Personal Accounts

William (Billy) Moore
2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles (9th Platoon, A Company)

I went to a Young Soldiers' Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles. We went to Essex, and we were disbanded. Some went to the London Irish, and I went to a place called Hawick in Scotland. We did training up in a place named Inverary, way up in the hills, off the beaches where the boats, the landing barges were.

We went up to a place called Dartmount up in England, where we were under tents waiting for the invasion. A place called Droxford near Southampton. We were there for about 3 weeks, and we weren't allowed out for nothing. And we got visits from the Queen - she was Queen then - and all, General Montgomery and all their dignitaries.

And then going up round Portsmouth and all for the Invasion.
We were there 3 weeks, nearly a month. In the camp, waiting for the invasion. Then we went on the ships at the ports, and round and round for the 3 nights.

It was rough. I can tell you, it was rough.

We went around the coast of France 2-3 times, because it was too rough, and went in the third time. We had bicycles with us because they thought we were just going to walk into Cambes. They thought it would be easy. The sea was so rough that we threw the bicycles overboard and you could see bodies floating in the water.
We landed half a mile from Sword beach. So we made our way in. But some of the boys, you didn't see them, because some of them just drowned.

And then we we were meant to take Cambes. We had no idea what it was going to be like. We were met with tanks and machine gun fire; they hit us with everything. We didn't think there would be so much against us. I saw lads younger than me laying dead in the field with their kit around them. You would have thought they were sleeping.

We lost 182 men in Cambes wood by crossfire and sniper and tanks and we lost 3 officers in my own company.
I lost a lot of mates and friends.

Bogged down, couldn't move for crossfire. You got up sometimes out of your slit trench for a smoke, and whatever you were ... and you heard something coming, the bomb comb. If you were quick enough you got in, and if you weren't quick enough ... that's how I lost one of my friends. We were up having a wee chat up on the top of the slit trench, and we heard something coming over. We jumped, but he wasn't quick enough.

So we buried him nearby in Cambes Wood. He came from Belfast.

It must have been 3 weeks there. We were supposed to make for Caen, into Caen. It was the Panthers that stopped us. Different Regiments of the Germans. They were right fighters!

So we went into Caen with the Canadians. We were the first Battalion in Caen, the Rifles. They had, the night before into Caen, there was a thousand-bomber raid. We watched them all from the hill where we were, going in and bombing. And we had to follow in after that, there was some bits of streetfighting, to clear the place. Battleships firing from sea - just landed too short!

I was lucky enough at the time. I went to Troarn, a place called Troarn. We lost a lot of men there. We went up to a crossroads, and up came a German tank, and he let fly. Some of the head NCOs and and a lot of the men was killed there, and they gave us a bit of a battering. We were held up there a while. We held up there.

You didn't know who you were fighting with. Men were just getting knocked down and replaced all the time.

NT transport. We had to move up 283 miles. You fed and all and slept in the vehicles. Then we got off up the river [Ypres?] and stayed there, then we had to go back for a rest. After from D-Day, up to river [Ypres?]. Then we moved towards Belgium, across into a place called River Erne.
We were doing an attack one night, with the 9th Brigade. The KOSB, they were with us, and they done their attack. The 2nd Batt did their attack.. and then the Second Lincolns came behind us, and they were forced back again. Our Col, Col Harris then, he said "we'll do it".

We started to move, and the next minute was a Very light up in the air, and the next minute was the mortar attack. It was a 7-barreled mobile mortar, and it had us pinpointed. I got one right up my side, and my mate was killed - he lay across my legs. He got it through the shovel on his back - it must have cut the spine or something. That was it. So that was me out.

2 weeks till the war was over. '45. I was hit in Belgium and then I was brought back to the field hospital. And then I was flown to Queen Elizabeth orthapaedic in Birmingham, and I stayed there for a lot of months. Then I was sent to Osmond Street for the bone. And then down to Belfast - Craigavon hospital - and then I attended the Lagan Valley down here. I used to wear the caliper in the old leg. You can only bind the leg so much.

In 2nd Batt, A Coy, 9th Plat, there was 3 mates known as the "BBC" - Burrows, Beck and Crangle. Crangle was killed in Cambes. As I said before, he wasn't quick enough. We were having a wee smoke on the top, and he was buried in Cambes.

Rifleman Hugh Crangle

We used to get leave every 9 wks until the Invasion started. Maybe 14 days, maybe 7 days. The Ulster Rifles, we all came home together. When we came to the town here we went all our seperate ways, then we met up. Everything was all right. There were some injured. A fellow lost his finger, Tommy lost an eye, one fellow was killed by his own machine - Light Infantry. It was on the line, blew up. He was standing beside it, that was the last we seen of him.

WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. See

Stanley Burrows
2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles (9th Platoon, A Company)

In 1940 Stanley Burrows was eighteen years old and, inspired by the distinguished military careers of his father and uncles, was desperate to join the army. However he was already in full-time employment and his father, aware of his desire to sign-up, and reluctant to have another son join the front-line, had persuaded his bosses at the shipyard to refuse him permission to leave on the grounds that he was involved in ‘important work’ for the war effort. Undeterred, Stanley came up with a cunning plan, he would get himself sacked from Harland and Wolf and be free to join up!

Everything went according to plan. Having been 'successfully' dismissed from his job, Stanley was able, to join the 70th Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles. His intensive training began almost immediately and before his platoon’s eventual move to England in 1941 Stanley had taken part in two air-raids in Belfast and had already been exposed to the horrors of war. Standing on duty in Belfast’s Corporaton Street he was responsible for guiding the frightened masses of people to safety and later, digging casualties and bodies from the rubble.

The 70th battalion's move to England, was closely followed by a decision to disband the unit, volunteers were sought for other divisions within the Rifles. ‘Anxious for thrills’ Stanley tried to sign up for the Commandos but his application was too late, however he was more fortunate in applying for the 6th Airborne Division and was accepted into the Gliders.
To earn his ‘Para's wings’ a soldier had to make eight flights. On his first flight, Stanley recalls asking the pilot how many trips he had made, this would be his third, and he’d crash landed the first two, was the reply! But they made it down safely - although he does remember some hairy moments when they landed and crashed through hedges or anything else that got in the way.

Still someway short of eight jumps, Stanley was called in for a second medical and alarm bells immediately started to ring. On entering the army, he’d managed to disguise a perforated eardrum, continuously seeping he’d dried it out by pouring peroxide into his ear – had he now been discovered?
He had been! After just six weeks with the Paras he had to be released, it was decided that his feet would have to remain firmly on the ground.
It wasn’t until many years later when his mother had died that Stanley discovered she’d notified the authorities of his condition. Out of deep concern for his wellbeing and anxious that he was putting himself in added jeopardy by being in the Gliders, she had written a letter to his superiors warning them of his perforated eardrum.

