(Author unknown at this time)
DATE: June 5,1944.
PLACE: Anchored at Solent, a seaport of the Isle of Wight. In company with remainder of the 26th Flotilla, namely H.M.S. Kempenfelt (leader), Vigilant (R93), Venus (R50), Virago (R75), Volage (R4l), Sioux (R64).
All day, this great armada of landing barges, TLC's, troop carriers, food and ammunition barges, mine-sweepers, M.T.B.'s, boats and ships of every size and description, sailed by our anchorage on either side, literally by the hundreds. The feeling was general among the boys that this was the day.
16:00 - 19:00
Weighed anchor and proceeded up harbour 10 miles. The ship company's mood at this time can be expressed in no other words than extremely tense as yet we have been told nothing. We have now joined company with Headquarters ship, HMS Hilary. She carried Army and Naval leaders and their staff. Shortly after this, we proceeded out at nine knots, astern of Hilary, followed by two dozen landing craft with Canadian assault troops.
"Clear Lower Decks, Hands muster by After Torpedo Tubes". With this pipe, the quartermaster broke the great tension that had, bit by bit. built itself up inside every man aboard during the long day. At last we are to know the truth.
RESUME OF CAPTAIN'S SPEECH
"Men. At last the great day we have all waited so long for is here. This is it. (ear splitting cheers). We are now undertaking the greatest naval, military and air attack in the history of the world. As you all know, an attack must have a spearhead. Well, we're it. In fact, I'll go even further - we are the point of this spearhead. Following us are a dozen assault barges, loaded with Canadian personnel. I am sure they were just as happy to see us as we are to see them. We shall follow "Hilary" till 06:00. At this time, we break formation and proceed in to the coast, proceeded by minesweepers. We will close the French coast to a range of 4000 yards. Our job at first is to put all concrete fortified positions out of action. The cruisers will bombard from a range of 10,000 yards, while Hunt class destroyers will close the coast to 3,000 yards. Each ship will have a definite section to bombard. We have ours and I am confident that this ship's company will more than prove its efficiency. We are to attack the enemy ruthlessly and accomplish our objective at all cost. If' we happen to be hit, we shall beach our ship and continue firing on our objective till our ammunition is expended, or our objective has been definitely put out. In that case, we could look for a new objective. We must make every round of ammunition count. We are to consume 40% of our ammunition on our first attack. We will then stand by to silence further Jerry opposition that is endangering our troops. A (F.O.B.) spotter will be ashore to correct our fall of shot.
Our front will extend for 100 miles - from LeHavre to Cherbourg. This part of the coast has a very high rate in raise and fall of tide, being around 30 feet, at about a foot every ten minutes. The two villages unfortunate enough to receive the concentration of our fire are Lion Sur Mer and St. Aubins Sur Mer. These were both former summer resorts :in peace time".
This wonderful talk given while surrounded by eager, happy, excited men, as well as grinding movie cameras, left us all awe inspired and ready to get on with our great task. The mess decks really buzzed with talk now.
Action stations were sounded, the last exercise for a while. From now on things will be all too real. A lot of us fellows have a little nervous stomach trouble now. Everything was lined up and checked for the last time.
20:15 - 03:30 June 6
We remained at cruising stations till 04:00, steaming along at a modest nine knots. Due to a brisk wind, we had a choppy sea, meaning nothing to us, but the cause of misery to a lot of army boys in the smaller craft astern of us. The White Watch that went on at midnight was destined to have a long stretch on deck.
By this time breakfast was served as we closed up to action stations at 04:00. The boys really dug in for they knew it might be their last meal for a while. Off our port bow, flares could be seen and quite a bit of speculation went up as to what the cause could be. As could be expected, there was a lot of neck stretching done to see who would be the first to sight the coast. By this time we could see Jerry firing at our aircraft. The minesweepers had done a marvellous job and there was a lane plainly marked by buoys clear across the Channel. We owe a lot to those boys, more than can every be repaid. Finally the feint outline of the French coast came into view, and as dawn broke, more clearly the sight became more breathtaking than ever. As the zero hour of 06:00 approached, the beach, steeples and towns could be seen. At 06:00, the first bombardment reports could be heard coming from the cruiser. The Second Front was opened.
At 07:15, the Air Force with magnificent timing, came over in great strength dropping 950 tons of bombs on the beach without appearing through the clouds. We were to open fire at 07:30, our targets being three 88 mm guns and gun positions situated in hotels on the waterfront and even a church. The barges with rocket guns were awe inspiring to watch, and created tremendous havoc on the beaches. This is truly a scientific and machine age war.
We were all ready, with our guns crews right on their toes, the guns loaded and trained on their target. Captain Blunt our Bombardment Officer, chose his first target, a gun nest in a hotel which showed promise of causing our boys some trouble. We fired six rounds rapid fire and we were all mighty proud to learn that we had made five hits, or twenty out of twenty-four. At this time the landing of assault troops commenced but Jerry still had a little too much on the ball, so they withdrew to allow the Navy to soften up the enemy even more. The coast was black with smoke, the towns on fire. We could see landing craft who had hit mines burning fiercely and sinking. Our Canadian boys rapidly made a beachhead and before night fall, had advanced twelve miles. Meanwhile we opened up on three 88 mm gins firing fifteen rounds per gun and making a score of thirteen direct hits. All day long the air was filled with aircraft and the noise was deafening, but we were getting used to it.
During late morning an assault craft came alongside with casualties. We took six men aboard, one of whom was dead. Their craft had been hit by 75 mm and the boys received further injury by explosions from their own hedgehog. Surgeon Lieutenant Dixon did wonderful work ( real masterpieces of surgery), but two more men died. It took them too long to reach us. The dead men were given a Naval burial at sea. By training our glasses on shore, we could easily see snipers firing on our men from houses and buildings of all kinds. It was a tough grind, but our men certainly had what it takes.
About 20:00, the sky became black with bombers, who did untold damage. Fires could be seen everywhere. Immediately after, hundreds and hundreds of planes and gliders (so many that we could not count them) came over, dropping supplies and reinforcements. We saw four planes go down in flame and could easily discern the crews leaping to safety. The planes all left as fast as they arrived. Our U.S. cameraman had their cameras winding away furiously. They got some really wonderful shots. This was nothing but ghastly. Still - it was something I shall never regret witnessing, "The Greatest Show on Earth".
"Air Raid Red". Enemy planes approaching, so here we go again. .The sky was filled with tracers, our hull vibrated from the explosion of bombs in the water. Smoke screens were laid to hide shipping, though I can't see how Jerry missed even by dropping bombs at random. At 24:00, the "all clear" sounded. The White Watch went off deck for the first time in twenty-four hours. Some of us fellows had been up on our feet since Monday morning - 41 hours!
Our expenditure for "D" Day-
Casualties - 800 dead out of 20,000 landed.
7,500 sorties flown by RAF.
30,000 airmen participated in operations.
4,000 ships besides smaller craft used in invasion.
11,000 planes held in reserve by our Air Forces
105,000 tons of bombs dropped by Allies.
114 German planes destroyed.
Germans had 1500 to 2000 aircraft in vicinity.
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