despatch for distinguished service. He had a Christmas card personally signed by Louis Mountbatten! I also found a copy of “Blighty” (May 16th, 1942) the forces magazine in which he had a letter printed.
Another lengthy document told the story of a series of operations carried out by the first Commando Brigade in co-operation with the seventh armoured division east of the river Maas 19th January to 1st February 1945. One section of this report was particularly touching:
“It was during this action that L/Cpl. H.E. Harden RAMC, the medical orderly attached to A Troop particularly distinguished himself. One section had been caught in open country by heavy enemy MG fire and made a dash for cover. One officer and two marines fell wounded. As soon as Harden heard of these casualties, he went forward alone across a hundred and twenty yards of flat open ground swept by enemy MG and mortar fire. He attended to the dressings of the wounded, and as he half-carried one marine back to Troop HQ bullets could be seen striking the snow all around him. Although he himself had been wounded in the side during this attempt, and had been ordered not to go out again, he organised a stretcher party and twice more led them personally to recover the remaining wounded. On his third trip while returning with the wounded Officer on a stretcher, this fearless soldier was shot through the head and killed.”
Dad’s pay book showed that he also served in India and Japan. I never knew all this and wish I had had the chance to tell him how proud I was of him. He was a talented writer and water colour artist, and died at the age of 65 in 1987. I would like to post this article as a tribute to Sgt. D.H. Williams RASC I Cdo Bde, my dad.
Sally Thorn (Nee Williams)
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