On June 6, 1944, Allied Forces invaded Normandy and turned the tide of World War II in Europe. More than 100,000 soldiers swept ashore and nearly 10.000 died that first day. By June 22, the Allies had broken out of Normandy heading for Berlin.
These stories are the first-hand accounts of the men and women who participated in this “mighty endeavour.”
Douglas David Render recalls that he was surprised to find himself in Normandy after he was sent to Portsmouth in June 1944 to oversee the loading of tanks onto a landing craft, which sailed while he was on board.
Capt David Render at the Charles de Percy CWGC visiting two SRY graves
“I was ordered to Portsmouth in June ‘44 but had no idea why. I was told to oversee the loading of 16 Cromwell tanks on a landing craft. I could see that Pompey was awash with frantic loading of equipment, men, food and so on onto ships but just did as ordered. The next thing I knew the ship was at sea.”
The landing craft arrived just off Gold beach at early light and the front loading platform was lowered. The first tank drove off but disappeared from sight, sinking with the loss of all crew.
It had vanished into an underwater trench. The ship’s commander then moved the craft to another location on the beach and all the other craft were safely disembarked.
Mr Render, 88, was ordered to join the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry and went into battle as troop leader seven days after D-Day.
Their opponents included the SS Hermann Goering division, who he described as “nasty pieces of work, these b—–s set fire to a church with all the villagers in. How can anyone do that?”
He recalls entering a small church in Normandy and found it filled with flowers, crosses and candles that the Germans had left behind. “I thought it strange that we and them were praying to the same God for victory and safety.”
Mr Render had two tanks blown from under him but remained a troop leader until the end of the war, a rare achievement given that the Sherwoods lost 59 officers from June 1944 to the end of the war.
He had volunteered to join the army on his 18th birthday in 1942 and was sent to the Royal Armoured Corps training centre at Bovington, Dorset, where as a trooper he spent six months on tank training. He said he got fed up of standing sentry duty at the camp gates so applied to become an officer.