D-Day 70: You only remember the good things, says Devizes veteran (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
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D-Day 70: You only remember the good things, says Devizes veteran
Like many soldiers taking part in the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe in 1944, Jack Woods of Devizes spent D-Day in a rain-sodden transit camp somewhere on the south coast of England.
Mr Woods, 89, of Downlands Road, was a private in the Coldstream Guards, who were due to land on the beaches in early June.
But, as Mr Woods remembers: “We couldn’t be landed at the bridgehead as there just wasn’t room for us. So it wasn’t until the end of June that we embarked.”
Savage summer storms, that threatened invasion plans but held off just long enough for the Allies to establish a bridgehead, had wreaked havoc with the specially built Mulberry artificial harbours.
Mr Woods said: “The American harbour had been virtually destroyed so they repaired the British one and all the troops, equipment and supplies were landing there.
“The big ships were still there when we arrived and they were still sorting out the Mulberry harbour so we went ashore in 3ft of water.”
Mr Woods’s unit joined forces with other Allied groups to help close the Falaise gap that ended German resistance in Normandy and set them up for the invasion of Belgium.
Mr Woods said: “We went straight to Brussels. It was the longest sustained advance of the whole war. By this time we had brilliant weather and we encountered very little resistance.
“When we got to Brussels, a girl came out and asked us if we were Americans. I said, ‘No, English’. Suddenly we were surrounded by cheering townspeople. It was overwhelming.”
From there Mr Woods and his division moved on through Belgium and into the Netherlands where they became part of the ill-fated Operation Market Garden to liberate the country.
The failure of the operation led to a brief regrouping and then a hard-fought campaign on into Germany, ending up in Bremen.
Mr Woods said: “A lot of bad things happened during the campaign but you put the bad memories to the back of your mind and only remember the good things.”
But he does recall when one of their tanks hit a mine laid in the middle of the road.
He said: “When I went back on a battlefield tour recently we passed the site. You could still see where the mine went off because the Tarmac there is sinking, despite all the years since it happened.”