Gay Pornography. Childhood and Celebrity. The City in Cultural Context. N o 10 said that in keeping with previous D-Day anniversary events Chancellor Merkel of Germany will also attend.
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The event will feature theatrical performances and live music, culminating in a flypast of 24 new and historic aircraft, including the Red Arrows and a Spitfire. After the display the leaders will join veterans at a reception to pay their respects to those who played a key role in the liberation of Europ e. That evening the veterans — all over 90 years old — will leave Portsmouth on the MV Boudicca, a specially-commissioned ship chartered by the Royal British Legion and escorted by HMS St Albans, to retrace the journey they made across the Channel 75 on June 6 C aptain Skinner never lived to see victory over Hitler, but his letter expressed the hopes of many of those who poured onto the D-Day beaches in the face of bullets and shells.
Anyway - God alone brought me safely through this far - of that I'm sure. My darling, I love you more than life itself - I've realised that many times these last three weeks when I thought I was going to be killed and always the regret of missing seeing and marrying you was topmost in my mind at the time. I think I can say my love for you has been pretty well tested. How goes the world with you? Have you made a triumphant entry into Rome yet mounted on a subservient pongo? Things seem to have gone with a swing your end. Here we have had the fun of the world.
I've just got back never having had a dull moment for 19 days. It was a remarkably well-thought-out and well-run show - orders good and clear - no difficulties at all. Even the Herrenvolk [Germans] forgot to make any. It was rather an eerie performance on D-day. For some reason or other I had to go on ahead of one gang to shoot at a battery. We were a bit scared and felt very lonely closing the "Fortress Wall" alone There was no shooting at all until touchdown and then not very much, though the beaches got fairly heavily shelled at a later stage.
I had a look at the beach defences later and found the Hun had been completely foxed by the landing taking place so near low water. The beach obstacles, which were fairly numerous, were all in plain view and his pillboxes were so constructed that they could only shoot effectively along the high water mark - the arcs of fire rendered craft beaching far out, out of range.
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Rather dull after that - the landing went on steadily. We did occasional shoots as called for and spent the rest of the time helping the landing craft - taking off their wounded, breaking them up, telling them where to go. They'd all forgotten their orders by then! We had a really nasty north-easter for three days. Destroyers and some cruisers shipping seas at anchor, dropping all over the place.
Beach littered with wrecks. The Mulberries and gooseberries [artificial harbours and scuttled ships] worked like a dream and are a really remarkable contribution to efficiency. Of all ridiculous things they forgot to send any oilers and we had to scratch round as best we might for fuel. The latter end of the time mining was becoming a serious nuisance and looks like continuing so. They seem to be unsweepable; but go off quite a lot as one moves about. If you have time and opportunity I should much appreciate a homeward shipment of Algerian or Italian wine.
Preferably red. A large cask would suit. Let me know what it costs and where to pay it in. Any other product of captured territory would be equally welcome. The situation regarding alcohol in this country is one of Hitler's major triumphs. Major Gerald Ritchie 8th Yorkshire parachute regiment, to his sister July 3. Thank you so much for your letter received some time ago when I was in hospital. As you see, I am now out, thank goodness, and am more or less all right again. I have still a bit of a hole in my arm but nothing to speak of.
I must say I was terribly lucky as the bit of shrapnel missed everything important. It went in about four inches below my shoulder, rather on the inside of my arm, and stopped just below the surface on the outside of the arm towards the back of it. As you say, it was a party which I wouldn't have missed for anything, but even though I wasn't in it for 48 hours, and for my lot the first part, was, from all accounts, a picnic, compared with the time they had after I left. It all seems rather like a particularly bad dream looking back on it. We emplaned late in the evening of the Monday and it all seemed very unreal.
It was difficult to imagine that by dawn on the next day, we should have been tipped out of an aeroplane over France and should have landed in a place where there were quite a number of evil-minded Boche, whose one object would be to liquidate us before we could do the same to them. It all seemed so like an ordinary exercise, and this illusion very fortunately went on for me right up to the moment I landed with a bump in a field. The doors of the aircraft were opened while we were still over the sea and being No1 to jump in my aircraft, I had a grand view as the coast of France appeared below us.
I could see no sign of life below us, thanks to the RAF, and although I believe a few shots were fired at us, I never saw any. I remember my signaller, who jumped No2, saying, "Gawd!
Look at those bomb craters! A few moments more and the red light came on and then the green, and out I went, my mind a complete blank as usual when I jump. I can remember very little of my descent, it didn't take long anyway. I did rather a poor landing, my own fault entirely, and bruised my knees which made crawling most painful, and I had a certain amount to do during that day!