Although unable to continue in the 6th Airbourne Division, Stanley was welcomed into the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles, 3rd Division. Intensive training began almost immediately. Although the men were under the illusion that they were being deployed to the Mediterranean for the invasion of Sicily, word eventually spread that General Montgomery, who had fought before with the Ulster Rifles, was commandeering them for his new mission.

Rifleman Stanley Burrows

In May 1944 the Battalion was moved to Draxford in the South of England, still unaware of the exact location of their mission they were faced with sand models of the Normandy beaches, Stanley to this day and with the benefit of hindsight, marvels at how lifelike and identical they were to the beaches on the French coast.

Training was relentless and rigorous, Monty believed that in a war situation it was ‘noise and fatigue’ that breaks a man down, so in training live Bren guns and rifles were fired over the heads of the men and when the weather became really bad exercises were lengthened rather than shortened!
The hardy 3rd division were selected in May 1944 to take part in Exercise Fabulous, a precursor of what was to come in the next month. On arrival back to camp the men were treated returning heroes, something they did nothing to dispel.

Bad weather resulted in the initial postponement of Operation Overlord, but two days later the allies were ready to advance to France. Stanley recalls men crammed in tight, sitting on beds stacked in tiers of four or five, from floor to ceiling. Many were sick, the seasickness tablets seeming only to exacerbate their condition. After rendezvousing with the rest of the forces at a designated point in the Channel called Piccadilly Circus, men were allowed above deck. Below, a calmness permeated the ship as the men were instructed to write a last letter home, Stanley wrote to his mother, saying all the things he felt he should of but had never got around to saying.

As Stanley’s ship approached Sword Beach he remembers being absolutely amazed at the blackness of the sea and air - covered with ships and planes. The Germans began to attack almost immediately and Stanley’s landing craft was hit by a shell, which passed through the hull and luckily failed to explode.
Grounding the ship in eight foot of water, two members of the division went ashore first, taking with them a lifeline (a rope), which the others were to use to guide them to the beach. Looking over the side of the ship into the water below Stanley knew that he’d never make the shore if he had to carry his bicycle, his Brem gun (Betsey) and 56 pounds of equipment, so he made a quick decision and
ditched his bicycle.

The shelling was relentless, and all around men were falling into the water, miraculously everybody from Stanley’s company managed to make it to onto the beach unharmed, forging on to the assembly point at Leon-Sur –Mer, a small village about a mile inland. Snipers constantly bombarded the sodden troops on the way to the assembly point, however the battalions excellent sniper team managed to deflect any serious threat.
However it was while bedding down after having dug in for the night that Stanley encountered his first German at close quarters. Aware of a rustling within earshot, Stanley and a colleague were suspicious, was it a wild animal in the woods or was it something more sinister?

The next day the Battalion were ordered to capture Cambes, a small village thickly wooded and six miles inland, that was strategically important for progression towards Caen. Believed to be lightly held by the Germans and surrounded by a large ten-foot wall, the Rifles D company were to lead the attack, followed up by Stanley and A company. As A company advanced up the road four Luftwaffe fighters appeared from nowhere and riddled the middle of the road with heavy fire, the men who’d been marching up either side of the road, dived for cover, unbelievably not one was injured.

Forging into the wood D company lost many men that day, the Germans had a much securer hold on it than had originally been suspected and Stanley and his company were forced to retreat. On the way back they were sought refuge in a house which had been occupied by German forces, and it was here that Stanley again cheated death for the second time that day.

On the 9th June, a consolidated attack was planned for the capture of Cambes Wood. The battalion was to advance at 15.15 hrs, traversing through the open cornfield to reach the U shaped hole in the ten foot wall surrounding the wood. As the men progressed fifteen feet into the field the assault started, the heavy shelling and mortar fire were relentless, men were falling all around, Stanley’s platoon officer, lying with blood trickling down his face waved his hand at Stanley for the men to continue advancing. Stanley and his colleagues, still standing, made a run for the hole in the wall, nine of them made it, but inside they were to witness a scene of terrible carnage – all around British and German soldiers were lying dead.

The nine of them then fought their way to a large farmhouse, where Lieutenant Corporal White asked for a volunteer to run back to the company to let them know of their whereabouts. Stanley gallantly offered. Running back through the wood, at a frantic pace, he had to keep shouting to the men from his company not to shoot, that he wasn’t a German. On reaching the company puffing and panting and obviously out of breath, Stanley became more incensed than he’d ever been with a fellow soldier. Unsympathetic and seemingly oblivious to Stanley’s ordeal, the officer in charge barked at him to stop spluttering and say what he had to say. At that moment risking his life to notify this man seemed like a foolhearty gesture!
Although they experienced heavy casualties the battalion managed to secure Cambes that day.

From then on Stanley and his company were stationed at Cambes. On the 17th June 1944, Stanley caught sight of a chicken wandering around No-man's land, constantly hungry, he immediately sprung into action and within minutes the bird was captured and placed with some goosegabs and leaks in a in a biscuit tin. Cooking up the chicken soup, a shell struck the petrol and the tin splashed the boiling liquid all over a startled Stanley. He immediately dived for cover and covered his hands and face in earth, however he didn't realise that he'd caught fire and his fellow officers had to extinguish his burning clothes. Having neglected to seek treatment from the medics, Stanley's body went into shock that evening and by morning his exposed skin had blistered all over, his fate was sealed, he had to return to England for treatment. Even his return home was not without incident, flying back over the Channel his plane came under fire from the Royal Navy, yet again Stanley managed to remain unscathed!

After recuperating in England Stanley rejoined the Rifles but was injured again on 9th August 1944, this heralded the end of his service with them. However he did continue to serve with other units, and was attached to the 1st Paras when they joyously liberated the gratefull citizens of Copenhagen.
Stanley army career ended in 1946, when he was demobbed. By then, he had gratefully escaped many precarious and dangerous situations with his life intact, however he witnessed many horrific sights, but none more personally upsetting than the death of his close friend Crangles.

Rifleman Stanley Burrows                 Rifleman Hugh Crangle

Coming through their training together, Crangles and Stanley forged a close friendship, with Stanley even refusing promotion to stay with his pal. Crangles horrific death at Cambes Wood left an indelible print on Stanley's mind. However travelling back many years later to Cambes Wood, and witnessing the fitting tributes and graves given to Crangles and the others, has helped assuage the discontent that Stanley felt for many years.


