Lieutenant JJ Moore writes:
It was a very rough crossing, and, before daylight, as
we neared the Normandy coast, the shattering attack started, first with
bomber aircraft which saturated the area, and then the Navy behind us.
The six Canadian 105mm self propelled guns on our Landing Craft Tank, with
several others, opened up, blasting targets on our beach area. Slowly,
as the darkness gave way to light, the coast near Courseulles appeared
as a dark grey line. Gradually the dim silhouettes of of landing areas
at Graye-sur-Mer, east of Courseulles became discernible, with the dull
green countryside rising slightly beyond. The whole invasion was a miraculously
impressive sight: there were hundreds of landing-craft firing at the coast,
and to the rear of them the cruisers Belfast, Diadem, and others, together
with the accompanying destroyers were hammering the German fortresses on
the almost impregnable Western wall. There were ships as far as the eye
We watched as hundreds of five-inch diameter rockets (LCR)
rising alongside us. Three of our "Mustang" planes roared in towards the
coast just at that moment, and the second one was accidentally hit by one
of our own rockets and blew up, fragmenting into thousands of pieces. Well
over to the East there was a huge explosion on a large ship, sending up
a massive plume if smoke.
The coast, its forts and its obstacles now seemed very
close and well defined. A German reinforced-concrete pillbox fired some
shells at the Landing-Craft just to our right, but this was a LCG with
two 4.7 inch guns, and having turned slowly around as if badly damaged,
it fired a salvo, blasting the pillbox into rubble.
Now slowly overtaking our Landing Craft Tank were the
small Assault Crafts that had been launched by the troop carrying ships
well to our rear, the Langriddy Castle, the HMCS Prince Henry, the Mecklenburg
and others. These assault landing craft were carrying the heroes of the
day on to our beach, the infantrymen of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, and
the two beach-companies of the Liverpool Irish, all of these had been cruelly
tossed about in these lightweight, flat bottomed landing crafts, packed
tightly together, thirty or more to each landing craft unable to see out
and almost all violently sick because of the rough seas.
At this stage, just ahead of them, lay the fearsome beach
obstacles, the massive iron structures, Element C, the concrete tetrahedra
and the crude iron Hedgehogs, all with German "Teller" mines and captured
French explosive shells, all tar-coated and crudely wired onto the obstacles.
Because of the high winds and stormy weather the tide was much deeper than
expected, with the result that bombs thrown at the obstacles by men from
special landing crafts (Hedgerow) were almost totally ineffective. We watched
as the Assault Landing Crafts carrying the assault troops of the Winnipegs
and Liverpool Irish tried to maneuver through the gaps in the barrier of
obstacles. Some had the bottom of their landing crafts torn off by jagged
obstacles: other were sunk or blown up by exploding mines or shells. Almost
one in three of the landing craft were sunk or badly damaged.
For the troops involved in a landing such as this, the
greatest fears were of being hit or drowned while still in the water, and
then in crossing under fire before reaching the relative safety of the
minor sand-hills. Beyond these was a flat plain of some four hundred yards
width to the lateral road with no shelter from German machine gunfire.
It was incredible that the enemy had survived such a devastating barrage,
but several of their reinforced-concrete gun posts, buried in the sand
dunes, were nevertheless intact, and the first troops of the Royal Winnipeg
Rifles, together with A and B companies of the Liverpool Irish were met
with scything machine gin fire. German gun and mortar fire now rained down
on to the beach and an incredible fusillade raked the entire length of
the narrow shore, catching all of the debarking troops in enfilade. Several
men were killed or wounded while still in the water: others staggered limp,
wet and seasick to the shore where thousands of bullets were kicking up
spurts of sand.
On the Western end of the beach A Company of the Liverpool
Irish landed with the leading company of the Royal Winnipegs. Major E.M.
Morrison, the A Company [Commander] was the first out of the landing craft:
heavily laden, he jumped unwittingly into nine feet of water but managed
to stagger ashore. Others disembarking from the same landing craft, including
the second in command of the Royal Winnipegs company were killed struggling
to the shore. With a mere handful of his troops Major Morrison reached
the limited protection of the sand-dunes and established a command post
for the "Mike Green" beach area.
His first task was to rescue the troops wounded on the
shore and bring them up to the sand-dunes. Most of his men reached him,
and when he had gathered enough men, having spotted a nearby enemy defence
post to the rear of the sand-dunes, he led a fierce frontal charge, killing
or capturing several enemy troops. Almost at once another German command
post was seen and immediately attacked with hand grenades. A white flag
appeared and the Germans surrendered with hands upturned. More enemy troops
surrendered and various points around. Meanwhile heavy gun and mortar fire
rained down on the beach and the dunes. There was a group of buildings
inland from the beach from which mortars were firing: these were instantly
charged by a patrol of 20 men led by Major Morrison charging across the
minefield and taking the Germans prisoner.
Pop Quiz Fact
The Liverpool Irish were used as a shock battalion
on D-Day and suffered such casualties that the battalion would not be reconstituted.