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R.A.F. Units in D-Day landings on Omaha Beach

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#1 DoctorD

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 08:51 PM

This is the headline that has never been seen anywhere!




As an 80-year old ex-RAF WW2 Veteran, who landed on Omaha Beach during the 1944 Normandy landings, I was privileged to be the only British Normandy veteran to attend the ceremony to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of D-day, that was conducted by Presidents Bush and Chirac at the Normandy American Cemetery on 6th June 2004.

In the VIP enclosure I took the opportunity to talk to American veterans and a number of 3 and 4-Star Generals, and with Senators and Congressmen. I was astonished to find that none of these VIP’s had any idea that British Forces personnel had participated directly in the D-day landings on Omaha Beach, in support of the Americans.

The RAF Mobile Radar Unit (15082 GCI), with which I was associated, landed there that day and sustained substantial casualties. Since some of these had roomed with me at RAF Signals Schools during our technical training, I felt obliged to see that their sacrifice would no longer go unrecorded. To this end I arranged, through the Mayor of Vierville-sur-Mer, for local school children to regularly visit these RAF graves in the Bayeux Commonwealth Cemetery. I returned home to seek related records and publications, with such little success that I decided to donate a perpetual shield in their memory to my local ATC Squadron. Even the RAF's official website, and others (mainly U.S.) detailing the units engaged on Omaha beach, fail to mention this and other RAF Mobile Signals unit involvement there.

Only one record that is directly related, and covers the events in graphic detail, is due to a fellow RAF Corporal, Eric John Heathcote, who survived to pass on a hand-written account to his son David. His copyright for the original text, that appears in the BBC’s “ww2peopleswar” archive as ID: A1947567, is hereby acknowledged. Its inclusion here is justified by the BBC archive no longer being maintained and, snce the search facitlity no longer functions, there is a danger of this important information being lost.

The narrative that follows is based upon this, with some minor editing drawn from my own experience. Omaha beach stretches 8km east from Vierville-sur-Mer. The RAF’s No.21 Base Defence Sector included the aforementioned Ground Control Interception (GCI) mobile Radar Unit, to locate enemy aircraft and to direct Fighter patrols of the RAF’s 2nd Tactical Air Force to intercept them and thus provide air cover for the beaches. By some standards the number of casualties may seem 'modest', but they represent a significant proprtion of the unit's operational strength - and I am proud to say they were all my friends!



Edited Report on the Landing in France of 21BD Sector on D-day, 6 June 1944



The first Echelon of 21 B.D. Sector embarked in five LCT’s (Landing Craft, Tanks) on June 2nd 1944, at Portland, where they remained in harbour until Sunday, June 4th 1944. At approx 0400 hrs the armada left port and set sail for Poole. Before reaching there the whole fleet turned around and was back in port again by 0700 hrs, where it remained until 0430 hrs the following morning. At this time the armada set sail for France. The rendezvous off the coast of Normandy was reached soon after dawn on 6th June 1944. The sea voyage was completely without any enemy interference; no enemy aircraft having been seen during the whole voyage. The sea was rough, with a strong south-westerly wind blowing.

A first attempt at landing was made at 1130 hrs on 6th June 1944. The convoy moved towards the beach with the engines of all vehicles running, ready to disembark when the ramps were lowered. But, as the convoy approached, it was clear that the beach was still under machine gun fire as well as heavy shelling. It was obviously inappropriate to land non-combatant vehicles at that time, so we withdrew.

During this time heavy shelling of the cliffs was being carried out by the Royal Navy to try to silence the shore batteries that were concentrating their fire upon the beaches. Despite this, at 1700 hrs, the convoy was directed to the beach at St Laurent, having been ordered to land there whatever the outcome. This was about one mile west of Colleville-sur-Mer, which had been our intended landfall.

As we drew close to the shore, we saw that this, too, was under heavy fire from 88 mm guns that were zeroed in on the beach and were consistently shelling the American vehicles that were lined up there. These were unable to get away as both exits from this beach were blocked. Nevertheless, it was considered timely for 21 B.D. Sector to land there. Most of the vehicles disembarked in over 4ft of water but many suddenly became totally submerged in encountering hidden shell holes. In all 27 vehicles disembarked, but only 8 were driven off the beach, others to be salvaged in various states of disrepair.