Lieutenant Cyril ("Randy")Rand was Platoon Commander in C Company of the 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles and 23 years old when he landed on Sword Beach On D-Day.

Ten days before D-day, we were locked up in a military camp near Southampton: since we had been briefed about the operation, we were not allowed to get out. As an additional precaution, the officers were given lots of maps - I think I had about 14 - with fictitious names on them. If anybody had been trying to send the information out, it would not have made any sense. We were provided with the correct plan just before we crossed the Channel.

We boarded in Southampton on June 4. A day later, all the ships assembled midway. It was a fantastic sight: the sea was absolutely full of boats of all sizes. We reached Normandy the following morning, and landed on Sword beach at 10am.
The shore was already secured, but the shelling and the mortar bombing was still going on. There were underwater obstacles with mines tied to them. The beach was strewn with anti-tank defences. The area had an awful lot of injured and dead people floating in the water.

Many soldiers could not get off the boats because they had been wounded. One of the ramps of our craft was hit, so we had to jump from all sides. The water was about four foot deep, five when a wave came in. A fellow officer told me later I looked like a floating metal mushroom leading a platoon to battle.

On top of all our equipment, we were dragging folding bicycles. The idea was that we would be able to travel more quickly inland. That was so stupid: we dropped them within half an hour of being in Normandy. The Germans would have laughed their heads off anyway.

We took off very quickly across the beach and rallied to our assembly area, a field behind the church of Lion-sur-Mer. Our battalion was lucky: we only had a few casualties.

Our objective was to liberate Caen but, six miles inland, we had a terrible battle in a village. We lost 11 officers and 180 soldiers. Later, we spent three, four weeks fighting in Cambes, where Montgomery was attracting the bulk of the German resistance. We were 100 yards from their defences, so it was very uncomfortable at times, with rockets and shells firing at us. You could not move from your trench unless you knew there was another one you could jump into.

One night, one of my chaps, John, asked if he could read a few passages from a religious book he carried with him. I agreed, and soon all these tough Irishmen were intently listening to him. I think they felt calm and contented to know that God was with them.

My mother had bought me a leather-bound mini-Bible, which I carried with me the entire time I was in France. It was of great comfort to me: I found myself touching it sometimes, when things turned nasty.
While in Normandy, we were up against SS Panzer divisions but also, sometimes, Hitler Youth troops - little blighters we knew had shot prisoners of war. There were numerous pockets of German opposition that needed dealing with.

We were very welcomed by the inhabitants. They were delighted to see us after what they had suffered at the hands of the Germans. One chap, a resistance leader, kept toasting us with a bottle of calvados, shouting: "Liberté!" A woman offered me some stale bread. I refused at first it because she probably did not have a lot to eat - and I don't think I could have eaten it anyway. But she was most upset, so I took it.

I was wounded after Caen was liberated, in Troarn. I came across a trench full of Germans. They stood up and put out their hands in surrender. I thought: "This is great. We're in business." Suddenly, they all disappeared in the trench. Someone shouted: "Look out!" I dived to the ground. The Germans had thrown a stick grenade at us. I was hit in the leg. And then they popped up again, hands in the air. I felt I was entitled to mow the whole lot down, but I could not really do it, so I rounded them up and took them prisoner instead.

The good thing about this affair was that I was evacuated to England and rested in a hospital in Surrey. My fiancee was an air force nurse posted in Reading, so she was able to come and visit me. A hospital ward is not the most romantic place, but we decided to have our wedding during my sick leave.

Richard Keegan
2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles (D Company)

My name is Richard Keegan from Lurgan and I fought with the Second Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles. We landed on Queen Beach which was divided into three sections: Sword, Juno and Gold. The Canadians landed on Gold and the British Army landed on Sword and Juno. The Yanks landed on Omaha.

We were on the big landing craft that held more than a company, and it had two ramps down the side. We also had to carry bicycles which would carry 60lbs of equipment. When we landed there was a high swell on the tide, and I remember when I was getting ready to come off the boat, I put a pair of socks into my mess tin so that my feet would be dry whenever we first got the chance to change. Any landings we did in training we only got our feet wet but in this landing we were soaked from head to foot. The swell was so bad it was almost over the top of us. My head was soaking at the time.

We got up the beach which had already been opened by the engineers and the commandos that went in in front of us. This meant that the mines were cleared. We went through that area and up a wee side street onto our bikes and we went to a place that they named the Orchard. There we had the rollcall to see that all was correct.

We then moved on from there to a farm area and we dug in for the night. We were about 4 or 5 miles in then. Our beachhead was more or less secure. Then we were briefed for our first attack which was to take place on 7 June.

Richard Keegan and Jimmy Pedlaw
Quite a few men from my platoon were wounded, a few from snipers but the rest from shrapnel. On the morning of 7 June the first shell that came over that morning wounded the man I joined up with, Jimmy Pedlaw. He had just got out of his dugout to light a cigarette when a shell landed in the middle of us and he got shrapnel in the neck. We all thought he was dead but he wasn't and he later re-joined the battalion only to be wounded again in the leg - to this day he has nothing but trouble with that leg.

Later we rode our bikes for a few miles to another farm and left our bikes next to a water tower.
I was a platoon runner and operator and the wireless was soaked and I said to my Officer: “This wireless is useless”. He told me to dump it with my bike so I left it there. I never saw the bike or the wireless again.

We went on from there on foot and German fighters came over and machine-gunned us as we walked along the road. We were very fortunate - whenever they were shooting, they machine-gunned up the middle of the road and we were able to lie into the ditches quite safe.

Our company - D company- was lead company for the attack on Cambes Wood. We had to cross a cornfield about 1600 yards across open ground, there was a certain amount of shelling but not a whole lot.

There was a 10' high wall around Cambes Wood and there wasn't a hole in that wall except for a hole in the corner and we had to go through that hole in the corner. One half of the company went to the left and the other half straight on. We'd just got in and we could see personnel mines hung up in the trees and mines on the ground. Machine gun fire opened up on us from the left and we were pinned down. The company commander, Major Aldworth, was up leading the men to the left and was killed.

My platoon officer told me to tell Captain Montgomery, who was leading the other two platoons, that the company commander was dead and that we were pinned down and we were going to pull out. So I crawled the whole way back through the wood and up the other side to where the Captain was and told him. He agreed and I went back and told the platoon officer.

We had to leave the wounded behind because the trees were that close together that you would only have killed them trying to drag them through so the idea was to leave them there and let the Germans look after them.

We moved out and pulled back to a place called Anisy and we dug in there for the night. The next day on the 8th patrols were sent out and then on the 9th Stanley's Company, A Company, they were the lead Company and we were in reserve. When Stanley's Company got in to the wood they found the company commander dead and all of the men that were wounded shot in the head.

