The Life and Reminiscences of a 92 year old Normandy Veteran.

by Frederick Homard

       

       




My name is Freddie Homard and I was born at 13 Stowe Road, Milton, Portsmouth on the 21st August 1925. I am told that when I was three my father used to sing to me:

Climb upon my knee, Sonny Boy
Though your only three, Sonny Boy
You've no way of knowing
There's no way of showing
What you mean to me, Sonny Boy
When there are grey skies
I don't mind the grey skies
You make them blue, Sonny Boy
Friends may forsake me
Let them all forsake me
I still have you, Sonny Boy.

The following year he had changed it to:

What I couldn't be, Little Pal
I want you to be, Little Pal
I want you to laugh and to sing and to play
And look after Mummy when Daddy's away
I pray every night Little Pal
That you turn out right Little Pal
BUT
If one day you should be
On a new Daddy's knee
Don't forget about me, Little Pal.


Introduction

  I attended Meon Road School from 1930 to 1932 and then attended Milton Road School from 1932 to 1935. We then moved to 49 Torrington Road and I then went to Northern Parade School in Hilsea, Portsmouth where I was fortunate enough to become a pupil under a very fine teacher named Mr Lineham. I was successful in entering the Northern Secondary school in 1937 and remained there until 1939 when war was declared.

  The secondary school was immediately evacuated to Winchester, but the whole of my family decided that they would remain in Portsmouth. So from September 1939 until June 1942 I had no schooling whatsoever. In 1942 the Education Authority realised that a number of children like myself were still living in Portsmouth and in that year they opened the Emergency Secondary school for about 30 pupils. I took the Oxford School Certificate in 1943 and passed. I then took the Municipal Clerkship Examination and passed, becoming a Junior Clerk in the City Treasurers Department.


Service in the Civil Defence in Portsmouth

  During the period that I had no schooling I joined the Civil Defence as a messenger. In 1941 Portsmouth suffered two very heavy bombing attacks and I was on duty for both. As a consequence I was invited to London among several more, to attend a march through London where we were feted and applauded.


The News Blitz Supplement 1941


CALL UP

  When war was declared, everyone was registered and all males when they reached the age of 18, received a letter to report for a medical examination. I attended the R.N. Barracks and was pronounced A1. Every 10th man who was called up was sent to a coal mine to work. A month later I received a letter, together with a travel warrant, to report to HMS Royal Arthur at Skegness. This turned out to be the former Butlin’s Holiday Camp, now converted to an R.N. Shore Establishment. Here we were taught to ‘Lash Up and Stow’ a hammock and to tie and untie awkward knots. In fact I have never slept in a hammock or had to tie knots in my life since.

Identify Card

Appointment for Medical

Medical Grade Card

Identify Tag

1940s Royal Arthur Handbook

Service Certificate



Training

  After one week I got a draft to HMS CABBALA, based in Leigh, Greater Manchester. This was another Shore Establishment being used as a signal station to teach W/T operators, Flag Waggers, and Coders. I enjoyed it here and the course lasted 3 months. Our examination was in Coding and W/T Reception and I came out top with 97%. We were then sent on leave for Christmas and I was told to report to HMS COLLINGWOOD on 1st January 1944. Bearing in mind that we had seen very little of Officers, I was a bit fed up to get a ‘bollocking’ from one on the parade ground for not standing to attention when being addressed by a Naval Officer. Fortunately I got a further draft in the afternoon – this time to HMS MERCURY, near Petersfield. Here we were told that:

    a. We were joining a small specialised unit called NP 1570.
    b. We were now Royal Naval Commandos.
    c. We would be dressed in Khaki with Naval caps.
    d. We would have our own transport and aerials.
    e. We would be based in Funtington, near Chichester.
    f. We would be based in one of the large houses in the village.

