Oct. 7, 2016

6 D-Day Diary of D Gray Pt 1

6  D-Day Diary of D Gray Pt 1

Part 1 of an unpublished WW2 memoir.


Doug Gray was there on D-Day and beyond. He wrote his diary and fascinating it is too. He even wrote a diary entry on the day he won his military medal, before he knew he'd won it!

The diary’s been supplied by Doug’s family. The entries start just before D-Day and finish several weeks after, so it’s quite a rare historical record because soldiers were forbidden to keep diaries in case they got captured. Doug's WWII diary tells a really excellent story with drama, tragedy and humour. 

17 June 1944:

"Poor old Topper runs into a Spandau and gets five bullets in him. Marvelous piece of work by an officer getting him out. Doc thinks he might pull through. Hope so, as he's the best Sergeant in the Battalion and hates Jerries more than anyone, on account of him seeing his brother killed next to him at Akarit."

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Glossary of Terms:

Shufty Kite - reconnaissance plane

Do a Duffy - make a cock-up!

Cushy one - A minor wound necessitating some time away from the front line

Blighty one - A wound serious enough to require the recipient to be sent home (to England)

NAAFI - Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes is an organisation which runs recreational establishments needed by the British Armed Forces. In war torn France it probably just meant tuck shop!

The Hards - In May 1942, Mountbatten ordered the construction of 11 purpose built areas of hard standing, 'hards', to serve landing craft and ships that would support his Commando operations on the European coast. They were all constructed in the Portsmouth area.

Bully - Corned Beef - a staple of the British troops - see Wilf Shaw's podcast to appreciate the finer dietary niceties of bully!

Tiffin - A light midday meal (luncheon) - Bill Cheall was hit by shell shrapnel whilst having tiffin - he got a Blighty one!

Found a cherry tree and gave them the big licks - Catch question. Found a cherry tree and ate the lot!

Doug Gray, below. 

D-Day hero CSM Doug Gray MM, WW2

 

Ike Rawson, Doug's best pal

Ike Rawson, Normandy hero, WW2

Doug's ful photo album

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Interested in Bill Cheall's book? Link here for more information.

Fighting Through from Dunkirk to Hamburg, hardback, paperback and Kindle etc.

Transcript

Villers area map from Synge WW2

"Sea still rough and still baling at daybreak. Can see flashes on the horizon in the direction of France – that’ll be the bombers

"Poor old Topper runs into a Spandau and gets five bullets in him. Marvelous piece of work by an officer getting him out. Doc thinks he might pull through. Hope so, as he's the best Sergeant in the Battalion and hates Jerries more than anyone, on account of him seeing his brother killed next to him at Akarit."

1947 - Victory Parade - 

Doug Gray was there on D-Day and beyond. He wrote his diary as things happened and fascinating it is too. He even wrote a diary entry on the day he won his military medal, before he knew he'd won it!

The diary’s been supplied by Doug’s family. The entries start just before D-Day and finish several weeks after, so it’s quite a rare historical record because soldiers were forbidden to keep diaries in case they got captured. Doug's diary tells a really excellent story with drama, tragedy and humour.

Great group photo of 7 Green Howards Battalion C1940

A pal of Doug’s, Oscar Topham, nickname Topper, ran an ice cream parlour. Every Saturday morning before the war Doug (and son, Doug!) would meet Oscar there for a natter.

Doug with wife Bids on their wedding day

Doug Gray Snr in later years

 

 

FTFDTH WW2 Normandy D-Day podcast episode 6 – Part 1

The D-Day Diary of Company Sergeant Major Douglas Gray

This is a history of war podcast on ww2, covering D-Day, Dunkirk more WW2

 

Extracts

3rd June 1944

Left Romsey camp at 17h00 for embarkation at Southampton. All the civilians seem to have known 'this is it' and are very enthusiastic about it all - more than I am! Christ, how I envy the blokes that are stopping behind.

6th June 1944

Sea still rough and still baling at daybreak. Can see flashes on the horizon in the direction of France – that’ll be the bombers. We’re supposed to land at ‘H’ hour …

7th June 1944

Lead company is out on advance to contact. Enemy in strength at farm house about one mile in front. Battalion puts in attack, we cover right flank. Four tanks in support.

 

I'm Paul Cheall, son of Bill Cheall whose WW2 memoirs have been published by Pen and Sword – in FTFDTH.

The aim of these podcasts is to give you snippets from the book as well as some fascinating updates on Bill Cheall’s so-called British Band of brothers, some of whom wrote their own memoirs too. So you’ll be hearing quite a lot of great previously unpublished history.

 

As per custom I’d like to thank a couple more people for their generous feedback

MnWreckingCrew

I really enjoy this podcast! I've been studying WW II history since I was very young, especially since my Dad fought in the Royal Navy. I find this very enlightening and informative. Excellent and interesting! 

     

Sturmcat

Excellent podcast. I started listening last week and I cannot wait for new ones to come out. So far, every single podcast has read like battle narrative, filled with history. First-hand, small-unit accounts of individual struggles as well as the bigger battle around them. Very interesting and well done. Five stars!

Thanks so much for that folks – I hope it helps other people to discover and enjoy the show.

This episode I’m presenting the excellent Normandy diary of Company Sergeant Major Douglas Ernest Gray, 7th Green Howards. Although they didn’t know each other, he fought very closely to my Dad who was in the 6th GH

 

The diary’s been supplied by Douglas’s son, who’s also Douglas. But to keep things simple, I’m going to call the father Doug and the son Doug! The entries start just before D-Day and finish several weeks after, so it’s quite a rare historical record because soldiers were forbidden to keep diaries in case they got captured.

 

I know my own Dad, who was in Doug’s battalion, once destroyed his own diary pages before going into battle for that very reason, but maybe Douglas being a sergeant had that little extra confidence to ignore rules – and let’s be thankful he did!

 

Son, Doug wrote to me about his Dad and said:

 

"My father died in 1991, and his war diary only came to my notice on the death of my mother a few years ago. Like many veterans, he spoke little of his war-time exploits.

 

I, along with my sister, Trish continue to take an interest in those war years. I now live in central France and am very proud of my father and his comrades.

 

Dad was at Dunkirk, N. Africa, Sicily and Normandy. His elder brothers were also 7 Green Howards - Capt G E Gray (captured in Sicily) and Sgt A E Gray, Quartermaster. The family came from Bridlington, East Yorkshire, England.

 

After the war, Dad married my mum, Barbara Cookson, (referred to as 'Bids' in his diary). She was a WREN (WRNS) serving at Yeovilton.”

 

Before I forget I’d like to thank Doug and Trish for their help in providing their Dad’s memoirs – it’s so good that they can now be shared with literally thousands of listeners worldwide. America, Canada, UK, Australia, Netherlands …. 52 different countries in all.

 

Now the period covered by the diary includes the action which led to Sgt Gray winning the Military Medal - and we’re going to find that covered both by his diary entry and the citation for the subsequent award.

 

Sgt Gray fought with the 7th Green Howards of 69 Brigade 50th Infantry Div. The Green Howards were a very fine Northern England regiment with proud traditions and exemplary fighting record. 50 Div had a tough war, being in the thick of the action time after time and was in the first wave of troops landing on Gold Beach on D-Day.

 

The 6th and 7th GH’s together with the 5th East Yorks comprised 69th Brigade of 50 Div and at various times during the diary you’ll hear reference to other battalions such as the Durham Light Infantry and the Hampshires, several others.

 

Many of the soldiers were hardened veterans, and each bore a grim determination to exact revenge for the deaths of their fallen pals in previous battles.

 

In preparing the diary for this ww2 podcast I first went through it to remove what might seem the boring bits but incredibly I’ve ended up removing very little.

 

And even the odd domestic stuff, like bathing or sleeping, is interesting history in its own way so I hope listeners still find it as relevant as I did.