LCT 649 dropped its ramp on a sandbank, in 4 ft of water, but considerably further out to sea than the other landing craft. In driving ashore the vehicles were soon submerged in 6ft of water, their occupants needing to scramble onto the tops of the vehicles to avoid being drowned. All the vehicles from this craft were lost except one; this one never disembarked due to a failure to start. The skipper refused to countenance any delay. With such a considerable distance to swim there was great difficulty in saving the men from this craft; but we eventually got them all safely ashore without loss of life.

Very soon after the vehicles were landed, they came under further shellfire from an 88mm gun and a number of them were destroyed as it was impossible to move them off the beach with both exits being completely blocked. This beach was more or less deserted, except for the crews of the American vehicles that were jammed on the beach, and for the many American dead and wounded who had been lying there since the first assault. We learned later that, in view of the fact that the emergency Medical Services were almost completely wiped out, and the fact that the beach was still under heavy shell fire, it had been decided to postpone the landing of the elaborate beach marshalling organization that was intended to handle the disembarkation of the “follow-up” RAF units.

Our whole unit came under heavy shelling on the beach and we soon made our way to the top of the beach, where we dug foxholes in the shingle for shelter, and remained there until the situation could be reviewed and a place found for the Unit to be moved to; the front line being only about a mile inland.

Our wounded Padre, Squadron Leader Harding, gallantly reconnoitred the little village of Les Moulins, which is situated at the westerly end of that beach. He came back and reported that this village was not under fire and afforded some cover. Squadron Leader Trollope then went over the beach and ordered everybody to move to this western end of the beach, the men at this time being very scattered in craft-loads. For the next two hours, all personnel who were not wounded, were employed at the exit of the beach either in helping to recover vehicles from the sea, with a bulldozer that had now arrived, or with carrying both our own and American wounded off the beach. Whilst mostly under fire, our Medical Officer, Flight Lieutenant Ryecroft, aided by the Padre, was continuously employed rendering emergency medical aid to the wounded under the worst possible conditions, from the time of landing until late the following afternoon; by which time all the wounded had received further treatment at the American Forward Aid Post that overlooked the next beach. All of our serious cases were evacuated to U.K. that night by LCT, except Wing Commander Anderson, who stayed until the following day to have his arm X-rayed and to see what was to happen to the Unit.

When these tasks at the beachhead were completed, the unit moved up the road to the small hamlet of Les Moulins. Some of the treated wounded were taken to a courtyard of a house in this village, the rest being taken to a convenient crater on the beach, above high water mark, where we made them as comfortable as possible for the night. The rest of the unit spent the night lying on the edge of the road at the entrance to the village, which was situated between two thickly wooded hills. In most places there was a low wall at the side of the road. This rendered some shelter from the sniping that continued throughout the night from the hills on both sides. The cliffs were full of snipers who had access to underground passages, like rabbit warrens, honeycombing the whole area.

Soon after dark six Junkers JU88’s, the only enemy aircraft so far seen or heard, came over and dropped some bombs on the beach. One of these aircraft was shot down by the Royal Navy. At intervals throughout the night we were disturbed by shelling from the 88mm guns, that burst just above us.

At 0500 hrs S/Ldr Trollope went up the road to see if it was possible to move the Unit farther inland, as we were obviously in a very dangerous position and our remaining vehicles were blocking the road should further transport be disembarked. It appeared from S/Ldr Trollope’s reconnoitre that it might be possible to move a mile or so up the road. In fact, F/Lt Efinberger, who had been sent up this road to find a position to park the Unit, came back to report that the road was now under cross machine-gun fire. He had been fired at a number of times; on one occasion having his steel helmet knocked off. From our later experience it is likely this was ‘friendly’ fire by the Americans, who frequently mistook our R.A.F. blue uniforms for the enemy’s field grey; so we stayed where we were. Actually, nothing else was disembarked on this beach, after us, until late the following afternoon.