We left them there to be treated by the Germans but the Germans done it the dirty way.

That put our backs up, we had officers that we would have went through a brick wall for, all good men, and they told us that in no way do we do what they did. If you found any Germans like that you didn't do it.

In that second attack we came under heavy shelling from the Germans and about 150 yards from the edge of the wood an 88 dropped close to me injuring my side and that was my war finished. There was heavy shelling that day and when I got hit I was glad that it hadn't been a bigger one.

I made my way back through the corn field and came across two stretcher bearers from our unit who had both been shot in the knee by machine gun or sniper fire. We did first aid on each other and eventually were moved back to our own medical post and I was moved back then down to the beach into a big tent tand then shipped back to England.

I went to a Canadian hospital in the South of England and then got moved up to the hospital in Wakefield and I was there for about 6 weeks.

Then I was shipped out to Dewsbury in Yorkshire and when I was there I asked the nurse for an elastic bandage for my foot. She said "Let me see it" and I showed it to her and she said she would have to show it to the doctor. The doctor came along and looked at it and said "That's terrible looking, the swelling and that, how do you get your boot on?" and I said I just squeeze it in. It was full of fluid and they had to take me down to theatre to drain it.

I was then shifted to the 7th Battalion, that was our holding Battalion, and when I was there I used to get physiotherapy and they said I had broken the bones in my foot and ruptured ligaments. I saw the medical officers and said I wanted to go back to the 2nd Battalion and they said that I wouldn't last 5 minutes in the infantry so that was it.

I was downgraded and posted to the Royal Corps of Signals at the 50th Division Headquarters and I used to tow their vehicles back and get them repaired if necessary.

I'm sorry I never got back to the action again and don't know whether I would have come out of it or not but I would have liked to have gone back again.

In 1946 I was due for demob and they wanted me to stay in the army but I decided to become a civilian again.


Charles Stephenson, DoB 25/11/1919 
Corporal and Medic in the Royal Ulster Rifles

After landing on D Day, we advanced to the village of Cambes, we gathered at the top of a cornfield leading down perhaps four hundred yards to woods on the edge of the village.

B Company, about a hundred men, were sent to attack German positions in the wood, but they were cut down and retreated to the ridge of the slope. We waited about thirty six hours until the next asssault, this time with a full Batallion.

During the attack one of our Bren Gun carriers was hit with a 75mm shell, a bren gun carrier was like a small tank and usually had a crew of four. The carrier was ripped apart, Corporal Boyd hanging out of the turret with the driver, Private Hilde, blown clear.

I called a stretcher bearer and we ran out to attend the wounded, first going to Boyd, he was still alive but one leg was was trapped in the carrier, it was completely crushed and only hanging on by sinews and flesh, I cut through the leg with a pair of scissors. I applied a tourniquet and went to treat Hilde. All the time time we were being peppered with machine gun fire, how we didn’t get hit , I don’t know. Hilde was in agony with terrible injuries to both his left arm and right leg.
“Shoot me, I can’t take it“ he was screaming.
I told him to stop moaning, and that I’d patch him up up and have him back in no time.
A Canadian tank came by and we loaded them up and got them back to RAP (Regimental Aid Post).
About four years later I was at a reuniuon at the Duke of York Barracks in Chelsea. Hilde was standing at the bar, minus leg, but never the less enjoying a beer.

After eventually taking Caen we moved on and reached Troan. Again meeting stiff resistance, we dug in.
It started raining and didn’t stop for three days, but at least the shelling stopped, it gave me a chance to read the Lillliput, a magazine we used to get. Private Woolf and I were in a two man trench, about six feet long, three feet deep, two feet wide, the Germans were already dug in, facing us, about fifty yards away.
I can’t for the life of me think why Woolf was there, he was an Irishman from Dublin and had volunteered for service, he was married with seven children and at 38 too old for front line duty, most of us were in our mid twenties or younger.

Woolf seemed a bit edgy that day, the battle at Cambes Wood had shaken him up badly, he had given up smoking years ago and used to give away his rations, but out of the blue asked me for a cigarette.
“Do you think it will always be like this Steve?” Woolf asked
“ No we’ll push on and win, it’ll be over in a few months” I said and went back to reading my Lilliput magazine.

I was sitting at the right of the trench, the end I had dug, Woolf to the left. The trench had been steadily filling up with water making things even more uncomfortable. Gradually the rain started easing and the shelling started again, a call went up for wounded and I went back to RAP to help. I had been gone about thirty minutes and on my return found Woolf sitting at my end of the trench which was dry.
“Don’t worry Steve I’ve dug a soak away to drain the water away, I’ve put a ration box over the sump hole you can sit on that, it’s dry”
Having now swopped ends we sat tight praying that the shelling would stop.

Then darkness, my arms pinned to my side, a mortar had landed directly in our trench. I had the presence of mind not to struggle as a pocket of air had formed over the lip of my helmet, I didn’t want to disturb the earth. I had enough air left for a few minutes.

Very soon I heard voices and sticks were being poked in the earth, one of which hit my helmet, “Corporal Stephenson and Woolf are here” I heard.
As they were digging me out I could feel pain in my right leg, Woolf was lying across me, they lifted him from on top of me, I could see he was dead, he must have taken the full force of the blast, being in my end of the trench.

I was stretchered back to RAP, my right tibia smashed. Eventually I was taken back to the coast and boarded a hospital ship back to England.

Rifleman Hugh Maguire 14218772 - Legion D'Honneur
2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles (C Company)

Former Rifleman Hugh Maguire was decorated with the Legion D’Honneur in October 2015 in recognition of his service during D-Day and the subsequent liberation of France.

Hugh served in the 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles and was part of the amphibious landing on Sword Beach on 6 June 1944. Three days later Hugh would perform a heroic act of courage as the regiment advanced towards the important strategic city of Caen.

Hugh recalls:

“I remember coming out of the water and you were up to your oxters in water and a folding bicycle above your head and a sten gun above that, and trying to keep it dry.

When I got to the shore I threw the bicycle away – never used it again!

The rest of the time it was marching – marching and creeping...”.

"We eventually got to a place called Cambes Woods. D Company went in first believing only a few units of Germans remained but they were quickly surrounded and many were killed. We reinforced the attack and were surrounded by dead bodies, many of them mates of ours. We eventually took the Cambes Wood."

“We moved on to Hill 60 and it wasn’t long before the German artillery opened up on us. A good mate of mine took a direct hit and was blown to pieces. I was blown 12 feet in the air and had shrapnel in my back, neck and shoulders.

