Oct. 9, 2016

7 D-Day Diary of D Gray Pt 2

7  D-Day Diary of D Gray  Pt 2

Part 2 of a Normandy/WW2 memoir.


War memoirs of a WW2 military medal hero.

"Cognac, Calvados and kisses!".

The previous episode of the diary ended with Company Sergeant Major 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 dangerous French countryside.

With many comrades already dead or wounded, CSM Gray must push on further into WWII Europe with Holland as the next destination. More hazards and humour await our heroes ...

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Role of honour for those mentioned in the podcast.
 

Allen

Bell

Boulton, Bill

Boys

Butler, Tiny

Colwill, Corporal - Missing (but not recorded KIA)

Ford

Fred

Garbutt DCM, Joe

Gray MM, Doug, CSM

Horrocks, General

Hudson, Major – KIA

Jock (dental officer)

Lambert, Harry KIA

Lowthorpe, Ted (wounded)

Ludham, Cpl (wounded)

Mason, Captain

Murray MC, 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 (wounded)

Topham, Oscar ‘Topper’ - KIA

Walker, Noel – KIA

Walkington, Don - KIA

Waugh

Whittam

Williamson – KIA

Wilson W, Doctor (wounded)

Wright, Alfie

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

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

Transcript

Fighting Through episode 7

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

More great unpublished history

 

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 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 – loads of pics and other interesting background info.

So - 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.

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. 

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

 

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?  

Listeners – so this is a bit of an anti-climax because the Green Howards have effectively moved to VB to find it already occupied by another British force! I’ve looked in several history books and cannot find any other reference to this so we’re left a little in the dark about it – but at least another objective has been taken now.

5/8/44 Saturday

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. PAGE 324 SYNGE

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

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 

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 

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

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

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 

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.

Hero music

Allen

Bell

Boulton, Bill

Boys

Butler, Tiny

Colwill, Corporal - Missing (but not recorded KIA)

Ford

Fred

Garbutt DCM, Joe

Gray MM, Doug

Horrocks, General

Hudson, Major – KIA

Jock (dental officer)

Lambert, Harry KIA

Lowthorpe, Ted (wounded)

Ludham, Cpl (wounded)

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 (wounded)

Topham, Oscar ‘Topper’ - KIA

Walker, Noel – KIA

Walkington, Don - KIA

Waugh

Whittam

Williamson – KIA

Wilson W, Doctor (wounded)

Wright, Alfie

 

I’d like to think we’ve done those soldiers proud with that. Now to finish off AND TO RAISE everyone’s mood 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.

Oh and One more thing – I did a few live broadcasts recently in France at Dunkirk, Gold Beach and Bayeux cemetery – If you’d like to see  them take a look at my Twitter feed @paulcheall and you’ll see some links to them. They will also be up on my web site shortly.

Keep subscribed my friends - Don’t forget the next and final episode in this series is Doug’s poems

Here’s an extract just to whet your appetites

 

A long time we've waited for D-Day

All preliminary work [has] been done

And once more the task, is more than plain

Clear Europe and banish the Hun.

 

The bow of the boat is pointing due south

Our morale is high, you can bet

Though we've done it before and everyone knows

The kind of reception we'll get.