World War II D-Day Accounts from the Cornelius Ryan Collection

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Cornelius Ryan WWII papers, box 019, folder 32: Henry Victor Bury Baxter

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dispatch rider in front. He swerved because there was mine lying in road - rider saw circular impression in road - rider saw circular impression in road. Bill yelled: "Stop Stop Stop." Engineer comes out & says "Come on Come on keep moving - what are you afraid of"

Column moves on. Everybody was under impression that they would be in Caen in a number of hours.

Saw gliders that evening everybody thought they were German paratroopers Bell & Baxter had forgotten antagonism. Baxter: Christ look at those we've had it now - German paratroopers" They hadn't been briefed about black & white D-Day markings on planes. Bell: "If it is we're in real trouble." Despatch rider drove from vehicle [crossed out] talking [insert] shouting [end insert] [illegible] that [end crossed out] "They're ours - They're [crossed out] [illegible] [end crossed out] ours." Saw a lot gliders on fire. They landed with 2-300 yds away. [crossed out] Late that night [end crossed out] to the left.

That night from high ground was Caen canal they could see Caen. Gliders burned all night Around where they were there were

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lots of dead Germans.

Saw 2 women running towards parachutists to get parachutes

Saw [insert] more [end insert] women picking pots during mortaring

On Ger SP gun was knocked out & had quantity of [?cyan?] ruins.

Last edit over 1 year ago by Scottie
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51 Lower Jackwood Close Eltham London S.E.9. 22-5-58

Extract 27MAY1958 Q.S. 27/5/58

Dear Sir

Re your small advertisement in the Evening News.

I was with the 1st Batn. Kings Own Scottish Borderers. 9th Brigade. 3rd Division

We landed about noon June 6th, near Hermanville.

If you think I may be able to help you, I shall be pleased to do so, but of course 14 years is a long time to remember.

12.0 26/6.

Yours Sincerely

H.V. Baxter.

Mt

Last edit over 1 year ago by Scottie

Cornelius Ryan WWII papers, box 019, folder 33: Sidney John Thomas Beck

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[underline] Extracts from my diary [end underline] [underline] June 4th [end underline] At last, to everyone's relief D-day was announced for June 5th. Our LCT up-anchored and began moving down the Solent passing the great L.S.I.'s. Waves were running high of the I.O.W. the convoy stopped and hung around until a signal ran through the fleet. We turned round. Postponed. The suspense aboard all ships was almost unbearable.

[underlined] June 5th [end underlined]. The Armada set sail despite most unfavourable weather reports. Our L.CI. weighed anchor at 10.00 hours once [insert] more [end insert] passed the great L.S.I.'s and once more the waves were running high. Capt. Perry and Capt Hale [insert] * Later killed, about June 12th. [end insert] (in the L.S.I.'s - acting as F.O.O's for Infantry) flashed signals by lamp "Good luck" to our L.C.I. as we steamed by. As we passed the Needles and felt the first Atlantic swells we knew there was now no turning back. The documents marked "Not to be opened until the last possible moment" were now opened. Messages to the Troops from the King, Eisenhower, Montgomery and 50 Div. CommDr. were read out in the Army shelter under the bridge of the L.C.T.. Final briefing with correct names as well as their code names were given and the last instructions. [As there was little room in this shelter, I had to give the briefing 3 times to all Army personnel aboard, which included a detachment of a R.E beach party. Each briefing lasted about 40 minutes and in the confined space, with the L.C.T. beginning to pitch and roll, I was feeling very queasy at the end and glad of some fresh air.]

Everyone was by now wearing his Mae West (life belt) and a check was made to see that everything was securely fastened down and the ammunition secure and dry. Spray and waves were washing over the sides. Soon we began to feel queer and bags, vomit, were produced. [Sea-sick pills had been distributed earlier. I did not take mine until the briefing was over and already beginning to feel sick. Later I remembered "retching" in a quiet corner, but not violently sick]. The wind was dead against the bows, the boat heaving and swaying, chains and shackles grinding against each other and the tanks, the boat's engines reving at high speed. There was little comfort for anyone. Some tried to sleep inside their vehicles.

Our L.C.T. was towing a fast motor launch to save fuel. Three times before night fall the towing cable snapped with the strain of the constant buffeting of the waves. In the end it was cast adrift to come along under its own power. It was almost dark before we finally said the land was out of sight.

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June 6th contd

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The R.E. detachment on board rolled out the roly-poly (a long hessian carpet strengthened with iron bars to form a firm base for the vehicles and prevent them cutting deep grooves in the sand) and the Sappers waded ashore. [They were a Beach Maintenance Party and we did not see them again]. Our S-P guns had a short distance to run through the water, dragging behind them flat "porpoises" containing 25 pdr. ammo.

We joined the single line traffic making for the only exit from the beach. [Lt. Dorey, our Battery C.P. officer, already a foot on the beach waved us along in the right direction]. The beach was by now a narrow strip between high water mark and tide, crammed with boats and vehicles and men in seeming confusion. Rolling clouds of smoke from burning buildings and grass formed a fitting background. The first German prisoners standing dazed and bewildered amid all the activity were a centre of interest. One P.O.W. lifted a wounded Tommy out of the path of vehicles.

The road leading from the beaches passed a deep anti-tank ditch. [I cannot remember now whether the R.E.'s had bridged it or bull-dozed it, to make a good passageway].