 “A corporal tried to send me to first aid but I told him that I’d never refused an order in my life and asked permission to take down the machine gun position that had peppered us that morning. He looked at me and said that I wasn’t to blame him if I got shot, I said that was OK as I wouldn’t be there to worry about it.

“I crawled my way up to side of the machine gun post and shouted at them to surrender. I shot two of them as they turned their guns towards me, everything happened very quickly. The other two surrendered, one of them an SS Officer, who I marched back to headquarters.”

“I got them back to my own lines and handed them over. I noticed that one of them was an SS officer - his revolver was one that was given to officers. I noticed that he was also wearing a collar decoration and medals.”

Hugh returned to the UK to undergo extensive treatment on his wounds sustained at Hill 60 but re-joined the regiment in Spring 1945 as the regiment advanced through Germany. He would remain there as part of the occupying forces in Berlin following the German surrender in May 1945.

It subsequently turned out that the captured officer was none other than Anton Gecas who, operating under his wartime name of Antanas Gecevicius, had commanded a platoon of the 2nd company of the notorious 12th Lithuanian Police Auxiliary Battalion. It was responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of Jews, partisans and others in Lithuania and Belarus in 1941.

He was, however, never brought to trial for his alleged crimes and Hugh believes that Gecevicius was subsequently taken to a PoW camp near Dalkeith. In 1947, the war over, the Lithuanian went to work for the National Coal Board as an engineer and also did a management course at Heriot Watt University.

Mr Maguire only discovered these facts when by a bizarre coincidence he himself joined the National Coal Board and rose through the ranks. In time he was assigned to Bilston Glen colliery and one day was told to report to the senior oversman, a man named Tony. To his shock he found himself confronted with Gecas.

“I said, ‘Tony, we meet again’. He said, ‘Me never saw you before’. I said, ‘Yes you did,’ and I refreshed his memory. He replied, ‘Ja, ja, ja!’

“I told him, ‘Tony, you’ll never see you again - not if I see you first.’

“I told the manager that I wasn’t working under Gecas. He gave me a job in another part of the pit. Three weeks later I got a job in a smaller colliery and was promoted to senior overman on the night shift’. I never saw Gecas again."

“I reported him to the police but they told me he had immunity. What could I do? I couldn’t take a case up against him."

“But it was an occasion I’ll never forget. To see him after 16 years was just amazing.”

In 1992 Gecas lost a defamation action against Scottish Television, which alleged that he had been involved in atrocities in Lithuania and Belarus.

Hugh said:

“The honour came out of the blue, I thought when I was demobbed in 1945 that would be the end of it but, 70 years on, here we are. I am very much looking forward to the event and receiving this high honour. I am sure it will bring back a lot of memories of the D-Day campaign which was the proudest moment of my military career.”

6986230 Rifleman Andrew Charles MM - "B" Company, 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles

Rifleman Andrew Charles MM was the No.1 of a Bren Gun in "B"Company who landed on Sword Beach on D-Day and remained with the Battalion until he was wounded near the River Meuse (Maas).

He was awarded the Military Medal for his actions on the 19th July 1944 during the Battalion attack on the brickworks North West of Troarn which resulted in the capture of two 75mm guns.

Click here for a recording of his interview with the BBC.

Rifleman Charles (centre) together with Corporal Reid and Sergeant Sharkey having just received his Military Medal from Montgomery.
 Listen to Andy Charles interview with BBC


Lance Corporal E.B. Bunston (7021050)
Brandon Bunston on left

Edward Brandon Bunston was a Welshman who was working in London prior to war starting but he had become unhappy with the company he was employed by and although a reserved occupation at the time he decided to enlist into the army at the age of 19 in 1941.

The nearest recruiting branch was Finsbury Park The London Irish Rifles and so the was the beginning of his journey into The Royal Ulster Rifles.

His father had served in the 9th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers in the Great War as a stretcher bearer and Brandon opted to follow in is footsteps in 2 RUR.

Attached to C Company, he acted as a stretcher bearer on D-Day and the subsequent battles in Northern Europe, during which time he was mentioned in Despatches for distinguished service and received a Commendation Card.

The photo of him below was taken in Palestine where the Royal Ulster Rifles were sent when they were being trained for the invasion of Japan, though ultimately they were not required.

John Shanahan - Attached to 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles

John Shanahan was born in Co. Cork, Ireland. This meant he was not obliged to enlist to serve in World War Two. In 1941, though, at the age of 20, he made his way north to Newry, Co. Down. There he enlisted in the Pioneer Corps and transferred to Belfast.

In 1943, he transferred to the Royal Ulster Rifles and trained for what would become Operation Overlord.

As D-Day approached the Royal Ulster Rifles were moved to the south coast of England. The Regiment was separated into three Brigades, each taking part in consecutive landings. and John boarded one of the Liberty Ships in Southampton that was to land in France in the second wave on D-Day 6th June.

"We were transferred from the Liberty Ship onto small landing crafts; this was about 4 miles offshore. We hit Sword beach just after 0900; actually we landed in about 4 feet of water. I remember my big concern was not to get my rifle wet! The landing area was heavily defended and we met mortar and heavy gun fire... of course there were some soldiers who didn't manage to get as far as the beach.

Once ashore, our battleships continued their heavy bombardment inland. Although we met strong resistance, we had to be careful not to advance too fast and overtake their reach.

The funny thing I remember is that many of us had been issued with fold-up bicycles. I've often thought this must have been some sort of psychological trick – to make us believe we could just walk up the beach and cycle over to Caen. Once we got off the beach there was a big pile of these bikes at the side of the road; it was obvious we wouldn't be cycling anywhere!"

Following the capture of Cambes Wood, where almost 200 men were killed or injured, John Shanahan was one of those who remained at Cambes treating the wounded and burying the dead before the advance to Caen.

"The enemy was in strength but they'd retreated to their fall back position in the woods inland of the beach area. This was terrain the French called 'boquage' – small fields with earth banks and thick hedgerows ideal for defensive action. Our progress was slow and we took a lot of casualties over the next month before we could get through to Caen. 

Rations were a problem too; some things never change in the Army. We'd been issued with 48 hour rations before the landing; after that we had to cadge 'hardy' biscuits from the tank crews whenever we found them. Of course we would forage for food. Most villages had been abandoned so we would look out for what we could. We took a few casualties that way because the Germans would leave booby traps wherever there was food."

"All the objectives had been given codenames. Everything was wrapped in secrecy and we didn't know the real place names just in case we were captured and interrogated. Caen was given the codename of 'Poland'. So if I'd been captured and questioned I could only have revealed that I was on my way to Poland!"

