by Matthew Hooper
Dedicated to all of the brave soldiers who risked their lives to protect their country in world war two; without them, life would not be the same.
One- June 6th 1944
I have encountered many things throughout a long and painful journey, but the war was beyond belief. As I looked over to the others, shivering and some praying, I began to believe we were outnumbered; somewhat defeated.
It was early in the morning, about quarter past seven; we were delayed due to the torrential weather. We were dishevelled, and that was just at sea. It was what was expected for anybody who signed up. I knew it would be tough.
I noticed that it was very quiet, silent in fact. All I heard was the ferocious waves of the English Channel and the whimpers of prayers.
“You there, what the devil do you think you’re playing at?! Stop your crying and prepare yourself. If it’s going to be anything, it will not be easy.” Sergeant Thomas was always hard on us, even if we should do something good. He was never satisfied.
Immediately I started to check if everything I required was with me. I glanced towards Ethan, my younger brother (by two years) and Commander Leigh- Mallory, who commanded the RAF from the ground. Our main general was obviously nowhere to be seen as usual. General Dempsey commanded us; the Second army. He usually went by the name of ‘Lucky’ or ‘Bimbo’.
Nerves kicked in as we saw the Gold beach coast. I always imagined it as bloody as the war could have got. After all, the Nazis’ were no pushovers.
We sailed to the coast with vehicles, foot soldiers and the airborne. The Americans liked to pretend they were in control but we had it sorted better. Eisenhower and Montgomery ordered operation Overlord. We all knew Normandy would not go easy on us.
Our squad was strong. I’m Marshall Jackson, and then there was Ethan, Commander Leigh-Mallory, ‘Gaz’, Mark, Jordan, John and the twin brothers, Ray and Ricky. Thomas was of course the Sergeant.
We were heading towards Arromanches, code named Gold Beach. It was not the biggest but it was still a clear obstacle. I was a machine gunner but I carried a rifle too. Ethan was one of the many riflemen.
Sergeant Thomas took a deep breath, even he was nervous. Then he loaded up and gave the orders, “Right men! I want you ready for when the gate goes down! Ready? Attack!” We all leapt for the surface, struggling to the sand as our men went down one by one. The only thing that kept me alive was the luck of shooting non-stop before occasionally taking to the ground to reload.
We landed up to 25,000 troops on Gold beach. The Nazis’ were hitting us harder though. I had few successful shots at the enemy when I sighted a group of rocks.
It took me time to decide whether to run until I found myself heading there anyway. I sprinted as fast as I could before I launched myself through the path of gun fire…
I made it. I took close cover and threw one of my five frag grenades’.
Soon I was joined by Ethan and Mark. We continued to fire as both sides gained reinforcements and late arrivals. We had pressed further as tanks used the flame thrower feature. It was never nice to see another human being on fire, being sentenced to a long painful death. But it had to be done.
Our aim was to push them further and win Normandy over. Victory was Churchill’s plan, what else could you want from a war. We would not be pushed around until we surrendered. We had already lost men and we were not planning on losing any more.
Through all of the horrific, action packed chaos, helmets began to fly around alongside guns. We were being overpowered.
“Take what you can. Reload…push further!” Thomas was shouting orders across the battlefield.
Time after time, we stuck our guns out to shoot or throw grenades in to the German’s territory. We had to sustain our energy levels as we often do to cover the back of the beach; giant, half destroyed walls were the best thing that could protect us.
I ducked my head as the Nazis began to make their way up a hill. We began to push up with the rest of our platoon. As gunfire sprayed towards us, we leapt towards the ground and the bushes on the side of the pathway.
We were all confused to where the gunfire was coming from. We were just shooting. Then we heard a slow, rusty, creaking sound. We turned our heads to see a British tank struggling up the hill. It stopped as we all fell silent; the Germans continued firing at the tank. Then they stopped and began to retreat down a side path which led to the town of Arromanches.
The tank fired a torpedo towards the source of fire. At the same time we began to press up whilst shooting the cowardly Nazis. As the tank proceeded up the hill with us, it stopped. We also came to a halt and took to the ground. The tank slowly moved its heavy launcher towards a small bunker. We heard a great clumping noise before the tank let out a jet of fire to the bunker. This was followed by a horrid screech from the bunker. It was awful.
We took to a side road and kept low. We leapt towards the high grass to take cover from passing Nazis, who were running down the side road, away from our tank. I thought about everything I had been through as I spotted a bunker a short way from the retreating Nazis.
I thought about my family, my country and what had happened to my Father. I struggled through the line of fire as the retreating Nazis turned to shoot. Then I hurdled into the bunker. I had found myself in a spot of bother. Three Nazis stood before me, shell shocked. I thought I was dead but I took evasive action, shooting all three of them down. I picked up one of their Gewher’s to replace my empty Thompson.
I ran outside to find that my platoon had left. Instead, I saw other British foot soldiers with two more tanks close behind.
I scampered past them as I searched for my men. I worried about Ethan, I thought about the possibility that they had been killed. I ran behind the action, down small side roads where I saw few of the other soldiers. Suddenly I stopped dead. I was right behind a German bunker. I thought about shooting them but I changed my mind.
I pulled a frag grenade out and pulled the top off. I waited for 3 seconds before throwing it. It exploded immediately as it entered the bunker. I then heard triumphant screams from the beach.
I continued my search for my men. I then decided to take to a quiet part of the beach. I hurried across until I threw myself up on a pile of rubble. I was in close range of yet another bunker. I leapt over a pile of dead bodies. Staring straight into my face was Ethan. I automatically grabbed him and gave him a respectful hug.
“I don’t know where the others are…It’s just me and Gaz…” he breathlessly whimpered, “We saw Thomas running with a group of men but we had to take cover from a grenade, so… so we dived into this base. It was empty when we got here but there is a tunnel!”
Within less than a minute we were joined by the rest of our squad. Thomas was raging, “Where the bloody hell have you three been?!” He did not give us time to answer and urged us towards the tunnel.
We had also been informed that our mortar attacks on the German’s tanks were paying off. Other trenches were also being bombed until there was nothing left.
“Push them further back!” ordered Sergeant Thomas, “We must press further.” Our men had now covered the whole of the tunnel, taking their fair share of weapons. The Nazis began to retreat through Arromanches.
The Germans had taken Bayeux and they were heading in that direction. Without a doubt they would be looking to the help of reinforcements. It was nine o’clock pm. It had taken a whole day to capture Arromanches, but with hard effort and practice, the landings had been a success. Operation Overlord was working.
We had also been informed that a bridge ahead had been successfully built to link Gold and Juno beach. The 47 Royal Marine Commando was to assist the Canadians with capturing Port-en-Bessin.
Late at night we settled down on the outskirts of the town. It was peaceful. There were men everywhere camping in Arromanches. At last, I thought; a good night’s sleep.
But then I heard the dreaded bombs. Everything was about to change.