At about 1100 hrs the 88 mm guns opened up on the beach with greater determination, so the Unit, after a further reconnaissance, moved up the road about ¾ mile and, as Transit Area No. 3 was still not taken, we pulled into a field. This field was full of American snipers, who were firing over our heads at random into the wooded hillside. There was also a certain amount of return fire from enemy snipers, but nobody was seen to be hit. At approx. 1400 hrs, Major Kolakos, the US Intelligence Office of 49th A.A. Brigade, contacted us in the field and told us that Gen. Timberlake suggested that the unit pull into Transit Area No. 2, at the top of the hill, and adjacent to his headquarters. This was the first official contact of any sort that had been made with the Americans since landing. We moved out of this field almost immediately. We passed through the village of St Laurent (where terrific rifle fire was taking place) and settled in Transit Area No. 2 for the night. This place was pretty crowded but we managed to find room to dig foxholes to sleep in. It was an extremely noisy position, as there was cross shell fire going on overhead between the Navy and the 88 mm guns that were still shelling both beaches.

The Military position during the whole of this period was extremely precarious, the bridgehead reported not to be anywhere more than 2 to 3 miles deep. W/Cdr Anderson, who had been wounded in the wrist, and S/Ldr Trollope contacted Gen. Timberlake in the evening and the position was reviewed. It was decided to move out next morning, June 8th, to a nearby field so that we could examine our equipment to see if it was possible to get any of it operational. By that time S/Ldr Best and the other technical officers (who had worked unceasingly salvaging equipment of all sorts from the beaches, ranging from complete vehicles, down to small items of serviceable equipment from derelict vehicles) considered that it would be possible for the GCI Radar Unit to set up and become operational if a site was selected, our intended site still being in the hands of the enemy. S/Ldr Trollope again saw Gen. Timberlake, and a site was chosen that overlooked the cliff at Pointe-du-Hoc. The convoy moved there through Vierville-sur-Mer in the afternoon, and our Radar equipment was set up ready to become operational on the following night. The 83Group HQ part of our convoy having been established in Vierville-sur-Mer

By the afternoon of the 9th, the military position in this sector had improved to such an extent, the bridgehead now being 7 to 8 miles deep, that a signal was received, ordering G.C.I. 15082 to prepare to move tp another location. The work of packing up was started immediately, hence the Unit did not operate on the night of 9th June as planned. We moved to the new site on June 10th, where we set up and became operational that night, to claim one enemy aircraft destroyed and one aircraft damaged.

Up to and including 9th June there were large numbers of snipers in all the area surrounding St Laurent, with sniping continuing almost incessantly day and night. There was also a terrific barrage at intervals every night, from heavy and light AA, when enemy aircraft were over the area. The snipers were firmly established, some in underground tunnels, others in thick woods surrounding the village. It was found that some of these were secured in trees, by the aid of nets, and firing smokeless ammunition making them almost impossible to find until they gave themselves up when their ammunition had run out.

Of the total of 47 casualties that our Unit suffered 1 officer and 9 other ranks were killed; 1 was reported missing; and 5 officers and 31 other ranks were wounded (one of whom subsequently died).

Biographical Note: Corporal Eric Heathcote, Royal Air Force No. 1264340, was one of a team who operated an RAF Mobile Radar Unit. Although British, his unit landed on Omaha Beach. He was born in Wembley, London, in July, 1920 and died in April, 1990.

Edited by DoctorD, 05 May 2010 - 01:12 AM.
Insertion of additional text in 3rd paragraph re ATC Sqdn

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#2 Paul Reed

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 08:59 PM

Welcome to the forum - you very kindly emailed me via my D Day Ancestors website. I did try mailing back, but my emails to you kept bouncing.

We are very grateful for you highlighting a lesser known aspect of D Day, and look forward to further posts from you.
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#3 ramacal

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 09:16 PM

We are very grateful for you highlighting a lesser known aspect of D Day, and look forward to further posts from you.


Fascinating report. We look forward to hearing more.
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#4 Peter Clare

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 09:27 PM

Hello DoctorD,

Welcome to the forum and thanks for your first post which is most interesting.

An uncle of mine landed on D-Day but I could not tell you where, as far as I know he was involved with the communications branch on the 2nd Tactical Air Force RAF
and moved up with the forward troops guiding aircraft to targets that presented themselves on that day and the days that followed.
One of these days I'll get to have a long talk with him regarding his involvement on D-Day.
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#5 Smudger Jnr

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 10:09 PM

Dr D,

Hello and welcome to the forum.

An excellent opening post from you. Thank you for sharing.

