The 6th of June 1944 is one of the most important dates of WW2. With the 70th anniversary upon us, I would like to take time out from our usual blog content and share with you a story that was told to me by a Normandy veteran who I knew very well. Sadly Frankie passed away a few years ago, but I hope his tale of what he did on that fateful day all those years ago will live long in the mind of you all.
Frankie was from South Milford and joined the Royal Navy when war broke out. He braved terrible conditions on the Artic convoys delivering supplies to Russia. Frankie was on leave visiting his family. Now one thing through his life he enjoyed was a drink and being war time and with his family he and his brother made the most of his last night of leave and got drunk. His brother drove the car to take Frankie back to Leeds station to get the train back to Pompey and his unit. Here is where fate took a turn that would lead to Frankie storming the beaches on D Day. On the journey to the station the car left the road and ended up in a ditch. This meant Frankie missed his train to Portsmouth and thus missed his deadline for return thus becoming AWOL. When he finally arrived back at base he was chucked straight into the glass house. Whilst stewing in his cell he heard an announcement asking for Volunteers for special operations. Frankie asked the guard could he go for this special operations lark. The guard said OH YES. Within hours he was out and on his way to destiny. He undertook training in radio communications but still did not know what he was going to have to do and where he was going. What Frankie did not know was that he was to land on the beaches of Normandy with another rating and Royal Navy officer and provide communications for fire support for the ships guns to aid the infantry on the ground. On the morning of the 6th of June Frankie was on board a landing craft headed for the beach. The sea was rough and the soldiers were having an awful time in the flat bottomed boat. Of course This did not bother Franke being a sailor and the upshot was that he ended up with more than his share of the rum rations as the soldiers were being sick and rum was the last thing they wanted. He recalled one of the soldiers in particular was trying to keep up the men's spirits and encouraging them. As the ramp of the landing craft hit the beach all hell broke loose and Frankie said it was head down and run for cover and the far side of the beach. As he ran he had the soldier next to him who was so full of encouragement for his fellow troops. Frankie said he was there one second and the bang he was just gone. That's how close he came to be killed right there on the beach. After getting into cover he was straight into action with his 3 man team assisting the troops by calling in fire missions on bunkers and pill boxes by the big guns on the ships of shore. Frankie was in France for 10 days doing this until the advance had progressed beyond the ships guns range. Frankie and his two colleagues were pulled back to the beaches and then back to blighty and given a well deserved leave. He took this in London and he told me he felt like the cock of the north walking down the streets of London. The reason for this was that he was wearing army uniform but wearing Royal Navy insignia. He told me that people were staring and pointing and that the public new that he must be something special or done something special. I never bought a drink the whole time I was on leave. After this time he ended back on ship and was sent out to the Far East to fight the Japanease. He was taken sick and he was in Hospital in India when the war ended. When he got back to England in 1946 he raised a family and enjoyed playing cricket in the local leagues.
To Frankie and everyone else who fought on D Day and in all other theatres of the War we will never forget your sacrifice.