"I particularly remember going out on a 'fighting patrol' one time. The 'recce' patrols were just to check out the lie of the land ahead, but a 'fighting patrol' was aimed at engaging the enemy for the purposes of gathering information. On this occasion we were sent out to capture a German sentry who's been seen patrolling a roadway ahead of us. My job was 'tapeman' – I had this great big roll of white tape wrapped around a pick-axe handle and I was to roll it out on the ground to mark our way back. You know, at this stage everyone was a bit trigger happy so you didn't want to be returning to your own lines at a point where you weren't expected! We formed a secure line as four NCOs went forward to capture this lone sentry. After what seemed like hours they returned empty handed – no sentry had appeared.

The order was given to retreat, with me bringing up the rear of course, trying to roll up the damn tape. Well – the patrol hurried back to our lines and I was doing my best to gather up this white tape onto the axe handle. Of course the tape kept getting tangled in bushes and stuck on every little twig. As the others disappeared ahead of me I was all too aware that I was now more likely to be shot by my own side than by the enemy! Thankfully, the NCOs stopped just ahead of me in the woodland and all was well."

"Later on, I was the PIAT man. This was a very effective infantry anti-tank weapon and I was dug in at the side of a road to take care of any oncoming enemy armoured vehicles. All the telephone wires were down loose on the road from a previous bombardment. From the other direction one of our bren-carriers came belting down the road and caught the wires which at the same time had wrapped around my legs. We shouted and screamed for them to stop... which happily they did, just as I was being dragged out of my trench!"

About 4 months after the landings John was caught in a mine blast triggered by a heavy tank acting in support of the infantry. John was blinded by the blast and evacuated back to 'Blighty' through Nijmegen & Brussels. Thankfully after hospital treatment in South Shields, John's sight recovered. Having convalesced in Scarborough, John was sent to Southend-on-Sea and resumed training in a holding unit. He was sent out to Italy and was based in Naples for about 9 months as part of the army of occupation.

Captain Leonard Gordon McDowell
Born 24 May 1912, Greenwich, London
Died 9 June 1944, Cambes Wood, Caen, Normandy, France

Written by Alec Powell & extracted from his web pages about the Middlesex Regiment

The 9th June started sadly for the Battalion. In the early hours of the morning, Lieutenant Pearson, of No. 8 Platoon, was mistaken for a German by a patrol of the Warwicks and seriously wounded by Sten gun fire.

The morning was fairly quiet until noon, when Nos. 12 and 13 Mortar Platoons of "D" Company and two platoons of "C" were ordered to carry out a harassing shoot against the enemy strong-point at Lebisey, which was holding up the advance on Caen. The Germans reacted strongly and put down a heavy artillery concentration, in the course of which Major Brereton was badly wounded in the stomach and Lieutenant Shirley and three other ranks of "D" Company less severely wounded.

During the afternoon the Royal Ulster Rifles, of 9th Infantry Brigade, made an attack on Cambes Wood, supported by "B" Company and Nos. 10 and 11 Mortar Platoons. The opening barrage included both mortar and machine-gun fire, the mortars firing on the wood from Cazelle and Nos. 4 and 6 Machine-Gun Platoons of "B" Company raking the wood from the left flank with fire at a range of no more than 400 yards. As soon as they opened up they were heavily engaged by enemy artillery, losing three men wounded.

The R.U.R. advanced frontally on the wood from Anisy, down a long, open, forward slope and under very heavy fire from enemy tanks at La Bijude. As the infantry reached the edge of the wood, the remaining platoon (No. 5) of "B" Com-pany raced down the road from Anisy on a consolidation task, but at the last minute their carriers were held up by the infantry.

For a few moments they were brought to a standstill, giving the enemy tank gunners a stationary target. The leading carrier was hit, fortunately without causing any casualties to the crew, but the others managed to get into the corner of the wood at Cambes, where the guns were quickly mounted to form a defensive screen.

The Commanding Officer, coming up on the pillion of a motor-cycle to the wood for a conference with the brigadier, had his cycle hit by anti-tank fire and had to crawl and run the last hundred yards, he and his driver, Sergeant Davis, both running the gauntlet of a very persistent sniper on the exposed flank.

Cambes Wood was not a healthy place for the issue of further orders, for the enemy, having themselves withdrawn, directed a heavy mortar fire on the whole area. One bomb landed on Major Passy’s carrier, killing him, Corporal Green, his driver operator, Lance-Corporal Rees, and Private Baker. C.S.M. Bell, who had accompanied Major Passy, was mortally wounded a few minutes later by another. Nor was that the full tale of the losses at Cambes, for Captain McDowell, second-in-command of "B" Company. came up to the wood as soon as he heard that Major Passy had been killed and was himself killed immediately on arrival.

The enemy fire directed on to the wood at Cambes became fiercer as the evening wore on. Movement became almost impossible and the Commanding Officer was pinned down near No. 5 Platoon. Lance-Sergeant Davis, his dispatch rider, distinguished himself during the evening by the complete dis-regard of danger with which he ran messages up and down the wood and tended the wounded under heavy fire. The bar to the M.M., which he won that day, was richly deserved. Captain H. B. Neve, the mortar O.P. officer, also won the M.C. for his gallantry on this occasion. While directing the fire of two mortar platoons, he had to sit out in the open as his wireless remote control gear had been hit by shrapnel, and the coolness and efficiency with which he directed the fire with shells and bombs exploding all round him was beyond praises.

At last light, the K.O.S.B. reached Cambes to reinforce the Royal Ulster Rifles. With their arrival the German fire gradually died down and the area was finally consolidated and firmly held.
The battle of Cambes Wood brought to an end the first of the Division’s hard actions in the beach-head. Four days of fairly heavy fighting had proved costly in casualties, but it had also proved to the Battalion that it could more than hold its own against anything the enemy could bring against it. Although everyone realized that there was still a very long way to go and that many more hard battles would have to be fought before the end could come, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the end could only be a complete and annihilating victory.


Extract of Memoirs from 1st Lieutenant Harry Willis who crewed LCI (L) 375 which landed part of 2RUR at Sword Beach (Queen Sector) on the morning of 6th June 1944

 LCI (L) 375 At Sea in Training

Memoir of A W (Paddy) White - Crew Aboard Landing Craft Infantry (Large) 375

For two or three days leading up to the invasion all officers and crew on board our Infantry Landing Craft were confined to the ship. The tension amongst some of the crew was becoming apparent due mostly to inactivity. I remember the actual day very clearly. I was in the engine room during part of the voyage across the channel, but came up on the deck periodically. On board were 300-350 of the Royal Ulster Rifles, silently anticipating what was to lie ahead of them.