 

In fact it’s kind of surreal how lunch, weather and two pals being shot up can all figure in the same para!

 

The diary is quite long so I’m publishing it as two episodes and I hope that works for everyone listening.

 

At this point I’d like to introduce some of the characters mentioned in the diary.

 

There is Ike (Isaac) Rawson who was a best friend of Doug. Doug’s daughter Trish said that Ike was always felt of as being a missing part of their family, purely through the way Doug talked about him. There is a pic of Ike in the show notes at http://bit.ly/DougGrayPodcast

 

Another pal of Doug’s, Oscar Topham, nickname Topper, ran an ice cream parlour. Every Saturday morning before the war Doug and his son would meet Oscar there for a natter. Doug Junior has said - I recently looked the ice cream parlour up on StreetView, and it hasn't changed since the 1960's. Looking a bit down at heel; the neon sighs (knickerbocker glory, milk, sundaes etc) are just as I remember them! You can see that at http://bit.ly/DougGrayPodcast too

 

Background

 

So, Doug’s entries start just three days before D-Day, with the troops camped near Romsey, near Southampton on the South coast of England, waiting for word that they were about to invade German territory somewhere ...

 

3 June 1944 WW2

Left Romsey camp at 17h00 for embarkation at Southampton. All the civilians seem to have known 'this is it' and are very enthusiastic about it all - more than I am! Christ, how I envy the blokes that are stopping behind.

Arrived at the hards at 22h00 and boarded onto a LCT(A) {Landing Craft Tank, Armoured}

Alfie Wright was on board an LST {landing ship tank} moored alongside our boat. 2 Centaur tanks and six troop carriers make up our load. Pulled out into the Solent among the rest of the invasion crafts and believe me, there's plenty of 'em.

4/6/44 SundayWW2

Set sail 07h15, but invasion was postponed for another 24hrs owing to bad weather. Laid off in Solent all day. Very small craft ours is and it looks like it's going to be an uncomfortable voyage.

Listeners, before I continue, I’m going to recite to you the motivating personal message from General Montgomery read out to all the troops around this time.

 

Monty’s speech was read out to the troops by the various commanders as they sailed from Southampton on D-Day. I know some of you may have heard this in a previous podcast but I think it’s worthy of another reading – and I’ve been dying to read it again cos it is so damn good! Anyway I’ve got some music to go with it this time.

 

21 ARMY GROUP - PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM THE C-IN-C

(To be read out to all Troops)

The time has come to deal the enemy a terrific blow in Western Europe. The blow will be struck by the combined sea, land, and air forces of the Allies – together constituting one great Allied team, under the supreme command of General Eisenhower.

 

On the eve of this great adventure I send my best wishes to every soldier in the Allied team. To us is given the honour of striking a blow for freedom which will live in history; and in the better days that lie ahead men will speak with pride of our doings. We have a great and righteous cause.

 

Let us pray that ‘The Lord Mighty in Battle’ will go forth with our armies, and that his special providence will aid us in the struggle. I want every soldier to know that I have complete confidence in the successful outcome of the operations that we are about to begin. With stout hearts and with enthusiasm for the contest let us go forward to victory.

 

And, as we enter the battle, let us recall the words of a famous soldier spoken many years ago:

‘He either fears his fate too much,

Or his deserts are small,

Who dare not put it to the touch,

To win or lose it all’

 

Good luck to each one of you. And good hunting on the mainland of Europe.

B L Montgomery

5 June, 1944.

 

AS my Dad then said in his memoirs’ “We were on our way to make history; there was to be no more waiting, no more exercises; this was it. This was the big battle, 6 June 1944, and we were going to give the enemy something to contemplate.

 

Back to the diary

 

5/6/44 Monday WW2

Well, it's definitely it this time; sink or swim. Pulled out at 07h15, weather hellish and big sea running. Christ, but it will be a miracle if this old tub makes it; the ways she's pitching and taking in water.

Felt very depressed as the coastline of old England disappeared over the horizon, but must study up my maps and photos no matter what else happens.

Can't help thinking of Bids, bless her, she won't know yet that we've started and I'm glad. Ship's engine room starting to flood and had to start baling with buckets. Sea getting worse. Only two of us not sea sick.

Engines stop and we have to ask for assistance. Pump transferred from another LCT(A). Start to get water under control but we still have to bail. Soaked to the skin and cold but we must keep at it. Everybody about all-in. Boat in front of us sinks and two more of our flotilla in distress. Almost wish we were landed. Fell asleep about midnight worn out.

6/6/44 Tuesday [D-Day] [Gold Beach] WW2

Sea still rough and still baling at daybreak. Can see flashes on the horizon in the direction of France. That will be the bombers. We’re supposed to land at ‘H’ hour (07:25hrs), but we’ll be two hours late owing to the weather.

We are the only ship out of our flotilla left out of 8. Others either gone down or turned back, Coastline in sight, hello, there go the rockets, what a bloody row, tracers flying all over the place, the cruisers and destroyers are belting away like hell.

What a job getting ashore, my [troop] carrier and number two carrier failed to start, so only thing to do was to swim to shore and try and get a pull off by a bulldozer. Our ship derelict now on the beach, but after hell of a struggle managed to get a tow to shore. Terrible congestion on the beach and still under shellfire.

Still kept thinking of my last leave with Bids.

Boat next to ours got hit and a lot of lads killed and wounded and all for what? I had to get my carriers going somehow and get em out of this, so went forward on my own to look for Foster, the fitter, who must have landed by now.

Finally won through and caught up to Battalion at Vers-sur-Mer. The beach was absolutely covered with obstacles and mines but the Navy and RAF had certainly hammered it. [Enemy] Shore battery there out of action, but snipers giving a lot of trouble.

Troop carriers dried out so set forward to catch Battalion. They’ve certainly pushed on and caught them up at Cruelly. Johnnie Stoneman badly hit and later died, otherwise all the remainder of our lads there except Captain Murray and Bill Boulton’s carriers. Had to [stand in as] Platoon Commander.

Our tanks fighting it out with an 88; three go up in flames ([what we call] brewing up) but we push on.

Quite a lot of prisoners, but our lads have had a lot of casualties. Can see our final objective as it goes dark but pull into a wood for the night. The Luftwaffe have a go at the beaches but our boys are ready for them. Must be eight mile inland by road. What a day.

Dad:

Taking our ground sheet from our pack, we spread it out then, using our pack as a pillow, covered ourselves with the gas cape – no chance of a blanket. Since we had had very little sleep for three nights we should really have slept, but it still wouldn’t come. The day’s events, the horrors, the sadness, the things we had seen, kept us awake until we were called to go on guard.

 

At this point I’d like to fill you in on what the allied objectives were. For the Green Howards and 5th East Yorks, they were tasked with getting to Villers Bocage – this was a strategic town located on a major route into Caen, which was in itself the prime early allied objective  - Caen was important because it lay astride the Orne River and Caen Canal; these two water obstacles could strengthen a German defensive position if not crossed.   The battle did not go as planned for the Allies, instead dragging on for two months, because German forces devoted most of their reserves to holding Caen – But with so many German divisions held up defending Caen, the American forces were eventually able to break through to the south and east, threatening to encircle the German forces in Normandy from behind. 

 

If you look at the shownotes at fightingthroughpodcast.co.uk, you’ll find a map of the area in question and the route taken by the troops.

 

7/6/44 Wednesday WW2 podcast

Lead coy is out on advance to contact. Enemy in strength at farm house about one mile in front. Bn puts in attack, we cover right flank. Four tanks in support. Taken after pretty stiff attack and a few casualties on mines.

About 70 Luftwaffe Artillery blokes captured and, boy, were they dug in. Still it’s our final objective for now so we consolidate. CO orders me to go forward on recce into Loucelles and as far as the railway embankment. Fired on just through Loucelles. Dismount and recce. What a scatter.

