- Contributed by
- BBC Southern Counties Radio
- People in story:
- Neville James Brooks. Albert Cherry. Captain Milner. M.C. John Battersby. 'Ginger' Gash. Willoughby
- Location of story:
- Normandy. France
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 November 2005
On June 6th 1944 the day we now know as D Day had arrived. As a young rifleman aged 19, serving with the 1st Batallion The Rifle Brigade we were the motorised infantry, part of the 7th Armoured Division the 'Famous Desert Rats'.
We had boarded the Liberty Ship the night before D Day and in the morning we were on our way. Our Company Commander gathered us together and announced that the Invasion of Normandy had begun. We would be unloaded from the ship onto the landing craft off the coast of Normandy at Arromanches, on Gold Beach.
We left Tilbury Docks early that morning and joined a huge convoy of ships. As we went by the Kent coast one of the Liberty ships was hit by shellfire from the French coast and started to brew up.
Apart from that we had an easy passage to Gold Beach. Transferring to the landing craft was a bit dodgy as there was quite a swell running and it was not an easy job to swing the half tracks onto the landing craft.
That evening three German fighter planes attacked the beaches, and every ship from the smallest to the large battleships opened up on them and the sky was full of tracer bullets. It was an amazing sight. The next morning we were organising ourselves to move inland. I was number one on the 3" mortar and the rest of the crew were Albert Cherry No. 2 and John Battersby No. 3 and Wilbur No. 4; the driver was Ginger Gash and we were waiting for our Bren Gun Carrier which had the mortar bombs and mortar on board as well as our blankets and rations
Our Company had to put in an attack on a small town called Jersualem which was holding up the advance inland. Captain Milner came across to us and told us one of the platoons was a man short and as our carrier had not arrived could he have a volunteer to make up the number. Albert Cherry who like me was 18 yrs. old,and I both grabbed our rifles and ran to the half track that had just pulled up. I climbed onto the half track first and left Albert on the ground looked browned off but as we were about to pull away Captain Milner shouted up for me to come down and let Albert go, as I was No. 1 on the Mortar and I would be needed when our Carrier arrived. Albert climbed up grinning and I dismounted feeling quite disappointed as we were both eager to see some action.
Needless to say the rest of the Mortar crew did not volunteer as they had seen action in North Africa they knew what war was all about, not like Albert and myself who still had the Boy's Own ideas of tales of derring-do we used to read about in the Rover and Hotspur boys magazines. We were yet to learn.
Anyway it turned out that Jerusalem was too much for the boys to clear on their own as the Germans had two Tiger Tanks to back them up. Jerusalem was eventually cleared with the backing of our own tanks.
When the lads of A Company returned Albert was not amongst them, he had been fatally wounded. This came as a great blow to me as Albert had been with me all through the training in England over the last year. He was a happy go lucky London lad and we got on well together right from the word go.
One memory of Albert I remember was when we were training in Yorkshire. We were in the Bren Gun carrier when the convoy stopped in Barnsley. Albert and I were sitting in the back when two ladies came out of their house and gave us a cup of tea and a bun each. One of them looked at Albert and me and said to her pal 'Ee they're nowt but lads'. Albert and me looked at each other and grinned, we thought we were fighting men!
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