  Each morning we went to a war-time airfield and erected our aerials. We then received signals from HMS MERCURY which we had to action and return. Every afternoon we made route marches around Sussex and practised boat drill on small boats at Selsey and West Wittering. In the evenings the ‘bootnecks’ drove us into Chichester for a ‘noggin’. There was a pub in Funtington but it was ‘Out of Bounds’ and ‘Officers only’. There were plenty of RAF Units around with Officers.

  In May we moved to tents on a farm in or near Southwick. We were a mile from ‘Monty’ and ‘Eisenhower’ – not that they came to us for advice!!! We first heard that the invasion had commenced on the 9:00 AM news on the 6th June 1944 and we expected to move almost immediately, but this was not so and we were confined to our camp and sentry duties were instigated. It was not until the 8th June that we moved through packed, cheering crowds to Southampton Docks. Here we were fed by the Americans and boy was their food good – many comments made about “Beasts to the Slaughter”. It was not until early on the 10th June (Saturday) that we sailed. I do not remember much of the journey except for 3 things:

    a. There was a ‘sky pilot’ on board who suggested holding a service and it was absolutely
      packed to the gunnels.
    b. A card school was started by some matelots who felt that they might not return and so all
      their English cash would be useless – other matelots made a pile of course.
    c. I walked around the deck and noticed five bins stored there – being nosey I opened them
      and found they were full of blood soaked uniforms.


The Landings

  We landed on Riva Bella Beach ( a section of Sword Beach) at Ouistreham at 5.00 PM on Saturday 10th June and the ‘bootnecks’ drove the 3 tonners, with Jolly Jack leaning over the back until the Beachmaster came roaring up in his jeep yelling “Get your bloody heads down, we still have snipers around”. The next moment he called up a tank and told them to put a shell through the church steeple – this was done and in the rubble they found some dead Germans together with their French girlfriends. Also at Ouistreham the Germans had built a 5 storey tower with equipment which covered the whole of Sword Beach. The Army just bypassed it on their way inland and it was not until 9th June that a young Officer Engineer blew the metal doors off and about 60 ‘Jerries’ poured out and surrendered.

  Meanwhile our 2 Officers could not land with us because they had parked their jeeps on the top deck and the skipper of the ship had no intention of staying ashore during the night and retired to a safe anchorage. So we landed under the command of a 3 badge ‘bootneck’. We parked in a field marked “Minen” but the locals told us that no mines had been laid. The absence of our Officers explains why I still have my disembarkation tag which should have been handed in – (so much for planning)

Map of the D-Day Beaches.
(D-Day Festival Normandy)

As an aside I wonder if anyone knows the following:-

In an Old Australian Homestead
With the roses round the door
A girl received a letter
Just newly from the war
With her mother's arms around her
She gave way to sobs and sighs
For when she read the letter
The tears came to her eyes
Why do I weep? Why do I sigh?
My love's asleep so far away
He played his part, that August day
I lost my heart in Suda Bay.


In the WW1 version it was Sulva Bay and that referred to the bay that was in the infamous Gallipoli Campaign in 1915. In WWII there was a fierce fight at Suda Bay which was near the Isle of Crete - famous for the first mass use of paratroopers to seize an objective. The song was banned in England during WWII as being treasonus, but we all knew it well and sung it in Normandy.
New French currency.
Disembarkation Tag.
New French currency.
Extract from "Air War D-Day. Gold - Juno - Sword"...... Their derelict tanks were lying close together on the back of dunes, fed up with themselves for having lost the tank when the battle had hardly started and thinking of the 18 months of training which had culminated in less than 18 minutes of action. George blamed himself. Ashton reassured him. Roy from his radio position, had not seen anything at all till the water poured in. Ashton, of course, was the first to get over the shock, he was the only one of them who was really quite grown up. He began singing again to cheer them up a bit, not very loudly against the sound of the machine guns and mortar bombs, "Why do I weep, Why do I cry, My love's asleep, so far away. He was singing it when he died. A mortar bomb fell right amongst them .....
Ouistreham Ferry Port memorial.