I will always remember the following magnificent sight: the skyline appeared to be covered with planes and gliders and as we got closer to France on looking astern I saw many large ships laying off shore sending their shells non-stop onto pre-arranged pinpointed positions in France.

Our skipper tried to get our craft as close as possible onto the beach but was prevented from doing so by either the very strong tide, rough seas or the iron obstacles strategically placed there to prevent us from beaching - or perhaps a combination of all three. Eventually we beached, but alas, at a cost to our hull which was torn open in a number of places by the iron obstacles on the beach. As the craft was badly damaged we hurriedly assisted the Army ashore, during this time, and for just a brief moment, I recognised one of the soldiers who lived in the next street to me in my home town back then. It was just one of those hello-goodbye situations so I called to him ‘_good luck and safe home_’, I learned later that he was wounded but I was delighted to hear he got home safely. These brave soldiers had to wade and partly swim ashore with their equipment with one hand above their heads holding a rifle; some also had collapsible cycles on their shoulders. These heroes went ashore soaking wet not fully knowing what lay in store for them, but willing to die fighting for freedom. Not one of them, including our crew, gave thought to the dangers surrounding us. A special mention must be made of the two crew members who, whilst German sniping was continuing, swam ashore with guide lines tied to their waist and stood on the beach holding the ropes taught so that the soldiers could hold onto and be guided through the rough sea to shore.

 LCI (L) 375 At Sword Beach
After the soldiers were landed on the beach, I returned to the engine room which was then taking in sea water. I immediately informed the skipper and on returning to the engine room commenced breaking electrical circuits threatened by the water. Eventually I closed down the generators; by this time I was standing in water up to my waist, which was still rising, when I heard ‘Abandon Ship’ I made my way up and onto the deck and saw that the craft was visually sinking, and jumped into the sea wading my way to shore. All the crew managed to get ashore and although wet, some of us were given short handle spades which enabled us to dig trenches in the sand as the enemy were still sniping and strafing the beaches. By this time the tide had gone out and we could see that a part of the craft was suspended on the iron obstacles. One or two of the crew made their way back on board and onto the forward gun turret and commenced firing at the houses on the beach. The holes in the hull were quickly patched up temporary with concrete and clamps in order to get us back to the UK for a permanent repair. We were soon back again ferrying our troops to France and returning with German POWs.

 Photo From LCI (L) 375 of POWs Being Marched Off Sword Beach


Recollections of Dr Paul Riley, a retired GP and former captain in the 9th Field Ambulance, RAMC, attached to 9th British Infantry Brigade and in support of 1 KOSB, 2 RUR and 2 Lincs (as told to his son).

Operation 'Overlord' postponed
On 4 June 1944, just over four years after escaping from Dunkirk, I moved from our camp near Droxford to Portsmouth. I was now a captain in the RAMC. We were marching towards our landing craft at Stokes Bay when I was disappointed to be told that Operation 'Overlord' had been postponed.

We were shut in at a local school where we spent the night. On 5 June we finally made our way to our landing craft and sailed for France in the evening with the plan to land at Sword Beach the next day. There was no room for sleeping, so I played bridge with three other officers all night. On the boat I had about 20 of my company of the 9th Field ambulance with me along with the HQ Company and CO of the 1st King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB). We beached at about midday. We had practised this many times before, always getting very wet, but for the first time ever it was a dry landing. The beach was under heavy shell fire and I saw many dead soldiers and damaged landing craft.

Folding bicycles
First off the boat was the KOSB piper, lustily playing his bagpipes, which must have scared the Germans. I followed shortly with my men, who had been issued with folding bicycles. These were rather unpopular and some people had threatened to throw them overboard, but this didn’t happen. I had a heavy pack on my back and an ordinary bicycle laden with a lot of medical equipment; it wasn’t the easiest thing to push across the sand.

We hastily got off the beach into Lion-sur-Mer and then our job was to cycle into Caen, but sadly we were held up by confusion as 9th Brigade HQ was wiped out by enemy fire and Brigadier Cunningham badly wounded. This was followed by the advance to the coast between us and the Canadians by the 21st Panzer Division, so our move to Caen was halted.

During the evening hundreds of planes came in, towing gliders and dropping ammo' and other supplies. Sadly, they were routed over our ships, which were being attacked by German planes, so some of our planes were shot down by mistake.

I and my men spent the night searching the area where the Norfolk regiment had suffered 150 casualties from a German strongpoint called Hillman, which was not captured until the next day. In a cornfield, we found a few wounded who had not been found earlier.

Wounded civilian
In the morning of 7 June my jeep and motorcycle arrived, and I rejoined the KOSB. They were advancing towards Anisy where the 21st Panzer Regiment were located. We soon cleared the town. I was very concerned that no provision had been made for dealing with wounded civilians during the invasion and I made a point of looking out for them. In Anisy I found a 15-year-old girl in one of the houses who had lost most of her left arm. I bandaged her up, not helped by a KOSB soldier firing through the window. Luckily he missed us.

Madeleine, a very brave girl, and her parents asked me what I could do. She needed hospital treatment but the nearest hospital was in Caen and still in German hands. In those days I could speak very good French and I said I thought I could get her to England.

They agreed and my driver and I loaded her on the jeep, which had room for two stretchers. We then set off to the coast. Madeleine told me that she knew the best route, via Plumetot, so we followed her instructions. As we got near Plumetot the road was being heavily shelled by both sides, and I realised that we had crossed the allied lines and were now in no-man's-land.

Surviving German-held territory
We drove into the town, which appeared to be deserted but was being shelled (probably by our 25 pounders). We had probably now crossed over into German-held territory. Leaving the town going round a corner I saw a German staff car parked on the road with a German officer sitting in the passenger seat apparently looking at his map. It seemed very odd. He must have heard us, but was sitting quite still in the car. We parked the jeep and I got out and walked up to the car, only to find that he was dead, but still sitting quite upright. I thought it would be a good idea to bring the dead officer and his maps back with us, but I needed to work out a way to get back across the German lines into no-man's-land and back to allied territory without being shot by the Germans or our own side.

I then realised what to do: I climbed into the German car next to the dead officer but found that it wouldn’t start. Luckily we had a tow rope. My driver with Madeleine in the jeep led the way, towing the German car. I sat beside the German captain, who from a short distance still looked alive, and I steered his car. Shortly before we reached the coast I met our front line, greatly to the surprise of the British Officer in Command who was wondering what to do with a British jeep towing a German staff car being steered by a British officer with a German officer sitting next to him! The Germans must have been equally confused and they also didn’t fire at us.