Tiger tank appears from south end of wood, about three hundred yards away. Beat it back like hell to the Bn’s position and report to CO but Corporal Colwill missing.

8/6/44 Thursday WW2 podcast

 

The tanks are starting to roll up now but can’t advance owing to snipers strong opposition. Quite a lot of ours knocked out. Canadians seem to be getting the hammer.

Orders that we have to go out after the snipers, a party of about 30 [of us went] and we found them OK. Nearly had it as one put a bullet through my Bren mag and hat, firing explosives, the B***s. We fired hell at them but couldn’t get the last few who later gave ‘emselves up. Must have knocked off a good dozen. Williamson killed. Rather an uncomfortable day. Saw my brother Albert for the first time.

 

9/6/44 Friday WW2 podcast

 

Rather a nasty shock this morning to find that Noel Walker has been killed by a sten gun whilst on guard. Knocked the wind out of everybody ‘cos he was well liked. Impossible to push on, but the 7th Commando have gone round to the right. Went up to Brouay wood to relieve Ike [Rawson], where he is in contact with the Canadians.

What an eerie joint, snipers everywhere. Spandaus had us pinned down to the deck all night long and would feel a lot happier out of it as it’s a ridiculous position.

One section of carriers, anti-tank gun and a platoon of ‘C’ company holding a mile and a half gap. Easiest thing in the world for Jerry to infiltrate through if he did but know our position.

10/6/44 Saturday

Glad when daylight came, everybody on edge and badly in need of sleep, averaging about 4 hours a day. Changed the position of two of my guns and was fired on by one of our own, but otherwise fairly quiet all morning. In the afternoon the mortars came up to have a shoot.

Oscar Topham set fire to a house in the village with one Spandau and eight Jerries in it.

Don Walkington’s section came up to relieve me at 18.00h and was more than glad to see him, and all the time there was a feeling of closeness [to the enemy] and yet you couldn’t see a damn thing. Pulled back to Battalion and could see by the stuff that was flying over that Don was having the same sort of night that I had.

11/6/44 Sunday WW2 podcast

 

Wonder what Bids is doing, wish I was with her. We’re at it again. Bn putting in an attack on Brounay at 1400hrs to try and help out the “Canads” and what a bloody shambles, good lives being thrown away. Casualties heavy. Had to go down and get D coy and nearly had it again. Carrier broke down under heavy machine gun fire and had to strip carburettor down.

Carrier hit a number of times. D Coy lads all out Ok, but they’ve had it. We’ve been at it all this time without a break. Tiny Butler sniped. Battalion consolidated in wood as I go out with my section and Westy’s anti-tank gun on outpost. Uneasy night as quite a number of bosch in the area.

12/6/44 Monday WW2 podcast

 

Still in the same position on the watch all day for Jerry patrols, which are trying to infiltrate past us. Managed to get an hour or two sleep. Spandaus pretty active again otherwise things fairly quiet. Another uneasy night. Weather very much against us.

13/6/44 Tuesday WW2 podcast

 

Nothing much doing, except for sniping and M.M.G [Medium Machine Gun] fire. Understand that we are getting relieved today. Rumour correct for once.

Relieved by Kings own Yorkshire light infantry] K.O.Y.L.I.S out of Red Ted’s brigade. approx 17.00hrs  First break since we landed and badly in need of it. The lads are absolutely all in but still smiling. Pulled into a nice peaceful area (right in the middle of our Artillery) at Conde-Sur-Seulles, but it’II take more than them to keep me awake

14/6/44 Wednesday

Got up about nine o’clock very much better and did a spot of washing. Went to mobile baths in Bayeux and very nice too (first bath since left Blighty). Nothing much in Bayeux, typical French town and full of Base Wallahs already.

We've had it, just got back from baths and had to take 2nd in command forward to La Senaudiere where we are going to take over from the Devons. Been some stiff fighting around this area and quite a number of our tanks knocked out and a couple of his. Old spandau Joe and his mates had a hate period while we were there, causing a bit of scatter. Returned to Rest Area about 23:00 hrs.

15/6/44 Wednesday WW2 history podcast

Up to now I haven't mentioned the RAF much, but they are certainly doing a fine job of work and it's very morale lifting to see them up above all this time. Moved forward just behind the 231 Brigade and got briefed for the following morning's attack. Don't like it and I bet we drop a clanger.  Buried a couple of Hampshire lads who had stopped one well and truly.

16/6/44 Friday WW2 history podcast

Reveille 03:00 hrs and Battalion started to move forward, carriers leading, at 05:30 hrs to form up on start line at Les Oreilles by 9:00hrs, a squadron of tanks with us. Started to advance but didn’t get far before boys ran into hellish spandau fire and tanks. Casualties rising and we are kept busy getting them out, Christ but it's hell and old Jerry certainly knows his ground. Tanks unable to move on account of the closeness of the country.

Boys reached his first objective but had to pull back because of fire from the rear. You can't see the B******s which makes things so nerve wracking. Wish that we were back in the old desert. Moved into tactical HQ  and consolidated.  

Strengthened 'A' Company front with our Brens. Nearly copped us that time. In a cottage with C.O. Captain Murray and brigadier when Jerry whipped a tank up and let bang at close range. Brigadier wounded and two killed, but my luck held out again. Wish I could stop a cushy one.  About time they brought a fresh Division in, as our lads have had it, but they still stick in. Brayed hell out of us all night. Very few old lads left now.

17/6/44 Wednesday WW2 history podcast

Took over from [5th] East Yorks and once more we tried to push forward but it's sheer suicide. The country's absolutely rotten with snipers and spandaus. The lads have had it and they'll have to pull them out.

My section take over 'A' Company’s position while they try to advance, did we get hammered, but we had to stop there. Poor old Topper runs into a spandau and gets five bullets in him. Marvellous piece of work by an officer getting him out. Doc thinks he might pull through. Hope so, as he's the best sergeant in the Battalion and hates Jerries more than anyone, on account of him seeing his brother killed next to him at Akarit.

'A' Company starts to pull back about 16:00 hrs. and Jerry spots em - sent over everything he had and just missed it again - saw three chaps killed by the same shell that knocked me daft, not three yards off me and Ike. Dick Staveley and Allen wounded and that left three of us to go and get them out. God knows why we weren't hit. Much more and I’ll have had it, shaking like a leaf so we’ll get the brew on before it gets dark.

18/6/44 Sunday WW2 history podcast

Pretty quiet morning, Buick wood, but then, more 'fun and games' as the brass hats call it, in the afternoon. God, but they're sending us in again. I knew it would happen, Jerry let us get right through and then counter-attacked with tanks. What hell. The C.O. Major Hudson and all 'B' Company lost. Absolutely overrun before we could dig in. What confusion, but wouldn’t be surprised if the lads get blamed for it.

At it every day since D-Day with only one break and still no sign of any relief. I thought that we were the assault Division and after that [we’d] finish, but it looks as if we're going to get all the shit again, just as it was in the desert, but we've got to keep going and something will turn up, but God knows what.

Had to fall back to where we started from and carriers fought a rearguard while what was left of the Battalion regrouped. Casualties for the day about 250 including the C.O. and stacks of arms and equipment. Ike's section and mine took up positions with the East Yorks for the night and then went to strengthen 'C' Company on the morning of:-

19/6/44 Monday

If it wasn't for this diary I wouldn't know what day or date it was. Battalion more or less regrouped as much as possible. Pouring with rain and a cold north wind blowing. Everybody soaked to the skin and very miserable. Must be great to be in England right now. I'd give a hell of a lot for a few more nights out like we used to have at the Spa in Weymouth. Two more letters from Bids today, Bless her, and feel a hundred percent better after receiving them. Still no sign of any relief.