FOBAA - Flag Officer British Assault Area

  The next morning the 2 Officers caught up with us (looking very sheepish) and told us that we were all to travel about 12 miles along the Sword coastline to Juno Beach which had been liberated by the Canadians. Here we were to set up the headquarters for FOBAA (Flag Officer British Assault Area) who was in administrative control of Sword, Juno and Gold beaches. He had senior officers of the Royal Navy, Army and R.A.F. attached to him and ALL signals from the ships and other services were to be routed through him. He was Rear Admiral Charles Rivett-Carnac. The headquarters for him was in a large chateau surrounded by a large orchard and it had been occupied by the German Navy. Officers were billeted in the chateau while we were in tents in the orchard. FOBAA’s building is in Clos Charlotte, Courseulles. If any of you visit the town and would like to see the HQ then find the Tourist Office and ask for Anne. She speaks excellent English, knows me and would direct you.

  After we erected our tents we started watch keeping straight away. We were receiving 1600 signals a day (there were over 6000 ships off Normandy) and we had 8 ‘Coders’ working 2 watches. When we were Off Watch we had to dhoby our clobber in any old bucket we could find, eat our food from compo rations, or perhaps walk along the coast to Berniere sur Mer where tanks had been burning on the beach. We had only buckets for washing and showers were not introduced until August when the RAF put some up on the beach.

Anne and Freddie.

  In addition to FOBAA there were several small signal units on each beach with W/T, Flag Waggers and Coders for ship to shore communication. There was a very nasty ‘Friendly Fire’ incident on about the 24th August 1944 when 3 of our minesweepers were sunk by the RAF. There was a change of plan regarding sweeping from Portsmouth to Arromanches to sweeping off Le Havre to enable HMS WARSPITE to get in close to a German battery which was causing hell on the nearby beaches. A signal was sent regarding the change of plans and the Commander of Minesweeper instructed a young Lieutenant who had only arrived in Normandy 24 hours before, to draft the signal. Unfortunately he omitted FOBAA on the addresses. So FOBAA when asked by the RAF whether any British ships were in that vicinity replied in the negative. This resulted in attacks by the RAF, although the pilots repeatedly sent signals saying they thought the ships to be British. About 150 matelots were killed.
  The result was that FOBAA held a court martial at his HQ and it was pathetic the way that Officers from all 3 services were dashing in and out of offices to make sure that their ‘yardarm’ was clear! The result of the court martial was to ‘take no further action’ (surprise! surprise!) except that the verdict was not accepted by the 2nd Sea Lord, who demanded a second court martial, which was held in Rouen because FOBAA staff were now moving to Belgium with NP 1732. The result of the 2nd court martial was that the Commander of Minesweeping Services based in Arromanches, got a ‘severe reprimand’ for not ensuring that his order had been carried out properly as he did not check that his signal was properly routed. The officer concerned was a retired Engineer Commander who had been called back for hostilities, so the punishment did not affect him much! The interesting fact is that he was awarded another ‘gong’ for some excellent work he undertook at ‘Walcheren’ a few months later.
You will Remember Walcheren
Middelburg, 1st November 1998
by Jim Madden, Freddie's Signal Officer in Normandy, Belgium and Holland.
October 1944
  You will remember only too well what a difficult assignment WALCHEREN was in 1944. The opening of the Scheldt waterway, to give free access to the port of Antwerp was vital to our advancing troops. The Canadian army had advanced through north-west Belgium and carried out very hazardous duties in the Terneuzen and Breskens area of Holland south of the Scheldt, but the actual invasion of Walcheren and Beveland had not yet taken place. Operation "Infatuate" involved yet another D Day in late October and the Naval Task Force had to operate after only the briefest of preparation and in atrocious weather.
  The "square-saucer" shape of Walcheren had become a vast flooded plain after the RAF had bombed huge gaps in the sea defences, heavy damage had been done to the small towns and villages, fuel was in short supply, food for the civilian population was scarce and in some cases did not exist at all.
   You will remember the tough time the R.M. Commandos had in their sea-borne assault, and the difficult job RNBSS 2 had at Weskapelle. WALCHEREN was a severely cold, hungry, desolate and destroyed island. Half a century later everything is quite different.
October 1998
  There was very bad weather for the crossing, just as in the old days, but the P&O Ferry from Hull to Europort arrived on time, and the bus conveyed us swiftly to Rotterdam Railway Station. An efficient double-decker train was soon speeding away southwards to Dordrecht, Moerdijk and Roosendaal, en route to Bergen op Zoom, and so westwards over South Beveland via Goes to Middelburg. As we travelled across the islands the brilliant sunshine highlighted the canals and waterways, and our arrival in the historic town of Middelburg was a delight.
  A comfortable hotel just across the canal from the station offered a warm Dutch welcome, and the clean traffic free shopping streets gave easy access to the busy colourful market. What a contrast from those war time days of agony, when everything was scarred and destroyed. The dignified and beautiful Stadhuis is now skilfully restored and the bells were playing traditional tunes. All around was the busy excitement of bargaining for superior fruit and vegetables; there was a richness of all kinds of cheeses and fish, plants and flowers in abundance and a never ending variety of goods of all kinds on the stalls and in the shops of this totally transformed town.
During the 1998 visit I took a short rail journey to Vlissingen, in order to visit the Commando Memorial. The crossing of the lock gates was quite tough, against the biting wind blowing across the Scheldt. Then followed a brisk "battlefield" walk along by the windmill to the place where the Commandos had made their assault.
There, by the Memorial, and next to those of the Royal Marines, I laid our poppies, to honour those who had died in Walcheren.
  It was also possible later to identify the place where we had a small signal station 1944/45, and remember the lads from Naval Party 1732 who served there.


