- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Mr James William Arthur Bright
- Location of story:
- GOLD BEACH - 07:40 6th June 1944
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 10 June 2004
D-Day veteran Mr James W.A. Bright, from Poole in Dorset, a Gunner & Despatch Rider with the 147th Field Regiment, Essex Yeomanry Royal Artillery
This is an extract relating to the D-Day landings, from a 50 page hand-written autobiographical account of my Grandfather's involvement in the 1939-1945 campaign in Europe. His name is Mr James W.A. Bright, from Poole in Dorset, and he was a Gunner with the 147th Field Regiment, Essex Yeomanry Royal Artillery. He died on 27th August 2004 aged 87.
"Having completed our first assignment, our landing craft did a U turn and we went back out to sea to form up with the infantry and tanks for our final run into the beach.
I climbed onto the tank that my bike had been loaded on and was going to take me to shore, which gave me a better view of events. As we neared the shore I wasn’t so impressed by my position as the only protection I had from flying shrapnel and bullets was to crouch down beside the turret and hope and pray for the best of luck. Events of that first day and indeed the many days, weeks and months that were to follow have become hazy and many forgotten, except maybe those that involved personal danger to me.
It was that final approach to the beach that I shall never forget, and is as vivid to me now as if it was yesterday, when the full reality of war occurred. The German return fire was increasing and next ahead of us was a landing craft packed with infantry and this received a direct hit. Because of the strict timing and spacing of vessels following us, we could not attempt to stop or slow down. Neither could we move to right or left because of the lines of craft going in with us, so we just ploughed on through the wreckage and those struggling in the water. A sobering thought that now we were to live not by the day, nor the hour, but by the minute, as a few minutes either way, and ours could have been the craft that was hit.
“H” hour for the first landing was 6.30am and our craft beached at 7.40am and those times I shall never forget. Airborne troops had landed earlier to secure vital bridges. The area around was heavily mined and was evident by the German notices “Achtung Minen” and we soon learned to keep to the roads, but if we had to go cross-country we followed in the tracks of armoured vehicles.
From higher ground inland, a German costal battery was firing at us and we learned then, and were reminded many times later, that German gunners we experts a firing “air bursts” that is, firing shells fused and timed to burst over the target and not on it, and there by causing many casualties from shrapnel. Our 25 pounder guns had little effect on the strongly built, concrete, gun emplacement and so the assistance of the navy was called for…"
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