20/6/44 Tuesday WW2 history podcast

What a night! Rain and wind by the buckets full and all we had to keep us dry was a gas cape. Cheers, the weather’s starting to clear a bit. Our artillery's getting ashore now and is certainly slinging it over, but it doesn't seem to make much impression on Jerry. Just had some more mail, cheers and wonder what Bids is doing right now. Telling somebody off I'll bet, or else talking to mum on the phone. Yes, it's all worth it and more for her. She's far too good for me. Only wish that mother could have lived to have seen us. Most forward troops on the beachhead and have been ever since we landed. Jerry seems to have quite a lot more heavy arty.

21/6/44 Wednesday

Still with 'C' Company. I don't think that the Boche know our worst state of affairs or else he would have counter-attacked further and brayed us right out of It. East Yorks took over our positions about mid-day and we took up positions on the right hand fork road at Les Orailles in the direction of Crauville. Things a bit quieter, two new reinforcements  to my section, one only 18 [yrs old], and Battalion more or less made up to strength. Hardly recognise any of the chaps now, we've certainly taken a lashing but we have also given it out.

22//6/44 Thursday WW2 history podcast

A bit of a spell. Went down to Bayeux In relays for a bath. Golly, but I didn’t know I was so mucky. My moustache seems to have stopped growing but I’m not shaving it off till Bids has passed her opinion. (I know what that will be). Nothing much In Bayeux, hell of a lot of profiteering. Took rations up to standing patrol at La Butte. Pig sick. They wanted me to take C.S.M of ‘B' Company but not bloody likely. Frank transfers to ‘D' Company

23/6/44 Friday

Things pretty quiet this morning. Watched about 50 Marauders go over to bomb Caen and saw one come down in flames and another hit. Still, good show. A Shufty kite just been over and Jerry tickled him up with a spandau but he misses him every time. We've picked up a thoroughbred Alsatian for a mascot. Christened him Monty. Good sentry but terribly bomb happy (who isn't?)

24/6/44 Saturday

Lovely day for a change. Still sitting at Les Orailles. Looks as if we will be waiting here until the push starts (if ever). Took up rations to forward platoon. 

25/6/44 Sunday

Shelling is getting more, and heavier every day from both sides, but we must sling over ten shells to one of Jerry's. Weather fine, so managed to get a bit of washing done.

26/6/44 Monday 

Caught in bed at 'stand to' by new C.O. Bill wasn't suited and in his bad books this morning. Raining again, but still got my washing out as it will finish off what I left in. Took up rations again to La Butte. Shelling continuous and mortars. Dog has settled down OK. Everybody getting more and more browned off.

Collared a mandolin, castanets and piccolo from house nearby and had a so-called sing song. Everybody very half hearted. Ford and Smirfield went chicken hunting in the afternoon and ran into a few Jerries. Got back OK but it certainly taught them a lesson. We got a football from 'B' Echelon and had half an hours all in.

27/6/44 Tuesday WW2 war podcast

Rain, rain, shells, bullets bombs and guards, that's all we get, but my washing’s still hanging there in spite of it all. Wonder what Bids is doing. Things livened up a bit when a dog fight took place overhead.

No planes down but the RAF certainly put the fear of Christ into the Jerries. Parcel of papers from Bid. See that they've collected £234,000 for our Battalion. (Bloody idiots) Just heard that Cherbourg has fallen. Good show Yanks.

28/6/44 Wednesday WW2 war podcast

Must be six months since we landed. Feels like it. Moved from Les Orailles to La Galette. Our positions taken over by the Essex. Took a group and platoon commanders forward to recce new positions. Moved at approximately 14:00 hrs. Monty the dog left us at La Belle Epine.

Has been quite a warm area this, as there are quite a number of both ours and Jerry tanks knocked out. In direct line with our battery and what a bloody racket.

29/6/44 Thursday WW2 war podcast

Weather still unsettled. Cleaned all weapons in morning. RAF out in full force today to break up Jerry counter attack otherwise things pretty quiet. Had a good sleep in the afternoon.

Listeners I’ll just mention that this is the day my Dad got wounded, not far from Villers Bocage. I have to say I have been shocked at the ferocity of the fighting.

30/6/44 Friday –

Hell of a night from our guns and Jerry's bombs but slept through most of it. Saw the most inspiring sight, over 250 Lancasters and Halifaxes and hundreds of fighters came over and dropped over 1000 tons of bombs on Villers Bocage just in front of us — What a sight. Four down. Our lads can put the Yanks to shame as far as bombing goes. Artillery and fighters carried on from where the bombers left off. Another noisy night.

1/7/44 Saturday

Pretty quiet day. Went out at night in front of the Battalion spotting Jerry's artillery flashes (or trying to). Sat up on top of a 30 foot trig point with Captain Murray, perfect target for snipers and was I glad to get down again.

2/7/44 Sunday

Sunday and I've just been laid on my bed thinking of the Sundays with Bids. Went to kip about 6.30 and stopped there till 11.30. No energy left, all in and in need of a decent sleep and exercise. Our fighters doing a spot of dive bombing and strafing. Four or five of us started to kick about with the football and it ended with about thirty playing a free for all.  Took our minds off the war for a bit.

3/7/44 Monday

Weather lousy. Changing positions with the 6th Green Howards tonight and am not looking forward to it. Absolutely browned off. Wish the push would start. News in general pretty good.

Moved into new area at 20:00 hrs. Took over forward positions from 6 GH carriers.

Lousy position and shelled and mortared at night. Place stinks of death and the fields are littered with rotting cows. Two dead Jerries for companions.

4/7/44 Tuesday

Pulled-out of my positions as the C.O. didn't like the idea of us being there and moved into field near B.H.Q. About 17 casualties so far and we've only been here 12 hrs. Slept all morning. So many of us went to Bayeux for baths in the afternoon and saw some English nurses.

On arrival back informed that I'm L.O.B. [left out of battle] for 48 hrs. First time in 4 years. Quite a change, everything quiet and peaceful from up there. Got quite merry with the boys and Captain Mason and got to bed at 02:00 hrs.

 5/7/44 Wednesday 

Spent all day sleeping and drinking tea.  Played football at night.  Hell, but I'll bet that it's great in Blighty right now. Could just do with a swim up at the Riviera with Bids.

 

6/7/44 Thursday

Just heard that poor old Topper has died in hospital at Portsmouth. Bad show and everybody cut up about it. Lectured in afternoon by A.E.C [Army Educational Corps] Sergeant on the war. Looks simple on paper. Moved back into line at 16:00 hrs. Went up to forward Company with carrier. Stacks of mortars and shrapnel otherwise quite a peaceful night. One month since D-Day

7/7/44 Friday WW2 war podcast

Still at it and still no sign of the push [to Caen] starting. Our artillery sling over a hell of a barrage for ten minutes as we had a patrol pinned down by Jerry and couldn't get them out. One officer and two men unable to get in. Jerry retaliates and shells em. Quite a few casualties.

Rumours of going home by month end Ha! Ha! Wish that we could get relieved for good. Absolutely browned off and who isn't. Very few of the old lads left now. All it is, is a process of elimination. The RAF came over again this evening and bombed N.W. of Caen. 2000 tons dropped to open the push at that end of the sector. Good lads.

8/7/44 Saturday 

Jerry got a bit narked this morning and started a counter [attack], but our artillery quietened him down. Found a cherry tree and gave them the big licks. Made a bet with Waughy that Paris won’t have fallen by 8/10/44. Five shillings.

9/7/44 Sunday WW2 war podcast

Weather unsettled. The Typhoons came over and bombed and strafed long range. Quietened Jerry for a bit. Enemy tries to counter attack the East Yorks on our right but again gets brayed off. Caen fallen.

So Listeners – That’s major strategic objective Caen sorted. The next few weeks fighting for the division involved a weary trudging grinding battle through the French countryside making, ultimately, for Nimegen in the Netherlands. But at this point Villers Bocage still hadn’t been taken.