SAILORS IN KHAKI

from the Normandy Beaches to the Netherlands 1944-45.

The Liberation of Holland began far away in Normandy with Naval Party 1732. Sailors of the Royal Navy (in khaki) were involved all the way across France and Belgium through Lille, Aalst, Bergen op Zoom and Breda. The Final Advance Party with S/Lt Madden and PO Telegraphist Waight left Apeldoorn on the morning of 9th May 1945 driving through the German lines to Rotterdam. There they set up their mobile H.Q. in the Park Laan and finally established NAVY HOUSE for the great port of ROTTERDAM.

Appledoorn

Captain Maud



Freddie Rouen Sep/Oct 1944.
Members of NP 1732 Aalst Belgium
  Purvis R
  Tomlin A.J.
  Barwell W.N.N.
  Clarke A.
  Kirby V.G.
  Garvie W.T.
  Wilkins A.E.
  Applegate G.T.
  Leary D.
  Massey K.
  Campbell R.
  Hamilton J.
  Janes A.L.
  Upton L.J.
  Ackroyd H.
  Glen J.
  Hagland E.E.
  Magee P.
Yeoman of Signal
Leading Signalman
Signalman
Signalman
Signalman
Signalman
PO Telegraphist
Leading Telegraphist
Leading Telegraphist
Telegraphist T.O.
Telegraphist T.O.
Telegraphist T.O.
Telegraphist T.O.
Telegraphist T.O.
Ordinary Telegraphist
Ordinary Telegraphist
Ordinary Telegraphist
Ordinary Telegraphist
  As most of you will know, the break out from Normandy occurred at the end of August. By that time we knew that we were being replaced by WRNS and we were transferred to NP 1732 and moved firstly to Rouen and then on to Aalst in Belgium. The idea was that we were to take over Belgium ports and open them up so that they could supply our advancing Army nearer to their battle. This was good planning but it did not materialise because ‘Jerry’ held us up with very severe fighting around Antwerp and Walcheren.
  Hughes A.
  Mynett A.
  Faint F.K.
  Grundman E.D.
  Holgate D.G.
  Homard F.G.
  Jowett J.F.
  Lumb J.S.
  McMenemy N.
  Moseley T.
  McCord H.
  Whiting I.
  Baker K.
  Dart R.
  Merry G.
  Archibal W.C.
  Saunders P.
  Robinson C.
Leading Coder
Leading Coder
Coder
Coder
Coder
Coder
Coder
Coder
Coder
Coder
P.O.M.M.
Leading R.M.
Messenger
Messenger
Messenger
Cpl Mne Switchboard Op.
Despatch Rider
Despatch Rider


