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Eve of D-day 1944

Discussion in 'Military News and Clips' started by Chelonian, Jun 5, 2019.

  1. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    I first posted this five years ago. Now in 2019 on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the D-day landings these are the recollections of someone I knew and whose life was touched by the preparations for the Normandy landings.

    A few years back I lived close to a farm on the South Devon coast. I got to know David the farmer and he told me that his family had worked that land for about two hundred years and that he could remember during the Second World War all ploughing was done by horses as few farmers had mechanical tractors. David died some years ago but I recall a story he told me about the build-up to D-day in June 1944.

    David was aged about eleven in April 1944 when three of the farm’s fields were requisitioned by the War Office. Nobody was told why the fields were required but as weeks passed the fields were transformed into a huge tented city. David calculated that there was well over one thousand men billeted in those fields, many of them US troops. The existence of the camps was a remarkably well kept secret. Roads were cordoned off and curious locals from surrounding villages were discouraged from snooping by armed guards supplemented by Home Guard and Police. David had no idea why so many troops were billeted on the farm but local rumours abounded. One local man overheard speculating in a pub about the reason for the troops' presence was arrested the following day and interned for six months.

    As a resident of the farm with work to do, David’s presence was tolerated and he would visit the camp several times a week often trading ‘souvenirs’ with the troops in exchange for chocolate and other contraband. One particularly lucrative trade was a churn of beer hidden amongst the milk he delivered to the camp. David's father was displeased when he learned of the deception but relented when he realised that David had acquired two years' worth of rationed tobacco!

    David told me that his last visit to the camp was on about the 4th June. He was told to stay away for a few days as the camp was expecting an inspection by senior officers. "Beat it, kid!" were the last words he remembered from one of the US MPs at the cordon. When he walked the half mile from the farm house to the fields on the 6th June he was astonished to discover that the tented city and over one thousand troops had vanished. There was not one scrap of litter and flattened grass was the only evidence that the land had been occupied. As David said, “It was if they had never been there. Gone… all of them gone.

    As news of the D-day landings filtered back to Britain it became clear that all over the south coast troops had been billeted close to embarkation ports and beaches. David admitted that he had always been haunted by the thought that those troops billeted in peaceful Devon countryside and who had tolerated his visits with such good humour were destined for the beaches of Normandy and the subsequent battles through occupied Europe.
     
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  2. Caversham

    Caversham Former RM Commando, Moderator

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    I have visited the museums and beach areas in Normandy a few times and the scale of it all defies all expectations. I think that what we have to remember is all the planning that went on before was done without the hi tech equipment that we have today.

    I heard today on the news that because there was a lack of photographs of the beach areas that they wished to land on they asked for people to send in photos and postcards that they have have had at home from holidays in the coastal towns and from that they were able to select beaches that would be accessible for LCs for further investigation.

    Ingenuity at its best.

    Alan
     
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