 10/7/44 Monday

Durhams taking over from us today and we are going back to our old positions at La Galette. Good thing but have a feeling that we'll be putting a duffy in before long. Relieved at 18:30 hrs. Jerry must have heard the transport moving as he did a spot of extra shelling and mortaring. Seems lovely and peaceful now although we are only 500 yards back. Had a free for all with the football before turning in.

 

11/7/44 Tuesday WW2 war podcast

Stand to's get me down, nothing but an absolute waste of good sleep. Two sentries would be sufficient. In a real browned off mood this morning. Cleaned all weapons. Had four hours kip in the afternoon. Went up forward with a couple of carriers to try and find a derelict Jerry S.P. [self propelled] gun for P.I.A.T. [ Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank] practice but nunti bono.

Rigged up a camouflage net on two poles so that we could play volley ball and then had another free for all. Just about crippled.

 12/7/44 Wednesday

Went up forward with rations, leading platoon of 'A' Company. Can get a grand view of the type of country ahead and it's as thick as hell. What a change - bread, a loaf between four, first since we left blighty.

Things a bit lively throughout the day and RAF fairly busy strafing. 18:30 hrs went up to leading platoon of 'A' Company. Durhams Light Infantry taking over from them.

A good game of volley ball at night.

 

13/7/44 Thursday

D + 41 - Didn't get up till 09:30 and Bill wasn’t suited. Fred goes for three days rest at Corps rest camp. Rumour still strong of going home for another landing. Had a bath and did some washing in the afternoon. Wrote to Bids at night.

 

14/7/44 Friday

Went forward to recce over our positions prior to taking over from the East Yorks. Exactly the same positions as we were in on 17/6/44. Nasty memories. Moved in about midday. Ike's section takes up positions with 'D' Company at forward Company.

I'm mobile reserve to 'B' Company. Our artillery is sending over pamphlet shells to tell the Poles to pack in, but I've a good idea what the answer will be.

 

15/7/44 Saturday

My last two sentries slept in, with the result that Bill caught us all in bed at 'stand to'. Another rollocking, put em on a whizzer. I was right about the pamphlets. All enemy spandaus opened up about 23:00 hrs and then his artillery and mortars at 02:15. He certainly wasn't very suited with the idea of packing in. Going to relieve Ike tonight, we're about the only two sections that do anything.

Oh! I nearly forgot, we had a bottle of beer a man last night, poor beer but better than nothing. 18:00 hrs.

Jerry started to get quite nasty with his artillery and also brought up a 'Sobbing Sister' (nebelwerfer). The most demoralising weapon he has and what a bloody wallop when they go off. Listeners – have a listen!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVYaEyaYvCo

 

Relieved at about 20:00 hrs. Not bad positions but like every other time, very close and no field of view. Murray comes round about 22:30 hrs and tells me that I have to stop here for 48 hours instead of 24 hours. I'm going to have a real set to with the little B…...  one of these days.

 

16/7/44 Sunday

Our day again. I wonder how many more Sundays will pass before Bids and me are together again. Christ, but this sort of life makes me sick. It's neither a life nor an existence, just sitting in a flaming hole all day long, while Jerry just poops away to his hearts content, can't see a damn thing. Still I expect it will be the same for him only worse with the amount of stuff our artillery slings over.

Fred just came back from rest camp and tells us that Jerry is sending his flying bombs over the beach-head now. Must have been what we heard go over us this morning about 01:30 hrs. An old boozing pal of the Southwolds days came round with Ike this morning. Jock, the Dental Officer woke me up about midday and wanted to know if I wanted any teeth out. Good sport.

Got paid this afternoon, first one since we left blighty, only a quid. No need for anymore, can't spend it. Credits must be mounting more. Wish we had some more reading material. Hello, summats happened, Don's relieving us tonight, wonder what's up. Relieved 20:00 hrs. Ike's been playing hell with Murray about our two sections having to do 48 hours in the wood, so Murray makes it a 24 hour shift for all sections.

17/7/44 Monday  WW2 war podcast

Had a row with Murray and warn't suited. Battalion rigged up our own bath at Regimental Aid Post  - RAP consisting of a big boiler big enough for three to get in at a time. Very nice. C.O.'s orders in the afternoon, Bell and Whittam got 10 days pay. I took over Pinkney's position at night.

18/7/44 Tuesday

Things pretty quiet throughout the day and nothing much to write up, except seven prisoners walked in. One a Pole who took out a section of pioneers and showed them where Jerry had planted mines and booby traps. Tips us off that Jerry is withdrawing to Orbois.

 19/7/44 Wednesday

Feeling absolutely lousy, headache and sick, but have to get ready to go forward with Forward Body. After removing road block and derelict ambulance, move off across the X roads to the main Tilly Caumont road. Turned left at Le Lion Vert and took up position with 'B' Company covering left flank in Jerry's positions. A very uncomfortable day, the rest of the Battalion didn't move up till nearly dark which only left 'B' Company and the carriers to hold a counter attack.

Fired on six Bosch at 150 yards and winged five. Four taken prisoner, other two got away.

Very heavy shelling and machine gun fire. 'B' Company got orders to withdraw at 21:00 hrs. when the other boys had got into position. We covered their withdrawal, my section the left front and Don's, the right. Carriers hangared up at Le Lion Vert. Shell very heavy but we've gained two miles throughout the day and a main road. 

Ted Lowthorpe gets a blighty right through the shoulder, and Harry Lambert killed, so that’s two more of the old un's had it. Absolutely dead beat with running about from one gun to the other all day.

20/7/44 Thursday

Shelling very heavy and all in one area. Slept like a log last night and feel a bit better this morning. Digging in and now carriers [are] mobile reserve. Weather lousy again. Shelling continues all day, also MG fire. Just heard that somebody's tried to knock Hitler off, only bad luck it didn't kill the B....d.

Shelling continues throughout the night. Jerry's got a new Division facing us now.

21/7/44 Friday WW2 war podcast

Pouring with rain and shelling very heavy. 

13:00 hrs. moved forward approx. 1/2 mile in front of Battalion and took up positions along a road overlooking Orbois and the valley. Deadly positions. Poor old Don gets killed by spandau while contacting GH.

It's certainly knocked the wind out of us. That leaves Ike and myself out of the old gang.  Bloody awful spot we're in and don't like it. No support on left or right and if it comes to it there's no way out. 100% alertness tonight, no sleep for anybody. 

 

22/7/44 Saturday 

Stopped raining but dull. Very bad night for shelling and mortaring, wish we were out of it. The boss has seen the C.O. about it but he hasn't made up his mind what we've to do yet. Still can't believe about Don; only to think that we were at the usual leg pulling not 24 hours ago. 

Blast the war, but it looks as if we're going to keep at it. Fred Senior goes out under fire and recovers a Bren, Piat, and other equipment left two days previous by a patrol. C.O. very pleased. 

Hello! We're moving back, now for some sleep I hope. Try to move out without Jerry knowing it but 'A' Company make more noise than a bloody Battalion and Jerry doesn't half lob the shots over. Pulled back the other side of the X roads and dug in. 

23/7/44 Sunday

D + 51 Slept like a log, got up at 'stand to', had breakfast and slept while midday, that makes 13 hours solid sleep. Understand that Don's body has been recovered and buried at the A.D.S. [Advanced dressing station] Can't believe it. 

Relieved Ike's section at 15:00 hrs. in forward positions. At it again. Jerry with his little capers, mortars and shelling. All in our area but no casualties. Plenty of small arms stuff flying about. No sleep again for us tonight.

24/7/44 Monday

Sleepless night and quite a spot of shelling. Ike relieved us at 10:00 hrs. Back to platoon HQ and cleaned up. Shelling still heavy. Wish the weather would clear and the push get started. A ton of letters from mum tonight. Jerry has another go - on and off all night through, but I was that tired I never heard a thing till 'stand to' time. 