NP 1732 HQ, Aalst, Belgium.

NP 1732 HQ, Aalst, Belgium.

JUNO Beach Memorial.



Various photos of FOBAA Headquarters

Map of Courseulles.



NP 1732 Final Parade Aalst.



1945 to 1946

  We stayed in Aalst for some time and then NP 1732 moved on to Breda while we waited for Germany to surrender. It was here that I ‘blotted by copybook’ by evading customs duty on a pair of ‘pusser’ pyjamas. I had put them in a parcel that I was sending home for my father. Lower deck was cleared and I was marched out by 6 ‘bootnecks’. I remember the charge being read out and then “will suffer any other punishment as is hereinafter mentioned”. Anyway it was 10 days cells picking oakham and even the Jaunty thought that was a bit hard! In other cells were 6 ‘bootnecks’ who had stolen the Captain’s jeep and after drinking had smashed it up!! I entered cells on 28 April 1945 and came out on VE Day when I went ashore to celebrate both occasions but they had run out of drinks. I should add that picking oakham was not so bad because the ‘sky pilot’ who visited me daily, said on his first visit that it need not be so bad if you can find a sharp nail under the boards serving as a bed. Later I looked and sure enough there was a nail there and to this day I am convinced that he put it there!!

  When the war ended I joined NP 1809 in IJmuiden, Holland where we turned it into a minesweeper base for our BYMS 1 and MMSS2 commonly referred to as Mickey Mouse or Mickies for short. Coders were no longer required because everything was now in PL (Plain Language). I managed to arrange a 3 day visit to Osnabrook with my ‘bootneck’ oppo and then spent the rest of my time in the S.D.O. (Signal Distribution Office) answering telephone calls. I was on duty on a Sunday afternoon when the phone rang. I answered it to be told that they had a message for Coder Homard. I explained who I was and they read to me “Regret that father of Coder Homard died in the Royal Hospital Portsmouth on 10th June”. After compassionate leave I returned to IJmuiden and stayed until the base closed in September 1946. We all then returned to Fort Widley in Portsmouth and I was demobbed and paid up to November 1946, having seen 3 countries free at the Royal Navy’s expense.
QUAD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM

Trade Certificate.

1  BYMS - A class of wooden motor minesweepers, part of the US Navy YMS Yard class minesweepers. 150 ships destined for UK were launched from 1941 to 1943 under the Lend Lease programme.
2  MMSS - a class of 402 coastal minesweepers built for the Royal Navy between 1940 and 1945. They were of wooden construction to counteract magnetic influence mines.



IJMUIDEN

  When the advance party arrived in Ijmuiden they found that the German Senior Naval Officer - a man called Seger, refused to surrender. It held up things but he was eventually forced to do so by his Commanding Officer at Den Helder. In Ijmuiden we found on the quay midget torpedoes or submarines and large concrete E-boat pens.

Submarine/E-boat pens.

Submarines.

A popular song from Holland

My sister and I remembr still
A tulip garden by an old Dutch mill
And the home that was all our own until
But we don't talk about that
My sister and I recall one more
The fishing schooners pulling into shore
And the dog-cart we drove in days before
But we don't talk about that.

