D-Day 70: It was the invasion of Europe. It will never be forgotten. (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text WILTS GAZETTE to 80360 or email us
D-Day 70: It was the invasion of Europe. It will never be forgotten.
At the helm of a double decker-sized artillery tractor, gunner Clifford Jones was poised at the front of the landing ship, waiting for the double doors to open.
He felt the bottom of the boat scrape the sand and knew he would soon meet whatever lay on the other side.
“It was 2pm, the shore was in front of us, the ramp came down. My Matador and a tank filled the exit, ready to go,” said Mr Jones.
“Then the order came, ‘shut off your engines’, and the doors closed and the boat went back into the bay.”
Unbeknown to the assault troops at the time, the Germans were little more than a mile away, and it would be another day before they were allowed to disembark.
Commandos had arrived in Ver-sur-Mer at 7.30am, to clear away the German defences ahead of the gunners’ arrival.
“It was June 7 when we came off the boat, down the ramp and onto the sandy beach,” said Mr Jones, who lives in Chippenham.
“I knew my order, turn left at the road and go up to the roundabout and wait there. And they followed.”
An hour later they were in action. It was the day Mr Jones had been training for ever since being called up two years earlier at the age of 20. “Everything was to do with that day,” he said.
But with the element of surprise crucial to the operation’s success, the troops were kept in the dark to the very end.
“No one actually knew we were going over except for half a dozen generals,” he said. “They only told us what we needed to know.
“The Germans were expecting us to land at Calais, it was the shortest distance. They were at Calais waiting for us.”
He recalls the moment he was told the time had arrived. “We were on the landing ship tank.
“We didn’t move from Harwich for five days and after that the order came.
“It was 11am when we reached the middle of the Channel. The officer in charge opened the envelope. He said ‘this is the invasion. You know what we’ve got to do, you’ve trained for it often enough’.
“And the boats came from everywhere, thousands of them, to the east and to the west.
“You couldn’t see the water for ships, you couldn’t see the horizon, and they were all going off in lines. You’ve never seen anything like it.”
He was headed for the eastern end of Gold Beach, between Arromanches and Courseulles.
For three weeks after the landing the engineers dug up mines from the beach.
Once Falaise fell, Mr Jones’ unit moved with the Canadian army to Belgium, where the sky was still alight with the sparks of German rockets.
While advancing through Antwerp, a bomb blew up 200 yards in front of him at the town centre crossroads.
Being in the thick of a warzone at 22 years old is something Mr Jones still shrugs off.
“It was unavoidable, one of those things you’ve got to do,” he said.
“My job was to get the guns there and that’s what I did.
“There were a lot of brave men who went in before I did.
“There were all sorts of booby traps that had to be cleared.”
Up to 3,000 Allied troops lost their lives on D-Day alone. The lasting effect is revealed by the clarity of Mr Jones’ memories 70 years on.
He said: “This was the invasion of Europe.
“It will never be forgotten, and never done again.”
Comments are closed on this article.