25/7/44 Tuesday

Looks as if it's going to be a fine day, quite a few planes out. Spent the morning cleaning all the guns and the carrier. Jerry has another nasty spell about 18:00 hrs. but again no one hit. Touch wood.

26/7/44 Wednesday WW2 war podcast

Shelling very heavy this morning, two signallers got smacked. Removed mine trips off the x roads and dug covering positions. More cigs from Monty. Shelling and mortaring all day. 231 Brigade relieve us tomorrow - believe we're having four days' rest and not before time. 

23:00 hrs. shelling landing within 25 to 50 yards, very uncomfortable.

27/7/44 Thursday 

231 Brigade taking over tonight, went up to forward positions and relieved Ike and certainly warmed us up there. Patrol goes out and gets pinned down. None return. Day seems very long. 

Devons took over at 19:00 hrs. Pulled back to a decent rest area about six miles back. Very nice. Can do with it cos my hands are none too steady. 

28/7/44 Friday 

Reveille 7-o-clock. Breakfast 08:00 hrs. Cleaning and checking carriers and kit all day. Very browned off. Went round to see Albert at night. 

29/7/44 Saturday 

Reveille 7-o-clock. Got dished out with new battle dress, then did drill parade and P.T. Some rest, the B … 

George Formby gave us a concert this afternoon, and very nice too, but it's like trying to get blood out of a stone trying to get a laugh out of us. Took some photos of Don's grave. NAAFI up at night.

30/7/44 Sunday

Church parade and day of rest. We had a sergeants’ boozing party at night and absolutely passed out. Deadly. 

31/7/44 Monday 

Busy cleaning up in general. Baths in the afternoon, otherwise just resting. Believe we're moving tomorrow. 

1/8/44 Tuesday WW2 war podcast

Prepare to move 10:00 hrs. Taking over from the 130 Brigade. Moved off 15:00 hrs. (typical army) Moved to Caumont. - Plenty of mines and dead cows, in other words it's a bloody filthy area, like the 130. Very heavy bombing raid, with stacks of anti-personnel bombs. Very uncomfortable. Roads chock a block with stuff moving.

Music?

2/8/44 Wednesday [Listeners - Military Medal day!]

It's for the following action that the brave Sgt Gray was awarded the Military Medal

Hello, an attack coming off. Moved out 14:00 hrs and led the column to the start point. We're attacking high feature of Amayé-Sur-Seulles about five kilometres away. Our carriers are to advance with tanks and fire everything we have in support while the boys come up with the main attack. 

Phew! What a to-do, we got there OK and into position when Jerry opens up with all he's got. Spandaus and mortars, dozens of ‘em firing at us at point blank range. 

Bill gets it, a bullet in his shoulder and out of his back. 

Joe Garbutt did a marvellous show getting him out under very heavy fire, on his motor bike. 

'D' Company arrived and we're pinned down for quite a time, but we finally won through, with a final bag of 117 prisoners including six officers, and quite a number of spandaus and mortars captured. 

Ike then took up positions on the left flank looking north and we're subject to heavy fire all night.

 

Listeners - I’m now going to read the official the citation for this action

4391159 Sergeant Douglas Ernest Gray, 7 Green Howards – MM citation

On 2 August 1944 the Carrier Platoon was given the task of covering the deployment of a Rifle Company of this Battalion that was being sent forward on a troop of tanks. The position they had to take up was within 150 yards of the enemy and far more exposed than appeared on the map. 

Sergeant Gray was in command of the leading section of this Platoon. The enemy allowed this section to come within 150 yards of his main position before opening fire.

The fire was intense and was later found to include at least 8 Spandaus and 4 81mm Mortars. The NCO calmly deployed his section and by his inspiration and lack of regard for his own safety, kept his section continuously in action until the Rifle Company had deployed. 

Subsequently he was ordered by his Platoon Commander to withdraw to a less exposed position and move to a flank to cover the assault by the Company. This he succeeded in carrying out in a thoroughly orderly fashion. 

The section continued to give support under his control very effectively for at least an hour from a still fairly exposed position. Sergeant Gray himself operated a 2" mortar until all ammunition was expended. 

The action of Sergeant Gray and his section was an inspiration to the whole Platoon and the covering fire support given very materially assisted the whole Battalion plan of attack.

Throughout this action he showed a high standard of leadership, his courage and lack of concern for his own safety being quite outstanding.

Music …

Well, listeners, my goodness what a scenario. I love the slightly understated way Doug describes the situation, but so well-deserving of a medal. By now you’ll have worked out that there is just no let up in the ferocity of the fighting. Day after day it’s been going on and it’s set to continue apace in what is going to be part 2 of this podcast.

I’m just pleased my Dad got a blighty one cos I think if he’d carried on there would be a good chance he’d have got killed judging by the way Doug’s comrades are being taken out.

Thank you so very much indeed Doug for all that - Some really priceless history and we must all be grateful you took the trouble to write your diary while it was fresh in your mind – no doubt with shells whizzing overhead at times!

So, I’m proposing to take a break at this point and continue with the rest of the diary in the Doug Gray Diary Podcast Part 2. So no more formalities right now. I do hope you’ve enjoyed listening and you’ll catch up again in Part 2.  But will the allies take Villers Bocage?

Keep subscribed my friends 

I’M GOING to finish now with my new theme music – it’s called Our Mighty Hearts – I hope you love it as much as I do

And don’t forget – contact me via fightingthrough@yahoo.com or visit the new shownotes at FTP.co.uk for more episode details, photos and social media and feedback links.

For now, I’m Paul Cheall, saying Bye Bye now! See you in part 2.

Outro music????

(7500 words)

 

PART II

Music

The D-Day Diary of Company Sergeant Major Douglas Gray – Part 2

Music

FTFDTH podcast 7 WW2 war podcast

More great previously unpublished history

Intro music of the day

 

 

Hellooo!

I’m Paul Cheall, son of Bill Cheall whose WW2 memoirs have been published by Pen and Sword – in FTFDTH. 

This episode I’m presenting part 2 of the excellent Normandy diary of 4391159 Company Sergeant Major Douglas Ernest Gray, 7 Green Howards. If you haven’t heard part 1 yet I’d recommend you listen to this first. You might also like to visit the shownotes at FTP.co.uk

Now part 1 of the diary ended with the action on 2 Aug 44 which led to Sgt Gray winning the Military Medal. His battalion, the 7 Green Howards had landed on Gold Beach on D-Day 6 June and advanced some distance into the French countryside with the interim objective of securing Villers Bocage.

I’ll just remind you of the action on that last day of the previous podcast episode

 

2 August 44

Hello, an attack coming off. Moved out 14:00 hrs and led the column to the start point. We're attacking high feature of Amayé-Sur-Seulles about five kilometres away. Our carriers are to advance with tanks and fire everything we have in support while the boys come up with the main attack. 

Phew! What a to-do, we got there OK and into position when Jerry opens up with all he's got. Spandaus and mortars, dozens of ‘em firing at us at point blank range. 

Bill gets it, a bullet in his shoulder and out of his back. 

Joe Garbutt did a marvellous show getting him out under very heavy fire, on his motor bike. 

'D' Company arrived and we're pinned down for quite a time, but we finally won through, with a final bag of 117 prisoners including six officers, and quite a number of spandaus and mortars captured. 

Ike then took up positions on the left flank looking north and we're subject to heavy fire all night.

Music????????????????????

OBJECTIVE?

3/8/44 Thursday

My section moved over to 'A' Company and took up positions with their forward platoon and again spent another uncomfortable day. Pinkney relieves us at night and we pull back about four hundred yards for a rest (under the bloody self-propelled guns) 

 

4/8/44 Friday

Very noisy night, but I think that He's pulled back a bit this morning. One or two prisoners rolled in last night, including a Jerry Warrant Officer who was looking for his brother who was killed aged 16. 