We're learning to forget the fear
That came from a troubled sky
We're almost happy over here
But sometimes we wake at night and cry
My sister and I recall the day
We said goodbye then we sailed away
And we think of our friends who had to stay
But we don't talk about that.
And a song from Russia

    Softly through the falling snow
    Silently two lovers go
    Theirs is not to reason why
    But to say goodbye
    On they go with heavy heart
    Just a kiss and then depart
    This is what he whispers with a sigh
    Can't you hear me calling
    While your tears are falling
    Where the river Volga flows
    You will bloom again
    My lovely Russian rose.

Advance party arrives in Ijmuiden

Naval Message re Freddie's father.

Click here for a typed copy

German Navy departs Ijmuiden under escort.

THE UPS AND DOWNS OF LIBERATION

  The Canadians' stay in Velsen brought with it particular problems, as well as joy and excitement; something that was all too familiar in places of garrison. There were scuffles between the inhabitants and their libertors, women or excessive alcohol consumption being the cause in every case. At around midnight a heated discussion broke out between some RCR Staff Officers and the B.S. about a baker from Ijmuiden. The Dutch accused the baker of collaboration, since he had delivered bread to the Wehrmacht throughout the war, and they threatened to arrest him, but the Canadians did not go along with the charge, because the man was still delivering food to the Germans. The man was in any case considered indispensable for the time being, regardless of whether or not the accusation was well-founded. A sentry was therfore posted in front of the bakers's flat for a number of hours until such time as the excitment had died down.

  The next day operation'Exlax' was launched with great energy, phase by phase. The first four or five phases were merely preparatory exercises, designed to ensure the smooth running of the plan, Unmotivated and suspicious at first, the Germans got going quite slowly, but in the course of the morning the Kriegsmarine as a whole was brought under control, including some outlying units. Church premises near the assembly camp were set up by the Germans as a weapon store.

  At 9 o'clock the 'Exlax' plans were run through carefully with the Germans at the 20th Parachut Division headquarters an the Germans said they could go along with them. The rest of the morning was very busy in the offices dealing with many requests from citizens, whilst the troops in the field made themselves useful by accompanying the Germans in and out of the fortifications. At 11 o'clock phase one had been completed and it was possible to start phase two.

  As soon as the 3,000 men of the Kriegsmarine had passed Wijk aan Zeeerweg without incident, much to everyone's relief, the citizens poured out onto the streets. With admiration and pleasure, they watched the soldiers of the 1732 British-Dutch Naval Party, part of the Royal Navy T-Force, who were responsible for the surrender of a stubborn Commander Seger on 9th May 1945.

Ijmuiden 1946.

Ijmuiden 1946.

Ijmuiden 1946.



THE NEXT STAGE OF MY LIFE

November 1946 - 5th July 1948
  In November 1946 I returned to ‘civvy street’ and we were certainly not happy to find that the medically unfit staff were now in higher posts whereas the ex-service personnel were given their old jobs back. All of us found it very difficult to settle down and I was even contemplating looking for a job as a Lighthouse Keeper!! Our present jobs seemed very boring after what we had been through but I was helped in two ways. On the 5th July 1948 the National Health Service was formed and because I was working on accounts for St Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth, I was automatically transferred to the National Health Service. Also at this time I was dating Pamela Mary Mason who was then working in the Public Health Department, after serving 3 years as a WREN Comptometer Operator. We married on March 17th 1951 and had 53 years of happy married life. In 1962 our daughter Wendy was born.


Pamela, who served as a WREN in London, Weymouth, Cowes and Fort Southwick.