Regards
Tom
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#6 Owen

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 10:20 PM

Welcome to the forum.
I never knew the RAF were on Omaha, thank you for that fact.
Could you tell me who those casualties were, please so I can look them up on the CWGC.


our Unit suffered 1 officer and 9 other ranks were killed


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#7 geoff501

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 09:07 AM

Welcome to the forum.
I never knew the RAF were on Omaha, thank you for that fact.
Could you tell me who those casualties were, please so I can look them up on the CWGC.


Name: NEWSON, STANLEY WILLIAM Initials: S W Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Leading Aircraftman Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Unit Text: 15082 G.C.I. Age: 22 Date of Death: 06/06/1944 Service No: 1612976 Additional information: Son of George Joseph and Rosina Newson, of Wallington, Surrey. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: X. B. 12. Cemetery: BAYEUX WAR CEMETERY
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#8 geoff501

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 09:13 AM

My three year old data has him listed as 15082 Sqdn. The current CWGC entry above has since been changed to 15082 G.C.I. Can't locate any more.

geoff

Edited by geoff501, 22 March 2009 - 09:28 AM.

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#9 geoff501

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 09:36 AM

Found another. My data has no unit text for this record, so I could not do a successful search on this field.
Looks like CWGC have updated these records in the past 3 years. Can't search on unit on their website. Perhaps they should give me a live link :mellow:

Name: HIGHFIELD, DOUGLAS CHARLES Initials: D C Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Flight Lieutenant Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Unit Text: 15082 G.C.I. Date of Death: 06/06/1944 Service No: 117492 Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: X. B. 14. Cemetery: BAYEUX WAR CEMETERY
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#10 SteveP

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 09:40 AM

WOW! What an amazing co-incidence. I was just browsing (for the first time in several years) through my WW2 books/notes, got on the web and came across a link to this. In 1987 I visited Omaha in a group which included Eric, his wife and son and took some photos/notes as he described his experiences on the beach. I beleive it was Eric's first visit back to Normandy since 1944. I would be pleased to post my photos and notes or email them but don't know how- as I just joined when I saw this post.
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#11 geoff501

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 09:45 AM

Another with unit text recently amended.

All the other RAFVR for 6th at Bayeux are either 76 Sqdn, 50 Sqdn or 183 Sqdn.
I'll search 7 - 9th June.

geoff


Name: PARR, RICHARD CROXTON Initials: R C Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Leading Aircraftman Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Unit Text: 15082 G.C.I. Age: 22 Date of Death: 06/06/1944 Service No: 1527578 Additional information: Son of Walter Henry and Catherine Evelyn Parr, of Crewe, Cheshire. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: X. B. 6. Cemetery: BAYEUX WAR CEMETERY
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#12 geoff501

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 10:02 AM

Nothing more found for 7th to 10th June at Bayeaux. There are a number of RAFVR there (including four RAAF)
Total as follows:

6th 10
7th 21
8th 3
9th 8
10th 4
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#13 geoff501

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 10:07 AM

WOW! What an amazing co-incidence. I was just browsing (for the first time in several years) through my WW2 books/notes, got on the web and came across a link to this. In 1987 I visited Omaha in a group which included Eric, his wife and son and took some photos/notes as he described his experiences on the beach. I beleive it was Eric's first visit back to Normandy since 1944. I would be pleased to post my photos and notes or email them but don't know how- as I just joined when I saw this post.


Welcome, Steve. We would love to see them. I'm sure an expert will contact you soon and help with the posting. I've only linked to photos on my own site so I'm not so sure how its done otherwise.
What a great place this is!

geoff
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#14 Harry Ree

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 10:09 AM

I knew two RAF personnel who both landed at D Day +1 as part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force and were to be involved in the construction and operation of the landing strips.Independently, if I remember right, they both told me that their port of embarkation was Ipswich.

One, who was a colleague at work had a collection of photographs and got into Paris quite early on in its liberation.The best, I thought, was psychological propaganda painted on a long wall by the Resistance which read, "Germany like Carthage will fall".

