Box 023, folder 48: John J. Blake

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BLAKE, John J. Canadian Navy Box 23, #48

Last edit about 3 years ago by meganaham
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THOUSANDS OF MEN, ON LAND AND SEA AND IN THE AIR, PARTICIPATED IN THE INVASION OF NORMANDY BETWEEN MIDNIGHT JUNE 5, 1944 AND MIDNIGHT JUNE 6, 1944. IF YOU WERE ONE OF THEM, PLEASE ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS. What is your full name? JOHN JOSEPH BLAKE What was your squadron, station, unit? R.C.N.V.R. HMCS PRINCE HENRY Where did you arrive in Normandy, and at what time? I believe it was about 3 A.M. The entire invasion force had to be assembled before dawn to provide the best tactical advantage. What was your rank on June 6, 1944? STEWARD What was your age on June 6, 1944? 23 YEARS Were you married at that time? NO What is your wife's name? Did you have any children at that time? Telecommunications What do you do now? I am in [crossed out] [illegible] [end crossed out] [inserted] GROUND TECHNICIAN [crossed out] [Electronics] [end crossed out] R.C.A.F. When did you know that you were going to be part of the invasion? Several weeks before the actual invasion. Our ship was known as LCI - LANDING CRAFT INFANTRY - the ship was modified or designed expressly for this purpose. What was the trip like during the crossing of the Channel? Do you remember, for example, any conversations you had or how you passed the time? During the crossing of the channel the sea was quite choppy and it was quite foggy at the time. To the navy boys it was not a rough journey but to the 5000 or more soldiers it was quite rough, many were seasick. What were the rumors on board the boat, ship or plane in which you made the crossing? (Some people remember scuttlebut to the effect that the Germans had poured gasoline on the water and planned to set it afire when the troops came in). Some of the rumors were to the effect that we would have to be wary of the German E boats which were actually maneovorable, they would employ hit and run torpedo attacks and they caused great havoc. Another rumor was to the effect that the Germans would give us a good pounding with their giant shore batteries. Another rumor was to the effect that the German Air Force dive bombers would make a final, tremendous effort on a do or die principle to sink as many troop carriers as possible.

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Your name JOHN BLAKE Did you by any chance keep a diary of what happened to you that day? Include any impressions from it. We were not premitted to [inserted] more comments on reverse side [end inserted] keep a diary. At dawn, after the gun crews were closed up and remained that way until some of the landing craft were loaded with soliders and went on their way. Were any of your friends killed or wounded either during landing or during the day? Yes, one of my friends were killed during the landing operation. Do you remember any conversations you had with them before they became casualties?: [crossed out] Yes [end crossed out] We discussed the fact that this was the day for which all preparations were laid. He said that he was prepared to accept whatever fate had in store for him, but he expressed concern about his wife and child. How they would accept reality; know that his thoughts were of them. Were you wounded? NO Do you remember what it was like--that is, do you remember whether you felt any pain or were so surprised that you felt nothing? Do you remember seeing or hearing anything that seems funny now, even though it may not have seemed funny at the time? Do you recall any incident, sad or heroic or simply memorable, which struck you more than anything else? The most memorable incident or picture was the petting of that tremendous armanda of ships at dawn which stretched over a vast area for miles - all carrying their cargoes of troops. Did you encounter any enemy aircraft or flak? Was your aircraft damaged? NO Little ships, big ships, battlewagons, small fishing boats, tugs, dinghys, motorboats, anything that could placed under power. Men with but of a single purpose in mind to provide a vehicle for launching this invasion of men on to the continent.

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Your name JOHN BLAKE In times of great crisis, people generally show either great ingenuity or self-reliance; others do incredibly stupid things. Do you remember any examples of either from D-Day? A few facts struck me as being significant during D-day. Firstly the fine teamwork of the men aboard ship, the handling, leaving and loading of the assault landing craft were accomplished smoothly. I believe and I know that every man (had a) possessed a degree of fear, a certain amount of tensensess, but the morals of the men was high and everyone had the feeling that (the) a job were to be done and to carry it out. Where were you at midnight on June 5, 1944? I was carrying out my duties in the ward room but we were preparing the ships for leaving harbor. Where were you at midnight on June 6, 1944? I was carrying out my normal duties in the ward room; we were still anchored off the coast Normandy. The landing operation was progressing satisfactorly but on the beaches the soldiers were [illegible] stuff [illegible], a great number of casualities. Do know of anybody else who landed within the 24 hours of D-Day, June 6, as infantry, glider or airborne troops, or who took part in the air and sea operations, whom we should write to? LIEUT. DAVIES - [inserted] PO [end inserted] DUNCAN, VANCOUVER ISLE, B.C. LIEUT. EDW. McNALLY- MONTREAL- NOW ILLUSTRATING ARTIST FOR MONTREAL WEEKEND MAGAZINE S/LT. H. H. STIKEMAN- NOW A PROMINENT MONTREAL LAWYER. All these men were officers of H.M.C.S. PRINCE HENRY and could write a more detailed precise on the Normandy operation. LIEUT. DAVIES- was actually in command of the assault landing craft operations - a precise would definitely be his cup of tea. PLEASE LET US HAVE THIS QUESTIONNAIRE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, SO THAT WE CAN INCLUDE YOUR EXPERIENCES IN THE BOOK. WE HOPE THAT YOU WILL CONTINUE YOUR STORY ON SEPARATE SHEETS IF WE HAVE NOT LEFT SUFFICIENT ROOM. FULL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT WILL BE GIVEN IN A CHAPTER CALLED "WHERE THEY ARE NOW;" YOUR NAME AND VOCATION OR OCCUPATION WILL BE LISTED. THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP. W.M. Lee Squadron Leader Director of Public Relations (Air) Air Force Headquarters, Ottawa, Ontario.

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1. When we [crossed out] a [end crossed out] were on our way to Normandy, we had been ordered by the Surgeon Lieut. Wm Large to wear our best uniforms to reduce the possibility of infection in the event that we should be wounded in action. We also wore our life (belt) jackets and we were ordered to wear our respirators as a precautions. There was a rumor going about to the effect that the Germans would resort to gas to repell the invasion as a last resort. Just prior to getting underway we had been informed by the ship's officers that the RAF together with the USAAF were to concentrate or deliver heavy bombing on the German shore batteries, the supplies just beyond the front line and also to disrupt and destroy as many railways and roadways. [crossed out] so [end crossed out] [inserted] This was [end inserted] as to destroy the German Panzers which were [crossed out] a [end crossed out] [illegible] heavily armored divisions which [crossed out] was [end crossed out] were being used to rush to the areas where the invasion would strike. We were also informed that after the actual bombardment, the paratroopers were to be dropped as soon as possible to infiltrate through the German positions. In addition to our role of looking after the needs of our 5000 full equipped soliders we were [crossed out] [illegible] [end crossed out] on constant guard against mines, submarines, (or) E boats and aircraft. We travelled in complete darkness for over 2 1/2 hours on our way to our position at the beach-head and a great confusion of engine noises could be heard but we were almost completely unaware that a great armada of ships were also travelling to the beach-head. While we were en route to Normandy, the gun crews had closed up, all watertight doors shut, and the plan was for the ships to be assembled and ready to launch the assault landing craft before dawn in order to provide the [?target?] element of surprise. Just before the first 3 or 4 groups of men boarded their respective landing crafts, a roll call was made to see that everyone was present for the occasion, they were to check all their equipment to be sure they hadn't left any

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