the 6th June, 1944, the Allies began the liberation of Europe with
the most daring amphibious mission in history.
Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings along the Normandy Coast
marked the beginning of the end of the Nazi regime.
The attack, called Neptune, was due to take place on 5 June, but
bad weather meant it had to be postponed by 24 hours.
after midnight, the first allied soldiers went in. Three airborne
divisions, the US 82nd & 101st, and the British 6th, were sent
in by parachute and glider, to secure the flanks of the beaches,
take strategic positions, such as the now famous Pegasus Bridge,
and to cause confusion among the enemy.
now, a vast fleet of 7,000 allied ships was beginning to amass at
a point in the English Channel - codenamed Piccadilly Circus.
At 6.30am, the first landing craft began their assault, under the
cover of a massive naval bombardment, aimed at the German defences.
landed on a 40 mile stretch of coast, split into five beaches. The
Americans landed on Utah and Omaha beaches, the Canadians on Juno,
and the British on Gold and Sword.
attack took the Germans completely by surprise. Clever deception
by the Allies meant the German High Command was expecting an invasion
to take place much further away near Calais, and General Rommel,
who was in charge of defending the German Atlantic wall, was hundreds
of miles away in Stuttgart for his wife's birthday when the invasion
ferocious resistance on Omaha beach, by midnight on D-Day, the allies
had secured the beach head. 57 000 US, and 75 000 British and Canadian
soldiers had made it ashore.
counter-attack never properly came. Panzer divisions based nearby
were held back, and German reinforcements were delayed. It was a
crucial error by the German Army, which allowed the allies to get
more troops and equipment ashore.
the following weeks, the allies established an unstoppable force,
which ultimately led to the end of the war in Europe.
Les Dinning was a gunner with the 7th Armoured Division - the legendary
Desert Rats - and landed at Gold Beach on D-Day.
who now lives in Milton Keynes, joined the army aged 16, after saying
that he was a year older than he actually was! He had only just
turned 18 when he landed in France on 6th June 1944.
began service with the Desert Rats aged 17, when he joined the 4th
County of London Yeomanry on the 16 February 1944 in High Ash Wood,
was stationed there between January and May 1944 while they prepared
for the invasion of Normandy.
in Berlin in 1945
Division sailed from Felixstowe on the 5 June 1944 with the first
tanks landing on Gold Beach on the evening of 6th June.
returned to Normandy for the first time since the invasion in 1993
and admits that it was a rather strange experience as he hadn't
really spoken about it much before.
back to the beach for the first time the memories came flooding
back" he says.
I stood on the beach it all came back to me."
I was demobbed in 1947 I was one of hundreds of thousands. It was
all water under the bridge and we didn't talk about it" he
I found out that I had to talk about it and now you can't stop me!"
He admits that while it was a bad situation to be in, he is also
able to look back fondly on that time.
was a pretty horrible situation but there were lots of happy times
too" he explains.
were friends. The tank was our home and we lived as a family."
also recalls living on rations and making tea at every opportunity.
we stopped we brewed tea" he says. "It became standard
procedure. The water boiled in minutes and we were soon standing
around with pint pots of tea - and this happened in action!"
were bad memories too though.
worst memory is when my two colleagues were killed in the turret
(of the tank). We were hit by a bazooka while trying to keep a road
Les is very clear when asked about what his abiding memory is.
was just before we got to L'Azure" he says. "We had just
broken through and we were pushing up through France.
had a hard day's fighting but it was a beautiful evening. I was
the Gunner sitting in the turret and as we started to go down the
road into the town I heard church bells.
was the first time I'd heard church bells in France. The town was
still occupied but the bells were ringing out. I always remember
It was his trip in 1993 that really got Les recalling the events
of 1944 and led to him being responsible for setting up a memorial
to the Desert Rats.
can be found about two miles north of Mundford in Norfolk, at the
entrance to the original camp sites occupied by the 4th County of
London Yeomanry, and the 1st and 5th Royal Tank Regiments in 1944.
Now, 60 years later, Les returned with BBC Three Counties Radio
to the very beach where he landed.
part of the events to mark the anniversary, they went back to the
town of Arromanche.
can hear about his trip on Friday 4 June, using the links below.
you been to the Normandy beaches? Have you been told about your
family's wartime involvement? Maybe you were even there in 1944.
not tell us all about your memories and experiences.
The aerial pictures below are of the D-Day landings at Arromanche
(Gold Beach) and are reproduced with the kind permission of The
Aerial Reconnaissance Archives
these photos were taken by RAF reconnaissance crews, they were sent
to the Allied Central Interpretation Unit (ACIU) at Medmenham in
Buckinghamshire, where they were studied by analysts.
World War II, the ACIU was the headquarters of photographic intelligence.
Like the code-breakers at Bletchley Park, the photographic-interpreters
played a key role in winning the war. No kind of attack, be it a
bombing raid, the landing of a few men on a beach or the landing
of an army, was possible without the preparation of target material
at the ACIU.
out more about the BBC WW2 People's War Roadshow
more World War II stories from the area
05-Jun-2004 07:38:19 BST
my dad (Les), what a great show, is there any way we can have
a copy of the recording for Dad as we have friends and relatives
who live outside the area and do not have access to the internet.
Also my brother Andrew Dinning lives in Germany and we would
love him to hear this broadcast. I was driving my van while
the broadcast was on and I was bursting with pride thinking
thats my Dad !!
05-Jun-2004 12:33:32 BST
was a great show - thanks to Martyn and Lee. I was amazed that
Les and the other veterans who rang in during the programme
said they had no fear at the start, just excitement and wanting
to get on with their task. I was a young child at the time of
D-Day and now I realise the sacrifices made by each and everyone
who carried out the invasion into Europe. And when Les stood
with Martyn in the cemetery and said "I feel guilty.. why them
and not me" it was a very emotional moment... I want to tell
him that I owe my life to him and so many others, and for that
I will be eternally grateful.