Strange,just recently, I saw a note,said to be attributed to Hitler, late in the war, which he said that he saw himself as Hannibal who maintained his popularity even though things were not going well for him.
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#15 geoff501

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 10:46 AM

Here is row B, Plot X at Bayeux:
(no clues here)

B.1. CORPORAL-DAY-ROYAL AIR FORCE-06/06/1944
B.2.
B.3. FLIGHT SERGEANT-HAINE-ROYAL AIR FORCE VOLUNTEER RESERVE-06/06/1944
B.4.
B.5.
B.6. LEADING AIRCRAFTMAN-PARR-ROYAL AIR FORCE VOLUNTEER RESERVE-06/06/1944
B.7. SUB-LIEUTENANT-TIPPING-ROYAL NAVAL VOLUNTEER RESERVE-06/06/1944
B.8. ABLE SEAMAN-CHURCH-ROYAL NAVY-08/06/1944
B.9. LEADING SEAMAN-WHEELDON-ROYAL NAVY-06/06/1944
B.10. ABLE SEAMAN-PRITCHETT-ROYAL NAVY-06/06/1944
B.11. STOKER 1ST CLASS-MCCOY-ROYAL NAVY-06/06/1944
B.12. LEADING AIRCRAFTMAN-NEWSON-ROYAL AIR FORCE VOLUNTEER RESERVE-06/06/1944
B.13. CORPORAL-JAMES-PIONEER CORPS-10/06/1944
B.14. FLIGHT LIEUTENANT-HIGHFIELD-ROYAL AIR FORCE VOLUNTEER RESERVE-06/06/1944
B.15. SIGNALMAN-PECKETT-ROYAL CORPS OF SIGNALS-06/06/1944
B.16. TROOPER-BARWICK-ROYAL TANK REGIMENT, R.A.C.-14/06/1944
B.17. PRIVATE-RANSON-THE QUEEN'S ROYAL REGIMENT (WEST SURREY)-18/06/1944
B.18. AIRCRAFTMAN 1ST CLASS-ROUTLEDGE-ROYAL AIR FORCE VOLUNTEER RESERVE-07/06/1944
B.19. SECOND LIEUTENANT-UGARTE-ROYAL ARTILLERY-18/06/1944
B.20. PRIVATE-WOOD-THE QUEEN'S ROYAL REGIMENT (WEST SURREY)-16/06/1944
B.21. PRIVATE-FOSTER-THE QUEEN'S ROYAL REGIMENT (WEST SURREY)-17/06/1944
B.22. PETTY OFFICER-SEVERY-ROYAL NAVY-06/06/1944
B.23. GUNNER-STIRLING-ROYAL ARTILLERY-16/06/1944
B.24. ABLE SEAMAN-FURNESS-ROYAL NAVY-06/06/1944
B.25. PRIVATE-TAYLOR-THE QUEEN'S ROYAL REGIMENT (WEST SURREY)-16/06/1944
B.26. MAJOR-BORRETT-THE QUEEN'S ROYAL REGIMENT (WEST SURREY)-16/06/1944
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#16 von Poop

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 10:48 AM

Welcome DoctorD,
Great stuff.
We've had another RAF ground forces veteran join recently, not from Normandy but with 5 other 'D-days' under his belt. In fact it seems to be 'RAF month' as we've had three of you chaps turn up in pretty quick succession recently.
A pleasure to have you aboard, and do feel free to tell us more.

I would be pleased to post my photos and notes or email them but don't know how- as I just joined when I saw this post.

Hi Steve,
I'm sure we'd love to see your stuff.
There's a guide to uploading/inserting pictures here:
How to insert pictures
If you have any bother just contact me or the mods and we'd be glad to help.

Cheers,
Adam.
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#17 SteveP

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 10:49 AM

Here are some photos with my comments from 1987 when Eric visited Omaha for the first time since 1944.

Attached Files


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#18 Paul Reed

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 11:03 AM

Well done for posting those photos, Steve. Interesting to see the Holts old coach - was the Major and Mrs with you on that tour?
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#19 SteveP

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 11:07 AM

Thanks Geoff, i've uploaded them.
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#20 SteveP

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 11:20 AM

Well done for posting those photos, Steve. Interesting to see the Holts old coach - was the Major and Mrs with you on that tour?