I was ordered to deploy my guns alongside the knocked out casements of the Mount Fleury Battery of Coastal defence guns, only recently captured. Great slabs of masonry and concrete had been unrooted by the heavy bombardment and bombing. Our Command Post was established in a bomb crater. [We learnt later that some German gunners were still underground and remained there for about two days after D-day]. Three Centaur tanks, manned by Royal Marines, joined us on this site and for the first and last time in the campaign my Troop had 7 guns. As soon as I reported that my guns were in action, the other half of my battery (A Troop) who had been firing from the beach itself, were brought up and put into action alongside my Troop. [A few bursts of a rifle suggested there was a sniper around, but we did not see him]

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D-Day continued

We soon got orders to move forward to an area just north of Ver-sur-Mer and on this move forward we saw our first dead German soldiers, lying in the cornfields, almost hidden from sight. By 12.30 hours we were well-establish[ed] in time to give artillery support to the flying column of infantry pushing ahead. A bridge into CREULLY was held by one enemy platoon and the guns of B-troop were called in to support a swift attack by the Green Howards to capture the bridge. At about 1400 hrs. we were called upon to fire at a German 88 mm SP gun which was forced to withdraw from Creully.

Fire support was given to this flying column of infantry all the afternoon x [footnote below] on orders from our Forward O.P. officers. Our guns were not able to move further forward that day and remained on the outskirts of Ver-sur-Mer. Many snipers were hiding in the woods just behind the Battery position and on one occasion shells from British Sherman tanks engaging the snipers landed in the Battery area, fortunately without damage. We remained in that position for the night. All night long the rattle of A.A. guns from the beaches and the moving patterns of the tracer shells told their story of the desperate enemy air attacks on the beaches and shipping. We thought of the R.E.’s beach company who had landed with us and thanked our stars they were on the beach and not us.

[footnote] [x Between 1600 hrs. and 1700 hrs. we were engaging 88 mm SP guns and infantry. Between 1800 hrs and dusk we were firing on some fortified farm buildings housing what was known to be a radar station and which was directing fire on to our leading infantry. Acting on orders from our F.U.O. Capt. Perry, our shells landed on the roofs of these buildings and silenced the enemy fire. At dusk, the leading infantry battalion formed a pivot on high ground west of Coulomb and fire from our guns was maintained to cover the withdrawal and no more was heard from the farm buildings until the next day].

Beck

19/May/1958.

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Cornelius Ryan WWII papers, box 019, folder 39: D. Bowden-Dan

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Neg

L. Bawden Dair, Esq., 19, Jarrames Meade, Edgeware, Middx.

13th June, 1958.

Dear Sir,

I am so glad you have soon the notice about the D-Day project and am very grateful to you for getting in touch with us so promptly.

Our book, a detailed hour-by-hour account of the first twenty four hours of the Normandy Invasion, is to be written by Mr. Cornelius Ryan, a former war correspondent. The War Office and Admiralty have been most helpful in making available to us a great deal of material on the planning and strategy of the Invasion, but as yet we have very few personal accounts from the men who landed on June 5th/6th. We are hoping, therefore, to find a number of representatives of the participating armies - British, Canadian, American, etc. - whose actions on that day can be used to hold and bind the book together.

In this connection, Mr. Ryan has recently been interviewing French civilians and resistance workers who were in Normandy at the time of the Invasion. He is planning to return to London shortly, when he hoc s it will be possible to talk to men and women of the British Forces about their own D-Day experiences.

In the meantime I wonder if you would very kindly allow us to see the Squadron Report you mention in your letter: I am sure Mr. Ryan would find this most interesting.

May I say how grateful I am for any help you are able to give us for the preparation of this book.

Yours faithfully,

(Joan Ogle Isaacs) Research Editor

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Cornelius Ryan WWII papers, box 020, folder 18: Cyril George Covill

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COVILL, Cyril George

British 79th Armoured 21st Army

Box 20, #18

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3.

In times of great crisis, people generally show either great ingenuity or self-reliance; others do incredibly strange or stupid things. Do you remember any examples of either? Where is the strange chap who for every German he killed put himself right with God but cutting a cross on their forehead with his dagger?

Do you know of anybody else who landed within the 24 hours (midnight 5 June to midnight 6 June) either as infantry, glider or airborne troops, whom we should write to? NOT AT PRESENT

What do you do now? LONG DISTANCE LORRY DRIVER

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."

Cornelius Ryan Joan O. Isaacs The Reader's Digest

Last edit over 1 year ago by GailF
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The most welcome sound I heard was when the big ships off the beach opened up + gave them Hell + on the evening of June 6th when the reinforcements of Airbourne troops came ove It is hard to imagine a more beautiful sight than those Parachutes of all Colors coming down to earth It must have seemed like dropping into an inferno The Intelligence branch as far as the landing were concerned was first class we were briefed at Gosport + the photographs were perfect In the cold grey morning just as dawn was breaking the beach came into sight + it was just like looking at the photographs were were shown Strange as it may seem a short distance off shore the Commander spoke over the loud Hailer + his words were Men in Assault Crafts No 111 112 113 113A you have the honour of being the first to land You will take no prisoners + note be taken prisoner The success of your making a beach head is all important other wise troops following cannot land Good Luck + God be with you then the enemy opened up + one shell came right through the side of my craft + away from it at deck level (Did we paste him for that) To all these men that I lived + fought with I have one thing more to say I am proud to have known them + Honoured to have served with them. Please find enclosed two articles that you may draw some information from but please return when finished with as I want them for my sons Yours truly C G Covill ALSO EX. B.E.F.

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