The National Health Service - 5th July 1948 to October 1982
  My first post was as Deputy Wages and Salaries Officer which I held until 1950. By this time I had realised that finance was not my forte and I was more interested in Administration. Fortunately a position was advertised for an Administrative Assistant for Havant War Memorial Hospital, Emsworth Victoria Cottage Hospital and Northlands Maternity Home. I applied for the post and was successful. During the period I held this post, the position of Medical Records Officer at Queen Alexandra Hospital became vacant and I was asked to take this in for a temporary period. I enjoyed this work and when the Hospital Secretary of Queen Alexandra Hospital was transferred to the Portsmouth Royal Hospital he asked for me as his Deputy. At this stage I realised that to progress further I needed a qualification in Administration and therefore started a correspondence course for the qualification of “Associate of Hospital Administration”. By this time I was Hospital Secretary of the Portsmouth Eye and Ear Hospital and also a 70 bed geriatric hospital at Liphook. I passed the Intermediate examination but had more difficulty with the 8 subjects in the final examination, which I eventually passed in 1961. I was now entitled to add A.H.A. after my name and in 1970 the post of Group Personnel Officer was advertised being responsible for 6,000 staff in the Portsmouth Hospital Group. I was successful and held the post for 4 years, when I became ‘Manager of the Information and Planning Group’. I held this position until I took early retirement from the National Health Service in 1982.


Voluntary Section from 1980 to 2003
  In 1980 two friends and myself decided to set up ‘The Fareham and District Voluntary Support Group’. We formed a voluntary committee while the officers were Treasurer Mr Ken Riley, Chairman Mr Bill Hendry and Secretary Mr Freddie Homard. Our various backgrounds enabled us to receive grants from the Hampshire County Council, Fareham Borough Council and the Portsmouth Hospital Group. Among our achievements were:
  a. Geriactric Day Centre which catered daily for 40 to 60 elderly people.
  b. A battered wives hostel.
  c. A cleaning service for the elderly living at home.
  d. A young persons service for help in finding a job.
The Leonard Cheshire Foundation 1982 to 2003
  On the day of my retirement from the N.H.S. I was invited to lunch by a lady from the ‘Leonard Cheshire Foundations’ and found I had been head-hunted to run a new service in Fareham to help families with a disabled member. The post was part time but paid and similar services were to be set up in Portsmouth and Gosport. I was appointed to the post and we looked after 25 to 30 families with disabled members; this lasted until 2003 until I retired.

CONCLUSION

Finally it would be very remiss of me if I did not mention three men who meant an awful lot to me over the years.

Jim Madden
  Sub Lieutenant Jim Madden was our Signal Officer in Normandy, Belgium and Holland. In 1990 I put an advert on the television in a programme which helped one find old shipmates who had served with you during the war. I had no luck with the replies but Jim phoned me. Luckily he kept records of all the staff in NP 1732 and through him I was able to contact the families of 13 former oppos. It was interesting that many of them were still living in the towns recorded on their records. Unfortunately by the time I contacted the families 7 of the oppos had already passéd away which depressed me and I decided not to continue.


George Forster
  George was a Royal Marine but he was too young to serve in Normandy. He eventually was drafted to us in IJmuiden where we became very close friends but lost touch when the base closed down and it was not until the 1990s that I discovered his address and was able to inform him that another of our oppos lived 3 miles from him. George and I met regularly over the coming years at a midway point at Abingdon. Unfortunately George died on 13 December 2013 but I keep in touch with his daughter and her husband.


Jim Radford
  I am including Jim, although I have never met him. He was the youngest person ever to serve in Normandy. Jim was a Galley Boy in a sea- going tug in the Merchant Navy and was only 15 years of age. The tug sailed to Normandy and arrived on D-Day. Its job was to help build the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches and Jim saw some distressing sights of the assault troops dying on the beaches. If you wish to read Jim's own story then have a look at Mayday Tugs of War (Europe). It was not until 1961 that Jim returned to Normandy and he did not think that he would be affected but when he stood on the beaches where he had seen so many blood soaked corpses and children were now building sand castles, he cried. It so affected him that when he got home he wrote “The Shores of Normandy”. Jim is a well known folk singer and appeared to sing his song at the 2014 and 2015 commemorations of D-Day. I admit quite openly that his song makes me cry.