Excellent Coah recognition!
I went on several trips with Holts around that time and did see them on occasion but unfortunately didn't record many names on the individual trips. Lots of interesting stories of course from the veterens.
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#21 DoctorD

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 10:02 PM

WOW!! I was looking for wider publicity for my comrades. Hope it reaches to the USA!
Thanks for the hard work Geoff. I have photos I took on my second visit to Bayeux Cemetery five years ago that show my pal Corporal Day as the first grave on the left past the entrance. His neighbours are three RAF O.R's, dated 6.6.44, also one RAF 'Unknown' being dated as 5.6.44 (D-1!). I used these in a PowerPoint presentation I put together a while ago for the local ATC Squadron. I'll post these when I get to grips with your methods.
Amazing that Steve met Eric Heathcote in '87. Thanks for the pics, Steve. I saved them to file, so that I can decipher the comments at leisure. I tried all ways to contact his son David to apologise for the minor editing I have done and for its wider publicity. But the BBC website seems to allow its use provided the copyright is acknowledged. The local school put an entry there of my own background.
Since there is a bit of interest I'll see wht I can do to spread more enlightenment on RAF Mobile Signals Units in Normandy (and beyond).
Hope this reply satisfies you all
DoctorD (Les)
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#22 DoctorD

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 10:18 PM

Better be quick Peter, we're not getting any younger! Yes, we too followed the front for a while, as far as the Rhine crossing, where we fitted VHF transmitter/receivers into some tanks of 51st (or 54th?) Highland Div for direct comms with fighters for calling down air support. Saw them again later when they were redirected to support Americans in Battle of Bulge, that Christmas.
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#23 Slipdigit

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 12:40 AM

Howdy Doctor D,

It is indeed a pleasure to make your acquaintance, however distant it may be. Obviously, due in no small part to my nationality, Omaha Beach holds strong place in my heart and it good to read the words of a man that has trod that difficult location. Thank you for serving alongside the men from my country and I look with anticipation any stories, however trivial they may seem to you, that you might be able to offer.
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Warmest Regards,
Jeff


#24 geoff501

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 08:58 AM

Hello Doctor D,

Interesting, was Cpl Day in your unit? His current commemoration has his unit as 5158T M. S. U.
Looks like all four of these records have been updated in the last 3 years, they either had no unit given or unit was incorrect.

What is M. S. U. (something support unit perhaps?)

geoff
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The WW2 Commonwealth Casualty Search Engine:
http://www.hut-six.c.../search39-47.php

"Well, the most important thing that was new was the idea of URI -- or URL. The idea that any piece of information anywhere should have an identifier, which will not only identify it, but allow you to get hold of it. That idea was the basic clue to the universality of the Web. That was the only thing I insisted upon." Tim Berners-Lee.





#25 SteveP

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 12:19 PM

WOW!! I was looking for wider publicity for my comrades. Hope it reaches to the USA!
Thanks for the hard work Geoff. I have photos I took on my second visit to Bayeux Cemetery five years ago that show my pal Corporal Day as the first grave on the left past the entrance. His neighbours are three RAF O.R's, dated 6.6.44, also one RAF 'Unknown' being dated as 5.6.44 (D-1!). I used these in a PowerPoint presentation I put together a while ago for the local ATC Squadron. I'll post these when I get to grips with your methods.
Amazing that Steve met Eric Heathcote in '87. Thanks for the pics, Steve. I saved them to file, so that I can decipher the comments at leisure. I tried all ways to contact his son David to apologise for the minor editing I have done and for its wider publicity. But the BBC website seems to allow its use provided the copyright is acknowledged. The local school put an entry there of my own background.
Since there is a bit of interest I'll see wht I can do to spread more enlightenment on RAF Mobile Signals Units in Normandy (and beyond).
Hope this reply satisfies you all
DoctorD (Les)

It is indeed a small world! Incidentally in my photos the lady in the beige coat is Eric's wife- Moyna I believe. Also on that trip in '87 was Roy Howard one of the first men into France that day, he was one of the Glider pilots that landed near the Orne river bridge, adjacent to Peagaus bridge. He'd been in the Gondree cafe on D-Day but on 2 previous trips the cafe was closed so he fufilled a 43 year wish in finally getting there and having a coffee - pleased as punch! Fascinating times and stories. Best regards - Steve
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#26 Gerard

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 12:26 PM

Greetings to you Doctor D and to you to Steve. Fabulous thread. Look forward to reading more about this less well known aspect of Omaha beach landings.
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"The Eastern front is like a house of cards. If the front is broken through at one point all the rest will collapse."
- General Heinz Guderian

 

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#27 DoctorD

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 02:17 AM

Hello Doctor D,

Interesting, was Cpl Day in your unit? His current commemoration has his unit as 5158T M. S. U.
Looks like all four of these records have been updated in the last 3 years, they either had no unit given or unit was incorrect.

