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Post D-Day 75 Years Later
Created by John Eipper on 06/06/19 12:18 AM

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D-Day 75 Years Later (John Heelan, UK, 06/06/19 12:18 am)

Some memories of D-Day (June 6th, 1944). As I was only 7 years old at the time I did not witness the build-up of invasion shipping that happened just miles away across the Solent in Portsmouth, one of the ports heavily involved in supporting D-Day. The build-up for the Falklands War gave an indication of the scale of the venture.

However there are a couple of other memories that come to mind. As a WWII evacuee from London, I was sent to visit an aunt who was living in Devon at the time. She took me to the big flat beaches of Weston-Super-Mer and I recall watching two military amphibious vehicles (DUKWs?) lumbering out of the sea and across the sands. With later knowledge, I have always wondered whether these amphibious took part in the D-Day invasion.

Another memory. As an evacuee hosted by a mining family on the North Yorkshire moors (I have written previously about a lone German aircraft shooting at us as children as we wandered over the moor and diving into nearby bushes but heard the bullets passing through those bushes.) The small village was next to a major Army camp and we witnessed many trucks passing through full of soldiers, so once again--were they on their way to Normandy? (With some shame, I confess, that I and my companions used to throw apples at them!)

I have recently discovered an excellent book The D-Day Atlas (ISBN 0-500-25123-1) replete with detailed maps of the invasion and its aftermath as well as discussing the plethora of previous plans including the failed raid on St. Nazaire. Worth consulting by those interested in the build-up and denouement of the Normandy invasion.

Given the similarity of the geology of our little island in the Solent to that of Normandy, it was used to train US Rangers and UK Commandos in the run-up to the D-Day invasions. (Over centuries, rivers draining towards the sea have cut shallow gorges through the mainly clay cliffs. Some of which have vertical faces.) One of the biggest gorges (locally called "Chines") is Shanklin Chine (owned by a lady in our village) that was used as a training centre, in preparation for the assault on Pointe du Hoc whose defensive position at the tip of the Cherbourg peninsula overlooked Utah Beach.

The 150 Rangers under the command of Lt-Col James E. Rudder (116RCT), 2nd and 5th battalions of the Rangers, would scale the cliffs to knock out the German defenses after firing rocket launchers with ropes, rope ladders and grapnels from landing craft. The chines also provided rapid egress routes from the beachheads allowing the invaders to spread inland very quickly and added to the successful deployment of troops after the beachheads were established. (The cliffs near my house still has evidence of secure attachments, now used mainly by local coastguards and rescue services to retrieve visitors cut off by the tides.)

Every year there is a memorial service at Shanklin Chine for the rapidly dwindling survivors of 40 Royal Marine Commando unit

Shanklin also provided the pumping stations for PLUTO (Pipe Line under the Ocean) that provided fuel supplies to the Mulberry Harbours--a critical component of the invasion plans.  Those pumping stations still exist with examples of the pumps on display.

JE comments:  No child should ever have to live through war, but millions and millions have (and do).  From the other side of the war, we'll have a childhood memory from Eugenio Battaglia (next).

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  • Memories of June 6th, 1944 (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/06/19 12:41 AM)

    About remembering June 6th, 1944, at that time I was 8 years old. I was feeling the terrible shock that two days before the "Barbarians" had conquered Rome, so at first Normandy was not such a great event for me. A few days later I had the suspicion that it was really a great defeat and that maybe the "disfattisti" (defeatists), as we called those Italians siding with the foreigners or hiding in the empty cellars, could win.  But until the last day I hoped not and did my little best with this hope.

    JE comments:  Imagine the fear and insecurity in a child's heart when his or her people are about to lose a war.  Eugenio, do you recall "barbarian" as a term in general use to refer to the Allied forces?

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