Anyway, I scrambled to my feet and unhitched myself from my parachute and took a look around. I knew I was more or less in the right place as others were coming down in the vicinity, but I was not exactly sure where. There was a horse grazing in the field where I was, who didn't seem to like my presence much, so I went off in the direction where I thought our rendezvous was.
Letters From D-Day
There were some machine-guns firing at the planes over to the east and quite a lot of flak and stuff to the south, but no sign of any enemy in our vicinity or in the direction I was going. There were numerous others about from our battalion and in a little while I met one of my platoon commanders and then the colonel and then another captain and we checked our position and arrived at our objective, a quarry, without any untoward incident.
At this quarry was a cottage, and when we arrived, the French family came out and we shook hands all round and wished each other "Bon jour", most inappropriately!
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As it was then 2am and the "jour" was not at all "bon". A few hours after the sea launching, the commandos got up to us and came across our bridges, again most cheering, and things were a bit hectic just then. I remember that one lot had a piper with them, which was the first thing we heard of them, and a very pleasant sound it was, and I have taken a better view of bagpipes ever since!
A lot of it I've given rather sketchily, and I could never hope to give you the atmosphere, as it were; it is really quite indescribable. The extraordinary smell of broken buildings and explosives; the countryside, very like the Cotswolds really, littered with gliders and parachutes; gliders everywhere, in hedges and fences, some broken so much that it looked that no one could have survived and yet in very few cases was anyone hurt on landing.
Normandy, Grandpa, and WWII
It was really an amazing but very unpleasant and tragic two days. The second-in-command of my company never appeared at all and was found four days later, he had been killed soon after landing; and my best friend in the battalion never turned up at all, nor anyone from his plane, so what happened to him I don't know. After I left they had rather a sticky time and most of the officers were either killed or wounded, more the latter than the former fortunately. Our colonel was killed, the announcement was in today's Telegraph.
Apart from our ordinary equipment, we were loaded down with heavy packs, a pick or shovel each, 24 hours' rations, ammunition and maps. Under our armpits were the large bulges of the inflated Mae-Wests [lifejackets]. In the mess decks we blacked our faces with black Palm Olive cream and listened to the naval orders over the loud hailer.
Most of us had taken communion on the Sunday, but the ship's padre had a few words to say to us. Then the actual loading into craft - the swinging on davits - the boat lowering and finally, "Away boats". Promptly at H-hour, I began listening on my wireless sets for the first news. It was a very dull morning and the land was obscured by mist and smoke so that except for the flotilla leader and the CO, no one actually saw the land till the metal doors opened in front and the ramp was down, but very soon after H-hour, crystal clear over my sets, came messages from the assaulting companies: "Heavy opposition, pushing on" and "Heavy casualties, pushing on", from each of the two assaulting companies.
By now we could hear the tach-a-tach-a-tach of enemy machine guns and the strident explosions of enemy mortars on the beach and its approaches. Now was the moment - we clutched our weapons and wireless sets, all carefully waterproofed. Suddenly there was a jarring bump on the left and looking up from our boards we saw some of the beach obstacles about two feet above our left gunwale with a large mine on top of it, just as photographs had shown us; the mine just the same as those we had practised disarming.
Again a bump on the right, but still we had not grounded. The colonel and the flotilla leader were piloting us in, and for a few brief minutes nothing happened except the music of the guns and the whang of occasional bullets overhead, with the sporadic explosions of mortar bombs and the background of our own heavy gun fire. The doors opened as we grounded and the colonel was out. The sea was choppy and the boat swung a good bit as one by one we followed him.
Several fell in and got soaked through. I was lucky. I stopped for a few seconds to help my men with their heavy wireless sets and to ensure they kept them dry. As we staggered ashore, we dispersed and lay down above the water's edge. Stuff was falling pretty close to us and although I did not see it happen, quite a number of the people from my own boat were hit.
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Instinctively, where we lay we hacked holes with our shovels. I began to recognise wounded men of the assault companies. Some were dead, others struggling to crawl out of the water because the tide was rising very rapidly. We could not help them since our job was to push on, but I saw one of my signal corporals with a wound in his leg and I took his codes with me promising to send a man back for his set before he was evacuated.
Getting just off the beach among some ruined buildings we began to collect the HQ. The other boat party was mostly missing, also three-quarters of my sets. The colonel was getting a grip on the battle and I was sent back on the beach to collect the rest of us.
I did not feel afraid, but rather elated and full of beans.