What is M. S. U. (something support unit perhaps?)

geoff


Hi Geoff A Corporal Day 'roomed' (shared civvy billet) with me during the first phase of our technical training at RAF Signals School (civilian college-became poly-now university!). I lost touch with him when he was posted to different School (College-Poly etc) for the secong phase. Briefly met him later at Combined Ops "School":-[ what a misnomer!! From your info it appears he was posted to a T unit. I seem to recall a C unit as a m/f radio receiving unit and a T unit as a m/f Morse transmitting unit. However 'my' Corporal Day had remustered from Electrician (Pay Group2) to a Radar Mechanic (Pay Group 1)(??) Pretty sure it was him though(!) On 25.5.44 that T unit was located with 15082GCI, according to the 2ndTAF Location Statement of that date.The letter suffix indicates (a subject for interesting research!) the operational role fulfilled by the unit which, in turn, determined its 'assets' (to use modern military parlance), i.e., number of bods, their 'trades', quantity and type of operational equipment (vehiclular transport, radio transmitter or receiver vehicles (mf vhf), radar array vehicles, mobile operations/control room vehicles, etc, etc).By the way, MSU = Mobile Signals Unit, of which there were perhaps a few hundred of various types, each commanded by a Corporal. These were generally modestly manned. Typically one three-tonner, a 15cwt Bedford Radio vehicle, a motor cycle and two ridge tents to house, say four Wireless Operators, a Despatch Rider, a General Duties bod (who usually shared the cooking) and an MT Driver (to fetch mail and rations). The latter three would set up the tents, field oven and dig the bogs whilst the tech guys set up the aerials and radio equipment (they worked the 24 hour operational shifts). Some of these were attached to larger units GCI's, Group HQ's; but others were in total isolation, say a Q unit for listening to and locating source of enemy transmissions very close to the front line (a story, some time hence perhaps!). The specialist Wireless and Radar Mechanics allotted to 2nd TAF, such as me, were too few for attachment to these small units. So we manned a centrally sited MSSU (Mobile Signals Servicing Unit) available 24/7 for assistance. We had one or two 3-ton Austin Main Workshop vehicles and a few 15 cwt Bedford Servicing Workshops doubling as sleeping quarters (on the benches if you were lucky, otherwise on the roof!!) for a service visit.Wow! It's 2 a.m!!! I'm off to bed. G'night.
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#28 Noel Burgess

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Posted 06 June 2009 - 03:00 PM

DoctorD
Could this be some of "your lot"?
Noel

Attached Files


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#29 spidge

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Posted 06 June 2009 - 04:25 PM

Some interesting info here:

Royal Air Force Brize Norton
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Spidge,


My project is the collection of over 11,400+ RAAF Headstone/Memorial photos located in 70 countries during WW2 and the 360+ from WW1. Can you assist? Do you know someone that can?
-------------------------------------------------------
My Signature photo is the Battalion history of WW2 and the patch of the 2/8th battalion. (Blood & Bandages)
My Avatar is my dad, Gunner Frederick Edwin Swallow "C" Company, 2/8th Battalion, 19th Brigade, 6th Division AIF. Critically wounded on the first attack on Tobruk, January 21st 1941.



 


#30 jfheathcote

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Posted 06 June 2009 - 04:35 PM

WOW! What an amazing co-incidence. I was just browsing (for the first time in several years) through my WW2 books/notes, got on the web and came across a link to this. In 1987 I visited Omaha in a group which included Eric, his wife and son and took some photos/notes as he described his experiences on the beach. I beleive it was Eric's first visit back to Normandy since 1944. I would be pleased to post my photos and notes or email them but don't know how- as I just joined when I saw this post.

Dear all,

I just joined in order to be able to see the photos Steve posted. Eric Heathcote was my grandfather, and David is my father. It means so much to me to see photos of Granddad and Grandma at Omaha Beach, and having only ever read Granddad's more "operational" account of the day it was especially poignant to read Steve's words next to the photos.

I grew up being told by adults "Don't be stupid, there weren't any British troops on Omaha Beach" and "The RAF weren't involved in D-Day", despite hearing first-hand from Granddad that he was THERE. I am sad to read that not even the RAF has public records of the Radar Unit's involvement.

Thank you all for your memories, and I hope today you are given the honour and gratitude that you deserve so much.

Julia Anderson nee Heathcote
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