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Prelude to D-Day

by navlibian

Contributed by 
People in story: 
George Criddle
Location of story: 
Off the D-Day beaches
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
31 May 2005

HMS BRITOMART was involved, immediately prior to D-Day, in sweeping mines to make safe channels for vessels approaching the Normandy beaches.

What follows is an extract from a letter (dated 12 June 1944) written by Lieutenant George Criddle R.N., serving in HMS BRITOMART, to his wife:

"We took part in the second front, I suppose you heard all about it on the radio, about what had been happening and guessed I might be there.

The whole affair was a masterpiece of organisation, and coordination between all the forces employed in it went with a swing, the timing was perfect.

As we were going over we had a front seat of the air force doing their stuff bombing the coastal batteries and they were making a grand job of it and, as it turned out later, they put paid to the vast majority.

The planes carrying the paratroops also passed over us and we could see plenty of flak going up in the direction they were going in. I certainly preferred our job to theirs.

We, that is our particular party, had a very quiet time of it and we got to our position about 2.30 a.m. - may have been a little later, then we stooged around while the invasion craft came along to go right into the beaches. All this time there were fireworks going on ashore but, as it said on the radio, it took Jerry some time to realise it was the real thing.

By about five o'clock the bombarding forces started up - battleships, cruisers, destroyers all having a go and not very far off the beaches either, which shows how well the R.A.F. had done their stuff and, incidentally, are doing it.

We really had a grandstand view as we had to go to another area, which meant that we went practically all along the beachhead area and could see what was going on. I've never seen so many ships together at one time, everywhere you looked there were ships of all shapes and sizes and on that first day we never saw a single Jerry plane. Hardly believable but never the less true, in fact all the time we've been here we have only seen four and they didn't stick around very long.

The sky has been alive with our own planes just pouring bombs onto Jerry's positions.

The landing barges on the beaches that first morning were also a sight, you couldn't see the beach - just line upon line of craft, and it's been going on ever since. It certainly shows how the stuff has been built up ready for this second front to start off with a bang.

We've had few excitements ourselves - we've swept up some mines, some of which made some big bangs on being cut, but we're still intact (touch wood) and still going strong".

HMS BRITOMART was tragically sunk in a 'friendly fire' incident on 27 August 1944; by which date Lieutenant Criddle had left the ship to assume command of HMS ILFRACOMBE. One of the vagaries of war which possibly meant that, as his son (born 1948), I am here today submitting this contribution.

Lieutenant Criddle was awarded the D.S.C. and later rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander.

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