Jim Radford's song "The Shores of Normandy"


COMMEMORATIONS AND REUNIONS

Sword Beach - 2017

Sword Beach - 2017

Sword Beach - 2017

Spirit of Normandy Trust - Commemoration and Wreath Laying Ceremony 2017



Normandy Veterans' Association - 72nd Arromanches Anniversary - 2016



French and Netherlands letters and certificate



SNIPPETS

Naval Parties
(Information provided by Naval Historical Branch (Naval Staff)

/br> Naval Party 1570 - Flag Officer British Assault Area and Staff.

  Formed at Norfolk House in late April 1944 and moved to 17 Treborin Road, Earls Cours in early May 1944. On 25th May 1944, NP 1570 embarked in HMS Southern Prince and sailed to Normandy on D-Day, landing at Juno Beach. They were subsequently based at Courseilles until 15 September 1944 then moved to Rouen where they took over the Clinique Tombereau, Mont St Agnon, a former German Naval Headquarters. After the title of FOBAA lapsed on 1 January 1945, the party was paid off and the majority of the staff either returned to the UK or joined the staff of SNO (Senior Naval Officer) British Operated Ports, France.
Naval Party 1732 - Port Party Rotterdam.
  Naval Party 1732 was formed at the end of September 1944 absorbing the majority of personnel from NP1502B (a small port party based at Courseilles) and some personnel from NP 1568 (NOIC Juno and Staff) also based at Courseilles. The party was based at Aalst (Alost) between October 1944 and mid-April 1945 when it proceeded to Breda before entering Rotterdam on 9 May 1945. The party took the name Royal Clarence on 17 May 1945 and was paid off on 7 November that same year.
Naval Party 1809 - Port Party Ijmuiden.
  Naval Party 1809 was based at Ijmuiden between 19 May 1945 and 3 April 1946. We do not hold any records that show where NP1809 was based until paid off on 9 September 1946 but Minesweeping Base Ijmuiden was closed on 7 September 1946.
Extract from Portsmouth Evening News 12 April 2016





  Brave D-Day veterans in Portsmouth hailed as the ‘heroes of France’ by French diplomat the gallant six receive top French bravery award for their courage during pivotal Normandy landings in 1944.

  COURAGEOUS D-Day veterans who dodged Nazi bombs, machine gun fire and deadly snipers have been hailed heroes by the French government. Six Second World War heroes from across the area were presented with the Legion d’Honneur – France’s highest medal for gallantry for their actions in liberating the nation in the conflict. There were blazing tanks on the beach and bodies in the water said D-Day hero Fredrick Homard, of Fareham during the ceremony at Southsea’s D-Day Museum.

  Consul Honoraire of France, Captain Francois Jean, said: ‘You are true heroes and will be our heroes forever. ‘We French will never forget what you did to restore our freedom. Albert Edwards, of Mayfield Road, North End, Portsmouth, served on HMS Bellona during the Second World War. Speaking of receiving the honour, the 91 year-old said: ‘Today’s been awe-inspiring. I’m very proud and honoured to receive the medal. Albert Dyson, of Springwell, Havant, was serving as an electrical artificer on a landing craft during the pivotal 1944 invasion. The 93-year-old helped transport hundreds of troops on to Gold Beach and said the medal was in honour of those soldiers who never came home. ‘I think about all the hundreds of blokes we took ashore safely and a lot of them didn’t come back. So this is for them,’ said Albert.

  Frederick Homard, of Lower Quay, Fareham, was just 18 when he landed on Sword Beach on June 10 – four days after the initial assault. However, the 90-year-old, who was part of a small naval signal team in the war, said the carnage on the beach is something he will never forget. ‘There were blazing tanks on the beach and bodies in the water,’ said the grandfather of two. ‘Although it was on the Saturday, we were warned when we were landing on the beach to keep our heads down because there were still snipers about.
  The other veterans to receive the medal included Douglas Crabb, of Lee-on-the-Solent, Reginald ‘Tim’ England, of Chichester and Leslie Savill, of Gravesham.

Proud to have served