7019933 Robert James STEVENSON, 1 Royal Ulster Rifles: 07/06/1944

Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by dbf, Sep 12, 2009.

  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    :poppy: CWGC :: Casualty Details
    Rifleman ROBERT JAMES STEVENSON 7019933, 1st (Airborne) Bn., Royal Ulster Rifles
    who died age 23 on 07 June 1944
    Son of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Stevenson, of Carnmoney, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.
    Remembered with honour BAYEUX MEMORIAL
    Grave/Memorial Reference: X. B. 44.

    See also:
    BBC NEWS | UK | Northern Ireland | A soldiers story

    Belfast man Bill McConnell was only 19 when he was flown into France in a glider which landed near the village of Benouville, Normandy.
    He and his comrades were told that German resistance would be light, similar to that of a home guard.

    But unknown to the allies a crack German tank unit had been removed from the Russian front and redeployed in the region.

    As their gilders landed, or more of a "controlled crash" as Bill describes it, spirits were high as no initial resistance had been encountered. Indeed, some said: "Well if this is war, it's easy".

    Later, as they formed up to take a nearby hill, they were being lured into a trap.

    Am transcribing the above interview as some forum members have difficulties accessing BBC content from abroad. Grim reading.
    We landed in the afternoon of the 6th [June, 1944] and eh, the place where we were landing was eh, just outside Pegasus Bridge, in a field like here, fields just like here in Northern Ireland, with ditches.

    Now we were told that eh, by Intelligence, that eh, it was quite safe, but there was 40ft poles up with, all eh with eh, high explosive on top of each pole, connected up with wires. If we touched it, the whole lot would have went off.

    And eh, we landed, and as I say, and it was good luck that we did, and we only had one casualty that night.

    We dug in, and we were saying to ourselves, one was saying to the other, "Oh this is war, this is nothing, this is great."

    The next morning eh, we were told that eh we would have to do an attack, a frontal attack, at a place called St Honorine. But during the night, Intelligence got it wrong: moved up in front was the Panzer Grenadiers; the most, the most, - come from Russia and they were stuck in front of us who had never been in action before. None of us over 18, 19!

    I was 19 when, on the day I landed in France, not quite 20 - I was 19, just over 19 - most of my mates were just the same. We started going up the hill, in front of us, and eh, as we got up at the top of the hill we could see the - what we seen was eh, a hedgerow or what we thought was a hedgerow - the corn was up to me, up to my - what do you call it - to here, to my chin, which I was lucky, the other ones were a lot taller than I was and they were getting eh ... They let us get down in, into the valley and this hedgerow - the camouflage was taken off and it was all German, German 8[88?]mms and eh and all heavy guns and they were hitting us.

    The Naval guns started firing, and the Canadian Artillery started firing, and we were caught in an arc of fire.

    My mate came from Carnmoney, Bobby Stevenson. And the morning of the frontal attack we were lined up - I was attached to ‘A’ Company and there was ‘B’ company - and we were lined up to go on this attack before we got the word 'move', and he shouted at me, "Bill I'll see you after this is over." But I happened to look round one way because I'd heard some noise and went and turned round and he wasn't there. He'd got a direct hit with an 88mm gun and he was blown completely to pieces. Absolutely. There was nothing left of him - course two or three of the boys beside him were also hit. But he got the direct hit. And when we were coming home from France: just beside me was his brother who was a Sergeant-Major in the eh, 52nd, Ox and Bucks, and he said, “Oh Bill, it's good to see you, is Bobby there?”
    I said “What?” This is September.
    I said, “What'd you mean ‘Is Bobby there?’”
    “Is Bobby onboard?”
    I said, “No he's not, John, Bobby's not onboard. Bobby was killed on the morning of the 7th of June.”
    And he started crying; he didn't know!

    And they were firing on top of us, they were. And we were getting - our people were getting slaughtered. Oh there was heads and bodies and all, flying round you. There were people - I was crying and erm, like - we were all very young, and there was eh, not only me but most of the ones that was crying - you seen things that you never seen in your life before; mean bodies, parts of bodies flying over your head and all this lot. I was hit in the arm, but nothing compared to what to what you call it, what was in there.

    Now a man your size, 6ft-ish, the body burned into that size. And the tanks tracks were just going over them and the water , was just blood that had turned to water. And they were just squashing - they were flying all over your face - and you were lying there and you couldn't move! The tank tracks were just going over the bodies.

    While we were lying in Longueville [?Longueval] there was a hedgerow and eh, I was on a couple of the patrols. I went up the hedgerow, and as I was going up the hedgerow, the German patrols was on the other side of the hedge, they were coming down to ours, and we were going out to theirs - because there was an 88mm gun which was firing onto us - shells, and they had eh, Verey lights and you could see them, and the German also looked about 7ft he did! And as soon as he hit his hand the gun fired - it was just bang and it was there. An eh, when we were coming back, the Germans were going back into their lines. So they were just lying - we seen them and they seen us - but we didn't intercept one another at that stage.

    Thanks to Paul for ID'ing placenames
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2020

Share This Page