There they were, King and Queen, come to inspect us, right before we’re off on our skirmish in Normandy.
Now we’re all standing there, and one of the officers gets all over-enthusiastic – tries to rile us up. He gestures to us then shouts hip hip…hooray! and throws his hat up.
Not one of us responds. Not a sound.
Well that officer had to calm down quickly and go and pick his hat back up.
The moon is out and there are 90 of us gliders in the air. It’s beautiful actually, very beautiful.
But the port hole blows before we’re even close to the ground. The whole glider is screaming with the wind. Absolutely murderous. We can’t talk, we can only mouth at each other.
The glider overturns once, rights itself and we go right through the brick wall of a house and then slide along for about 100 yards. Three of the guys are gone. We’re under heavy fire and it’s quite a struggle to get out.
Then I get shot – one, two, three times.
Next thing I know the rest of them have disappeared. They must’ve left me. I spot my mate on the ground too, in bad shape, worse than me. I try to revive him. Nothing. I see the Jeep from the glider close by – I put him in the back. I try to revive him again but he’s gone. Then one of my mates from the regiment joins me and tells me to get in.
He drives us through this cornfield. We’re being pestered by these Germans in trees as we drive through it and have to keep our heads down. Eventually we make it to the beach but the cliffs are too steep. We have to go on foot – and I’m in no state for walking that distance. There are more soldiers there but they seem reluctant to drag me out. As if it’s going to be a hassle.
Finally they say well come on then and drag me down to the boathouse. Grenades are going off everywhere.
We’re taken up in this air ambulance. There’s wounded Germans in there too. I can’t believe it. We’ve been ruddy fighting you I say.
And as it’s going up I think about the bullet in my arm, the bullet in my stomach, my foot shot up, and all I can think is the wife is going to kill me.
The staff at Aldershot hospital were worried about doodlebugs.
One day – I’d been there for weeks getting treated – this big gust of wind comes through the window next to my bed. It blows over all the medicine onto the floor and makes a load of noise. The nurse on the ward throws up her tray and makes a run for it. She thinks it’s a doodlebug!
Come back you bloody fool! shouts the doctor.
The wife was coming up to York after I’d got better, and me, big head, was there to meet her.
Thing is we pass right by each other at the train station. And it’s the smallest station in the world!
So I go back to the town and I’m thinking – where the hell is she? I feel so guilty. I walk around looking for her. Finally, I try the main road and who do I see but my wife with all my luggage. She’s fuming. Carried it around the whole of town looking for me.
It was a lovely week though. Nice weather.
HE’D SAVED MY LIFE
On a glider again for my second jump. Thought I’d be seeing all my old mates from the 6th but I only recognise a handful. All new recruits now. Stranger’s paradise.
We’re dropping and the visibility isn’t good. Before we know
it we’ve overshot the target – we land between the river and a big squad of German parachutes, young ones. We’re trapped.
We’re on their territory and they’re not happy. They’re firing
at us, getting really worked up. We try to fire back but the cover is bad. My sergeant gets down by the side of the glider but he lasts about two seconds. I see more of our parachutes coming down. They’re giving themselves up, they know they’re landing in the wrong place and they’re outnumbered.
I thought they’d never shoot them but they did – shot them with their hands in the air.
We keep our heads down and fire back. They keep pelting us so we can’t go anywhere. I have a look at my mates but I can’t see them. All my mates have been shot. I’m the only one left.
I hear a shout. A few yards away is a German – a corporal.
He runs right up to me and wraps me up in his arms, bundles me away from that other squad. I can’t think what to say. I don’t understand what’s happening. He puts me next to this wounded American, smashing looking lad.
There’s others there too. The corporal puts this sheet of camouflage over us and leaves us there.
He hadn’t taken me prisoner, he’d saved my life. He’d run 50 yards and got me out of the firing line. A German corporal! I couldn’t believe it.
I get a letter from two parents. They’d heard I’d been a witness to the Rhine Crossing, that I’d seen one of their lads being shot in the air. They’re only 30 miles away from where I live.
I’m not one for writing letters, so I go visit them.
They make me a cup of tea and we walk out into the garden. I tell them what happened. The father is an ex-officer from the First World War and understands the lowdown. But the mother, she isn’t happy. She can’t understand why I’m there. Why I’m there and her son isn’t.
I don’t have nightmares but I do think about it, about it all.