One of Sheffield's last D Day landing veterans remembers being in thick of the action - "They tried to shove you back into the sea”
One of Sheffield’s last survivors of the 1944 D Day landings has told his story of one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
He told how he found himself in the thick of the action during the Normandy landings of June 1944 as a 21-year-old serving in the Royal Navy as a transport driver.
He was called up in late 1942 and spent two years being moved up and down the British coast at various shore bases before being sent over to France to support the invasion forces on the supply lines.
He said: “We were bombed and shelled to a big degree. I came through it.”
Bill recalls travelling to France: “When the invasion came. there were hundreds or thousands of landing craft to support the troops and to get troops filling the gaps up.”
He added: “I remember this landing craft we went in. You wouldn’t believe how antique they were. They were like skips.
"We were brought to the front. The sea was fairly rough. Blokes were being sick.”
Bill spoke of what happened when they landed: “We drove through the bombardment. The invasion force had lots of transports big enough to take lorries in. A bomb hit us in a landing craft but it didn’t do any harm to us. We were very lucky.
"We finished up somewhere near the Germans. They tried to shove you back into the sea.”
Bill remembers staying at Lion-sur-Mer in Normandy, which was next to what was called Sword beach in the invasion. He also went to Caen, which was a key objective for British forces to gain access to its major roads network.
It took weeks to capture the city, which was mostly destroyed by bombardments.
Bill said they got pushed back for a while, then headed back to the coast.
His memory is a little hazy now but Bill said that after serving in France he believes he went to the Far East. The shore bases he is recorded as being posted to in 1945 are listed as being in Cochin (now Kochi) in southern India and Sri Lanka.
He also has a Pacific Star medal, which indicates he served in that region.
Bill was able to visit the Normandy coast again for commemorations of D Day. “They made you very welcome. We stayed in the village where I lived,” he said.
He recalls going to dances and playing football for the navy.
Bill met his future wife Edna after the war at a dance in the City Hall. Edna, who is 96, said that her family lived in Ecclesfield and Bill was from Deep Lane, just down the road, but they never met before that night.
The couple married in 1951 and have two sons and a daughter and seven grandchildren.
Bill worked as an insurance agent after he was demobbed and then moved to the Inland Revenue, where he became a tax inspector during a career lasting more than 40 years.
Edna worked in a variety of jobs, in the fire service, at Marks and Spencer, on trams and buses, before she too moved to the Inland Revenue.