Another move to within a mile and a half from Villers Bocage, but no opposition. It appears that the troops on our left have advanced in front of us and cut us out of it now. Good show, so we're sitting tight now. For how long?  

5/8/44 Saturday WW2 war podcast

A chance to get cleaned up a bit. Went down to Villers Bocage on a motor cycle and had a look round. What a bloody mess after the bombers had been there on 30/6. Put Garbutt in for the D.C.M. and he certainly deserves it. 

6/8/44 Sunday 

Very dull morning. Still resting. General Horrocks came and spouted to us this afternoon, and to put his words in a nutshell he said, "Good show 50 Division, you're going in again", the B.... 

Had another chicken for dinner tonight, the same as last night, WAS pretty good.

 7/8/44 Monday 

Cleaning up carriers and all weapons. News getting better on the Yanks sector, ours still pushing on slowly. Believe we're for the line again tomorrow. 

8/8/44 Tuesday

Moved out 09:00hrs to Ondefontaine, about six or seven miles south of Villers Bocage, prior to moving in. Country getting very hilly and close again. Looks as if He is going to pull back and make a stand south and east of the river Orne. Fortresses were in full strength today and three shot down. Things seem to be slowing down to more or less static again.

Wish he'd bloody well pack in. 

9/8/44 Wednesday

43 Division took Mount Pincon and we move into assembly area just in rear prior to Division attack. 151 Brigade go in first and reach objective, plenty of prisoners but casualties very heavy. Some of the nastiest sights I've seen yet. We reach the start line OK and start to move forward. Christ, but its absolute hell. 

They're bringing them out by the carrier loads. Prisoners coming in but they should shoot the bastards. Just pulled up hedge side when, wham! Direct hit on Redshaw’s carrier and the whole bloody lot goes up in flames. Absolute suicide, three wounded and two bomb happy. Went back and recovered a motor bike that had been left and bloody nearly stopped one, but nabbed a Jerry 'op' with a wireless on his back.

10/8/44 Thursday WW2 war podcast

Pulled across other side of the road but no better. Battalion getting hammered to hell. Casualties 106 so far. 34 left in 'A' Company and 'C' Company missing. Shelling getting worse, but still we go on, everybody absolutely done for. Us and what's left of the Battalion dig in and try and stop him. Jerry tanks sniping the lads with solid shots, death everywhere, and what a smell. 

Poor devils lying all over the place with arms and legs blown off, but we get them in, though it was suicide to try it. Worst action we've ever been in. What a night from shelling, more casualties but hell, we're to move forward again and take up positions four hundred yards up. 

East Yorks put in an attack on our right which eases things up a bit for us. He's using very heavy artillery now and it's deadly. Wish we could hear some wireless news. Went forward on foot with Captain Murray and nearly had it again. I wish I could stop a piece ‘cos he is enough to drive anybody mad. Fell asleep at night absolutely dead beat.

11/8/44 Friday 

Moving forward again. They must be mad, but again we reach objective but with very few casualties this time, and what a position. It's got a command view for miles so our artillery OP should be able to do something now. 

It's quietened down a bit but there's a spandau c..t sniping us. Finally get him and seven more. About half an hour after these had been captured he lets all hell loose on the place. Wilson W. wounded. 

Wiltshires take over from us and bugger it all, we're off on another job covering the X roads at Rousseville. They must think that we're machines, my lads are absolutely in and nearly all slap happy, but I've got to seem cheerful myself to keep ‘em going although I've had it. 

Got dug in and beat all records doing it. Hard as iron but we got down in about two hours as he was shelling us to hell and still is. One of my drivers wounded. Hope somebody takes over in the morning or else I won't be able to hold my blokes, they'll be off. They've had it. Sent Pidge back bomb happy.

 

12/8/44 Saturday

Shelled us to buggery last night. Cpl Ludham and Tinsley hit. Ike comes up to relieve us this morning, and from where we are now I can see him getting shelled to hell. Hope his luck holds. The full platoon moved up onto ridge in front of St Pierre La Vieille and fired everything we had into the village. My section alone fired 97 Bren mags. 72 mortar bombs and 15 Piat. [Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank]

Just after we'd pulled back into our positions so that the artillery could have a go (which they didn't) 28 prisoners walked in, leaving 13 wounded in the village. It was a good shoot and it heartened the lads a bit. Shelling not quite so bad.

13/8/44 Sunday WW2 war podcast

Battalion moves into St Pierre. Plenty of Jerry dead. My section go out on recce and I lose a carrier. Had to lift 84 teller-mines to get back by road, but met little opposition. Good job. Pulled back into platoon positions. RAF are bombing him to hell now.

14/8/44 Monday

Brigadier sends his congratulations to the carrier platoon for the good work and information that we got back. Brigade pulls out to behind Mount Pincon. Understand that we're to be pursuit troops now. Busy cleaning ourselves and equipment. 

15/8/44 Tuesday 

Feel better now after a full nights sleep. Will get a few letters written now. Understand that the Yanks and Canadians have joined up at Falaise. Good show. That means about 300,000 trapped. Oh, nearly forgot, we captured a MK IV special tank on Sunday in perfect order, but the Divisional Commander claimed it after we'd salvaged it. The Bas----. 

16/8/44 Wednesday -17/8/44 Thursday 

Cleaning equipment and getting ready for our new role. Rather looking forward to it and it will be a change from the static warfare. 

18/8/44 Friday

Pulled out and past start point at 10:20 hrs. First stop approx. 8 miles south of Athis de l’orne. Haven't seen many British troops round this way and the population overjoyed to see us. Pulled into an orchard for the night. Covered 25 miles. NAFFI and a bottle of beer up at night. 

19/8/44 Saturday WW2 war podcast

Moved about three miles further on. We can't get cracking as Jerry has blown the bridge at Putanges-pont-Ecrepin which is holding us up, but this suits me. News is very good. Farm near us and have been talking to the civvies. They say that Jerry left - about 36 hours ago and the people are very distressed as he 'shanghaied' two of their daughters one aged 16 and the other 17 and seriously abused the two that are on the farm now.

20/8/44 Sunday

Moved forward to Honorine. Approx. 27 miles. The people in these areas have been a little more fortunate than those in the original beachhead, as they haven't had the static warfare. 

Still as it is the RAF have been taking very heavy toll of his vehicles and tanks along this road, and the population are more than glad to see us. This is certainly a change to what we have been doing. Pulled into area approx. 18:00 hrs. People bringing out the drinks etc. Prepare to pull out again in 3 hours.

21/8/44 Monday 

What a hell of a drive, started to rain just as we pulled out and as black as hell. Couldn't see a damn thing and had 17 miles to do. Luftwaffe dropped flares and started bombing but the flares helped us a lot. Thousands of vehicles on the road. 

Fires going all around in the area of the pocket and although it was dark you could see the dark shapes of knocked out vehicles all along route. Passed through Putanges in the dark, bridges had been blown but Bailey bridge erected. Pulled into dispersal area about 01:30 hrs. this morning, soaked and tired but slept all night on a gas cape.

22/8/44 Tuesday 

Rained like hell all day. Smashed up an old Jerry wagon and got a bit of fire going to try and dry things out a bit. 

23/8/44 Wednesday

Moved forward again about twenty seven miles to Gacé. Stacks of his transport knocked out, especially in the area of Argentan which has been knocked to hell by our bombers and artillery. Plenty of stuff rolling forward. Collected one or two prisoners. 

24/8/44 Thursday WW2 war podcast

Moving to the area near Rugles where we expect to contact Jerry (about thirty miles). On arrival carriers immediately went out on recce patrol which proved very successful. I met up with about a dozen maquis (French Resistance) and attached them to my section making quite a formidable force. First British troops in the area and the people absolutely loaded us with flowers, wines, eggs and kisses!! Gosh it was great. 

