And so the Marines went in.
We went in the tiny cabin of a landing craft waiting for the skipper to speak.
"We're going ".He said.
There was a brief silence.
"What are we going to see, the Wizard?"someone said.
We all laughed, and the tension relaxed.
For four years-- ever since I first walked into a Royal Marine barracks with somewhat
heroic ideas-- I had been waiting to hear this. Many had waited longer.Even sea sickness was
forgotten (at least partially) when drawn drew the veil from that vast panorama of ships
and the coast of France rose on the horizon.
Invisible bombers roared above the clouds. Then the great guns of the Navy set the ball rolling.
It was a proud day to be a Marine.Only a small Corps, we should be a minor factor in the great
clash of armies to come.But on this day, our effort was at a maximum.To no inconsiderable extent
Royal Marines could, by their skill and coutage , tip the balanced fate of battle.
At least one in four of the big guns now firing, their first salvoes had Royal Marines behind it.
As the smaller guns of the Landing craft (gun) joined in the timpani roll of the bombardment,
we knewthat Marines were serving them.We had confidence in their skill and it was not misplaced
as many a German Pillbox, wrecked before it could fire a round, bore witness.
Assault craft, laden with the first wave of infantry were streaming inshore as H-Hour approached.
Great numbers of these little flat craft were manned by Marines.
The deed of Corpral Tandy, who hung over the damaged stern of a damaged craft, working the rudder
with his foot duuring a run-in of seven miles and back, showed the determination of these Marines
to do well by their Army comrades.
At every stage in this broad srtip of shallow water and on the beaches beyond, Marines would be
pulling their weight in a remarkable variety of jobs. Our Commandos were allotted the task of
smashing the strongpoints of the vaunted "West Wall".
The sea front of St.Aubin-sur-Mere moved quiickly towards us.Black smoke billowed up
from a burning house: orange flames licked at a dull sky.The yellow sand was under our bows,
the sea wall, with its barbed wire freize, hung over us, we were aground.
The first Marine stood up to cross the last gap between us and France. He fell immediately.
I heard the crack of bullets somewhere over my head. Another Marine eased the wounded body
aside and the first man went over the ramp.
Almost before I knew it I found myself lurching down the unsteady narrow gang plank into the water
A few yards more and I was under the welcome shelter of the sea wall.
I saw explosions burst from nowhere in the water, The white tipped waves hurried before the wind,
great baulks of timber surging to and fro.To my left was a Tank Landing craft with bows crumpled
and a wisp of smoke drifting up.
Then we were in the sea again struggling with bicycles, motor cycles, wireless handcarts
, to get them safe and dry onto the narrow beach.
The heavy machine guns of the Landing Craft broke into a blast of fire at the houses on the front which
harboured snipers .We moved along the walll to a stretch of open beach and through a gap in the mine
field marked with white mine tape.At the end of the wall was a heap of bodies with waxen faces and
limbs frozen at grotesque impossible angles.
Mines were being exploaded at intervals to left and right as we passed through the gap, up the dusty
sand dunes to a hard road. We passed through an area of thick smoke with blinded smarting eyes
, the fire crackling in our ears.We moved slowly, heavy laden aand wary of mines.
The Commando was reorganised and moved off on the strong point busting mission towards Langrune.
Headquarters found it's way into a shattered farm yard. Kit was dumped, radio was set up and the familiar
jargon of the signallers began as they sought the ether for their colleagues.
The sea was behind us now.We were across the moat.
The corn was higher than in England. On the fence hung yellow signs with skull and crossbones
and the words"Achtung Minen".
The earth beneath my feet was Normandy.