Promise of evacuation
We reached the coast and found Captain Stevenson of the 9th Field Ambulance and he promised me that he would evacuate Madeleine to England.

The German car and officer were left, and my driver and I rejoined the KOSB. They were in a wood near Cambes, which was being heavily mortared, the shells bursting in the trees causing casualties. It wasn’t helped by one of our tanks thinking we were the enemy. Later on, the 7th Divisional Commander General Rennie (sadly killed while crossing the Rhine) sent for me to thank me for bringing in the maps and reporting that Plumetot was clear of Germans. A KOSB motor-cyclist also told me that he had met and killed the German officer and his driver, who was lying in a ditch at the side of the road unnoticed by me.

In the evening the 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles attacked towards Cambes with tanks but failed mainly because our tanks blew up at once after being hit by German 88 guns. After dark my driver and I went out but were only able to find one wounded man. The next day, 8 June, after three nights of no sleep, I was relieved and slept for 24 hours, non-stop.

Madelaine survives
My driver was excellent and I put him up for decoration and he received the Military Medal.

Madeleine reached England and was fitted with an artificial arm and was sent to a school in the Lake District until it was safe for her to return to France. I later moved on through Holland and Germany, finishing the war in Luebeck on the Baltic coast.

Post Script posted by Peter Riley on 28 July 2004
Earlier in the year I wrote about how my father, Paul Riley, whilst serving as a captain in the RAMC, rescued a french girl, Madelaine, in the village of Anisy in Normandy. My nephew who lives in France has now found Madelaine who is alive and well. My father and mother will be visting Madelaine in August.


Rifleman Desmond Bradley - 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles

Gerald's Bradley's brother Desmond served with the 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles and was killed 0n 7th June 1944 at the first Battle of Cambes Wood in Normandy just 19 years of age.

Gerald wrote a very moving poem to commemorate his comrades;

'Cambes Woods'

I gazed upon a foreign field
Where British blood was shed
And there I placed a poppy,
In remembrance of our dead.

My heart was full of sorrow
And my tears began to flow
When came those misty memories
Of that day so long ago.

I saw the woods of Cambes appear
In the light of early morn
And riflemen waiting to advance
Across the fields of growing corn.

When came the thunder of the guns
Lines of riflemen arose as one,
And over the field into enemy fire
They advanced at a steady run.

They stormed and took the wood
And Cambes village fell by noon
The cost was the blood of the riflemen,
On the field on that day of June.

I bow my head in solemn prayer,
My words are firm and true
Rest in peace you Ulster Rifles
For we still remember you.

A memorial now stands there
In remembrance of those who died
But regarding of the passing years
We still speak of them with pride.

Gerald Bradley at his brothers grave in Normandy   

Squadron Leader Eric Sprawson DFC of 106 Squadron 

Squadron Leader Eric Sprawson DFC of 106 Squadron was the pilot of an Avro Lancaster III that was shot down by a fighter over Caen on D-Day before being sheltered by a French family until the Royal Ulster Rifles liberated Caen on the 9th July.
ND680 ZN-P had taken off from Metheringham in Lincolnshire. Squadron Leader Sprawson, the Navigator, Flying Officer Richard RC Barker and the Bomb Aimer, Flying Officer EL Hogg, were all sheltered by French families in the outskirts of Caen. When the town was liberated by the Royal Ulster Rifles in July, they were able to rejoin their squadron. The Flight Engineer, Sergeant K Anderton and the Wireless Operator, WD Low, became German prisoners, both in Stalag Luft 7 in Bankau, Silesia, Germany but the gunners, Pilot Officer Philip Sydney Arnold and Sergeant Edward Ernest James Wiggins, were both killed.

A news report at the time stated: A Lancaster bomber pilot from London, Squadron Leader E. Sprawson, D.F.C., wearing patched blue overalls and a dirty scarf told a Reuter correspondent of his adventurous introduction to the old Norman city and of his five weeks visit there with friendly French civilians before British troops arrived and threw the Germans out.

"I was shot down by a fighter over Caen on D-Day. Five of us baled out, I don’t know if the two gunners made it or not. French civilians who had just got out of the centre of Caen to avoid bombing happened to be in the field where I landed. They had me out of uniform into these clothes within twenty minutes of my landing. They were very brave people with plenty of guts and determination. They had realised what would happen if I was caught, I would have been taken prisoner and they would be shot for hiding me. We went back into their house in the town and they treated me as a member of the family. I had no rations, so they insisted on sharing theirs with me. We were lucky and lived on the produce from a little allotment, the milk from a couple of cows and the very limited rations distributed daily to the townspeople. I got two square meals a day. My chief worry was to know what to do. Allied broadcasts advised us to evacuate the town, but I could see myself trickling into Switzerland by about 1946 and decided to stay where I was in the hope that our troops would arrive before long.

Another idea was to move into open country out of the way of concentrated bombing and shelling. But being British and individual, I thought I would have much more trouble concealing my identity. There was only one really bad bombing. I was right in the middle of it. I walked through Caen twice when it was full of Germans.

Though I speak French and could make myself understood I could never have passed myself off as a Frenchman. One night when we were in the cellar of the house in Rue de Moulin, jutting on to the main thoroughfare of Boulevard Des Alliés, a great deal of scuttling about by the Germans took place. They had lots of armed patrols slinking along the streets while the crowd jostled south. For the last fortnight civilians in Caen had been living for this day. We heard the Allied Soldiers were two miles away, and then one mile. But there was still no sign until this morning. A 12-year-old boy rushed in to me and said very excitedly, “Here are the Allies!” I went out and saw a British sergeant. I told him I was British, but it was difficult for him to believe me. I. showed him my identification papers and told him to put me under arrest if he had any doubts. He put me in the charge of an officer who took me to the colonel of the regiment.

 Squadron Leader Sprawton

My friends in Caen had spread the tale that I was a Frenchman who had lost everything and was so shocked that I was unable to speak. Until this morning other French civilians with whom I had come in contact daily did not know I was English. There were collaborationists about who would have reported me at once if they had heard me talk. Most of the French in Caen were definitely for us. They realised that the bombing was necessary, and were determined to accept it as worthwhile, although after some of the heaviest raids it was understandable they would occasionally let slip a few nasty things, And now I am longing to be in uniform again and have another smack at Jerry.”

2 minutes 9 seconds in believed to show Squadron Leader Sprawson returning to safety of 9th Infantry Brigade "An RAF flight officer, cigarette in mouth, talks to a major (2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment) and other officers, having reached British lines after a month in hiding in Caen."

 2 RUR The Harp Magazie December 1944

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