Went swanning around the woods and lanes and collared a Jerry paratrooper who was forcing an old man, with his rifle, to take him in his cart, and my chief maquis knocked ten bells out of him. Smashed my elbow but not much. 

We picked up two Russian political prisoners and they were in a terrible state but soon filled em up with 'Bully'. Fired on two more Jerries but they got away. Brought my maquis back to camp and gave them a right Royal feed. 

25/8/44 Friday 

Pouring with rain. Stayed in the area of Rugles for maintenance, went out in the afternoon in a carrier to Le Bois which we visited yesterday and sat drinking Champagne Cider with a farmer. Good people these. My arm is  very sore this afternoon!

 I could write pages on our reception but haven't got the time. 

26/8/44 Saturday

Reveille 04:30 pulled out at 07:00. Going to push on today to Mantes and over the Seine. Doing a good speed on this run and reached our destination after about three hours, approx. thirty five miles, good going. Again a good reception. Bedded down in an orchard.

 27/8/44 Sunday  

Rain, thunder and lightning like hell last night. A thunderbolt landed in the 'B' Company area killing two of the lads. We are staying here today, and a bloody good job too as we're soaked and it's still raining.

28/8/44 Monday

Still raining and no sign of a move today as the bridge isn't quite finished yet. Hello, Orders Group 15:00 hrs - wonder what's on this time. Moving 22:00 hrs. across the river. 

29/8/44 Tuesday WW2 war podcast

Not too bad last night for a night drive, but pouring with rain. The Royal Engineers have made a smashing job of shoving a bridge across about 400 yards. Guards Armoured pouring over at the same time. 

Crossed the river at Vernon and pulled in about 02:30 hrs this morning. Bedded down. A load of reinforcements come today from the Duke's. They're being disbanded after getting smashed up. Nearly all the lads I knew had it.

30/8/44 Wednesday WW2 war podcast

Pulled out and moved forward another 20 odd miles to Gisors. Weather bloody awful. Marvellous welcome from the civvies and Les Mademoiselles, Oh La La. 

Listeners just to keep you in synch with where the troops have got to, Gisors is small town about 46 miles NW of Paris. But there is no plan to enter Paris – the troops are Netherlands bound and then of course on to Germany.

Pulled into a wood for the night. Ike and I went out on motorcycle scrounging for eggs and 'liberated' a village on our own. Cognac, Calvados, kisses, and we met a French girl whose sister was a schoolmistress at Swanage. 

31/8/44 Thursday 

Pulled out at 08:00 hrs. and did another fifteen miles by tiffin time, in the direction of Beauvais.

Well, listeners, and so it went on, with more of the same daily grind, but at this point Doug stopped writing his diary.

There is more for me to say though – I’ve been reading about the battalion’s exploits in the history books and in W A T Synge, Story of the Green Howards 1939-45  it mentions that around Albert, about 100 miles north of Paris, the bn had been ambushing the enemy alongside a track for several hours. The book entry reads:

“Later on Capt Murray with … “

So there you go – Doug is twice mentioned in the history books for his brave exploits.

Anyway, as I say, the diary entries had stopped until 2 November 1944 when he re-opened it to make one last entry …. And it’s rather a sad one …..

2/11/44 

IKE KILLED NEAR NIJMEGEN (Nymechien) BRIDGE, Netherlands

So long Pal. 

 (and this is the last entry in the diary)

Music?

I’m finding the death of Doug’s last pal, Ike, very sad indeed. To think that they went through all they did together, with good pals and comrades getting picked off one by one, till there was only the two of the originals left - that’s so tragic you know? It’s even worse when you contemplate that the Green Howards were actually withdrawn from battle at Nijmegen. This is how the Green Howards’ war ended:

I think that’s the right time to end this episode, but I’d like to end on a positive note so this is what I’m going to do.

I want to read out the names of all these comrades mentioned in this very precious diary followed by something a little more upbeat, so I hope you’ll listen to the end and enjoy a couple more anecdotes with me.

But right now here’s the list of comrades …

They may have been killed, wounded or survived, but they’re all brave heros in our eyes. Unfortunately we don’t know every detail of their names and rank, but nonetheless let’s call this a minute’s silence in their honour.

WW2 war podcast

 

Allen

Bell

Boulton, Bill

Boys

Butler, Tiny

Colwill, Corporal - Missing

Ford

Garbutt DCM, Joe

Horrocks, General

Hudson, Major – KIA

Jock (dental officer)

Lambert, Harry

Lowthorpe, Ted

Ludham, Cpl

Mason, Captain

Murray W - Captain

Parkinson - Pte William Parkinson 4341211 (5th East Yorks) (on Photo)

Pidge

Pinkney

Rawson - Sgt Isaac (Ike) Rawson 4392434, (7th Green Howards) - KIA

Redshaw - KIA

Senior, Fred

Smirfield

Staveley, Dick

Stoneman, Johnnie - KIA

Tinsley

Topham, Oscar ‘Topper’ - KIA

Walker, Noel – KIA

Walkington, Don - KIA

Waugh

Whittam

Williamson – KIA

Wilson W, Doctor

Wright, Alfie

 

OK – I’d like to think we’ve done those soldiers proud with that. Now to finish I’ve a couple of very funny stories from Doug’s son who said,

 

“My Dad was born and raised in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, England as was I.

He was fiercely proud of his hometown and county.

So ...sometime in the 70's, I think, the then government decided to abolish E.Yorkshire (along with other ancient counties) and call it North Humberside. This was not taken lightly by the locals, my Dad included. I think there was a nickname for fighting units, from the same locale, formed during the run up to the war, that imbued friendship, camaraderie and determination...'fraid I can't bring it mind at the moment, but it bode ill for the Postal Services:

 

They were the first to write to him at his new address...."We are pleased to tell you..." they wrote, "that your new address is Blah di blah, Bridlington, North Humberside". I saw him take a look at the letter, tear it in half and throw it to one side with the expletive..."It F’ing well isn't".

 

That was the first, perhaps only time, I can remember him swearing. From that day forward, if a letter came addressed to N. Humberside he would put it aside and not open it for a couple of days! I was happy that he was still alive when the county boundaries were reinstated.

 

Finally from Doug again

 

 “My sister's 9yr old grandson, Jack, took part in a school assembly to commemorate 'Remembrance Day'. She told me, "Jack's assembly was lovely. All the children in his class took part in a summary of WWII and the meaning of Remembrance Day, they all had lines to say. 

When it came to Jack's turn he proudly held up the photo of Dad leading the Freedom march and told everyone this was his Great Granddad and he fought all over the world and won some medals. He was beaming from ear to ear throughout - Dad would have been chuffed to bits with him"

Right – next episodes …

Incredibly while all that shelling was going on, Doug also found time to write some amazing D-Day poetry to which I’m dedicating a third episode all to itself. I normally don’t go for poetry much but this is honest soldierly stuff and has a style of its own with no small amount of humour too and it’s hugely entertaining, so I recommend everyone to give it a go.

After that it’ll be all guns blazing again with Dunkirk the Podcast and two exceptional previously unpublished memoirs of the period written by an army Major and a ship’s Captain – coming up in just a few weeks – WoW – is all I can say – with two capital W’s! Or even BooYah, if you’re listening in America.

For more info on everything, including photos, blog, social media links and easy podcast subscribe buttons, go to www.ftp.co.uk.

Write to me at FightingThrough@yahoo.com

One final thing  - a competition …

Shufty kite

Do a duffy

Found a cherry tree and gave them the big licks

 

End

 

This was a war history podcast on ww2, covering D-Day, Dunkirk and many more aspects of WW2

 

(2500  words)