It’s rather awe-inspiring when you meet and chat with a man who served in WWII on D-Day. Such a pivotal period in the history of our Country and the World.
Alan, a Veteran Royal Marine, service number Po/x119167, served from 8 April 1943 – 9 August 1946 was at the pub one evening when I was on my Sunflowers for Soldiers charity walk in 2015.
He told me the following over fish and chips after a good days walking on the South West Coast Path with Taff, a veteran RM, John Peel from the Royal Marine Association North Devon and serving Royal Marines from Commando Logistic Regiment, Chivenor.
I made notes of the conversation in a busy pub so some parts are a little vague. Alan took a couple of Sunflower seeds home to plant in his garden that evening in honour of our wounded veterans.
In Normandy on the 27th June 1944 Alan explained…
I was wounded by a German gun firing at Sword Beach. It was put out of action by HMS Roberts the day after I was wounded.
A piece of shrapnel hit me in the middle of my back when an 88mm shell exploded. It perforated a lobe of liver, chipped my 10th rib and ricocheted arteries near my right lung.
I didn’t arrive in Normandy for D-Day until 1800, it was quiet and the old boat French merchant ship ‘Cap Touram’ was travelling 9 knots flat-out.
The Officer, Captain Fletcher, who was serving on our boat had 27 pieces of shrapnel in him. Luck was on my side that day. My contemporary in the other boat that was hit was never found.
I spent 48 hours in the sick bay on ship. The Medical Officer thought it was just a glancing wound but I continued to deteriorate. I couldn’t sit up or lay down so they stuck 1/3 of a grain of morphine in me which was lovely.
They strapped me on a metal stretcher and swung me over the side of the ship into a small boat.
I was taken ashore and held in the casualty clearing station. 48 hours later I was still there. They forgot me! Later they transferred me to the 66th General Field Hospital.
The nurses handed me thin sandwiches and tea at 0300. ‘This is very nice what’s it in aid of.’ You’ve got a stomach wound and can’t have solid food. I told them I didn’t have stomach problems and they took it away.
I heard a voice in the bed opposite plus one complaining that they took his dinner away and gave him thin sandwiches.
The following day a gentleman visited the hospital and stood at the foot of my bed talking to the nurses.
He turned around to the sandwich boy and said, ‘Hello my boy, are they treating you well?’
‘Hello uncle Bernard.’ he replied.
It was Field Marshall Montgomery!
We were shipped back to the UK a couple of days later on the American Liberty. Though we missed the tide and had to remain on iron stretchers for another 12 hours.
I was loaded onto a hospital train to Leatherhead General on arrival at Dover and 24 hours from there onto a train to Granville Hospital Manchester.
The sister in the ward told me on discharge that shrapnel moves in the body and if it comes out the way it went in I’ll be alright. But what happens if it goes the other way? It will severe the artery of your right lung and you’ll bleed to death. I was 19 at the time.
Years later doctors said this was absolute codswallop.