Memories of D-Day: Gold Beach

British troops landing on Gold Beach on D-Day (IWM B 5246)

British troops landing on Gold Beach on
D-Day (IWM B 5246)

50th (Northumbrian) Division and supporting units landed on Gold Beach. After heavy fighting they advanced inland. Their aim was to seize the town of Bayeux and Caen-Bayeux road (permitting east-west communications).

Countdown on Gold Beach>

Mr I. G. Holley was a wireless operator in 'B' Company 1st Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment. He describes the view of Gold Beach as he approached in an LCA (Landing Craft, Assault – one of the smaller types of landing craft), early on D-Day.
“ The long line of beach lay ahead and immediately behind hung a thick pall of smoke as far as the eye could see, with the flashes of bursting shells and rockets pock-marking it along the whole front. We had the word from the Suby [the Royal Navy Sub Lieutenant commanding their LCA] to get ready and the tension was at its peak when we hit bottom, down goes the ramp, out goes the captain with me close behind. We were in the sea to the tops of our thighs. Floundering ashore, we were in the thick of it. To the right and left the other assault platoons were hitting the beach. Mortar bombs and shells erupting the sand and the ‘breep – brurp’ of Spandau machineguns cutting through the din. There were no shouts, everyone knew his job and was doing it without saying a word. There was only the occasional cry of despair as men were hit and went down. The beach was filled with half-bent running figures – from experience, we knew that the safest place was as near to Jerry as we could get. A near one blasts sand all over me and my radio set goes dead (during a quiet period later on, I find that shrapnel has riddled my set, and that also a part of my tunic collar has gone). A sweet rancid smell is everywhere, never forgotten by those who smell it – burnt explosives, torn flesh and ruptured earth.”
Jerry = a slang name for German troops.
[Warren Tute Collection, D-Day Museum]

Eric Broadhead, 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, landed on Gold Beach from the US Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) 501.
“ The sea was rough. This in itself complicated the landing. Around 7am we were ordered to dress with all kit. We were below decks, wondering what was going on. Heavy naval gunfire could be heard. 501 had landing ramps which dropped down from her side into the sea, or the beach where it was possible for her to nose far enough in. It was when these ramps dropped we knew the voyage was over. We scrambled on deck. The kit we had was terrific – waterproof jackets that came up to one’s chest from one’s feet, these I tore as I struggled on deck. Ahead only a matter of yards away was the French coast, but it was too far away to keep dry. Naval personnel were shouting ‘Get ashore’, ships were everywhere like a traffic jam. Down the ramps we went, but this only led into the ship in front, across its decks, then came 10 horrible yards between ship and shore with water in between. Over the ship’s side, still dizzy from seasickness, and into water 4 ft deep. Each one of us let out a gasp as the water swirled around, and we struggled for shore. It was the hardest ten yards I ever did, but we all got ashore. It became apparent that the enemy had been taken by surprise, at least on our particular section of the attack. After five minutes re-grouping as a battalion, I saw a real life German soldier for the first time. He was being brought in as a prisoner by the lads who beat us ashore.”
[Warren Tute Collection, D-Day Museum]

Mr Mackenzie was a Sergeant in the Royal Signals. He describes boarding an LCA (Landing Craft, Assault – one of the smaller types of landing craft) from a larger ship, ready for landing on Gold Beach on 7 June.
“ Blimey! This is where you need you seasick tablets. The little LCA is being tossed about all over the place. We are packed in like sardines, all standing, all thinking that any moment now it will capsize! Except those being sick, and I don’t imagine they care very much. Off we go, I am rather thrilled, and my confidence and spirits are quite high now. About 100 yards from the beach, the bloke in charge of the LCA called out ‘Sorry lads, this is the best I can do. Mind how you go off the ramp as it might crush your feet.’ Well, off we went, bedroll on shoulder, kit on back, rifle slung around neck, and fingers crossed!
Although the water probably wasn’t more than four foot deep, the shell holes and bomb craters made it eight feet deep in places. The beach itself was a shambles, guns, tanks, landing craft and scores of vehicles either floating around, stuck in the sand or burnt out. Houses and factories just inland bombed or burned, rows of bodies covered with coats or blankets, Jerry prisoners insolent as ever marching down to the beach as we staggered up. It looked just like the main road to Hell!”
Jerry = a slang name for German troops.
[Warren Tute Collection, D-Day Museum]

Photographs courtesy of the D-Day Museum, the Imperial War Museum, US Navy/US Coast Guard, and The News, Portsmouth. Images may not be copied without permission.