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The beaches of Normandy. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
The beaches of Normandy.


Sixty-five years ago, in a brief lull between storms in a remarkably stormy June, even by the standards of Channel weather, the heirs of Harold and the kinsmen of the Conqueror came to Normandy.


They were supported by the remnants of their first, North American, empire, the two great nations that they had planted in the New World in the time of Good Queen Bess and James 6th and 1st: the Americans, who had rebelled in the name of the rights of Englishmen, and the Canadians, who had stood loyal in the name of the Crown. 


The 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards – born of the Royal Irish Dragoons raised by the duke of Hamilton in 1685 and of the Princess Royal’s, raised three years later by the duke of Devonshire, came ashore five minutes before H-Hour.  Eleven months later, they would reach Bremerhaven and the end of the war.  On 6 June 1944, however, they could not foresee this.  They knew only their duty.  Their road would lead through the liberation of Creully to the bitter struggle at Cristot, where captured members of the Regiment were tortured, maimed, and murdered by their captors, and thence to Lingevres, where Sgt W Harris DCM, with his gunner Tpr ID Mackillop, Mentioned in Dispatches, knocked out five Panther tanks with five shots, locked in combat with the Panzer Lehr Division.  Eventually, they would be the first to cross the Seine before proceeding to Arnhem and Operation Market Garden. 


The Regiment’s A Sqn was involved in support of the 7th Bn Green Howards.  6th Bn Green Howards was engaged on Gold Beach as well: CSM Stanley Hollis was to become the only VC of D-Day for his actions on 6 June 1944.


The 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division and its attached elements represented the manhood of England, from the ‘North Countree’ to the West Country, from thrawn Tykes to scrumping zoider-drinkers.  The men who came ashore in Normandy – and there were not a few who did not live to come ashore, or who died before they could go into action upon the strands of Normandy – were soldiers drawn from the East Yorkshires and the Durham Light Infantry, the Green Howards and the Sherwood Rangers.  They were soldiers of the Cheshire Regt, the Essex Regt, the Border Regt and 47 Royal Marine Commando.  They were Dorsets and Hampshires, Devons and the already glorious Glosters; South Wales Borderers stood with lancers of the 24th.  The beach was Gold; its sands and the sea were red enough all too soon.


At Sword beach, Picton’s Fighting Third from Peninsula days, the Iron Division that had seen combat from Vitoria to Waterloo, came ashore to fight, to die, and to conquer.  The 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars were there; the Royal Ulster Rifles and the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, the Suffolks, the East Yorkshires, the South Lancs; the Lincolnshires and the KOSB, the Warwicks and the Norfolks, the Staffs Yeomanry, the RAC, and the commandos under Lord Lovat, with Piper Millin piping them on upon the blood-boltered beach.


Offshore, HMSS Warspite and Ramillies, Belfast, Ajax, Orion, and a vast armada beside, pounded the German positions.


Overhead, the American airmen, the RAF, and Allied airpower established swift and sure superiority in difficult weather.


At Juno, between the British beaches, the Canadians of 3d Canadian Infantry Division – Highlanders, Rifles, the Fort Garry Horse, le Régiment de la Chaudière – moved swiftly and surely upon the ground, to great effect, with great gallantry and in high style.


Already aground and inland, the Paras and the gliderborne airlanding brigades of 6th Airborne Division (ex Ulster Rifles, Ox & Bucks, Devonshires and all) were causing ‘alarm and despondency’ in the enemy.


And none of it would have mattered a damn were it not for thousands of unsung heroes and heroines, REMEs and Sappers and radar operators, Field Ambulance coys, Int Corps, meteorologists, cooks, recce squadrons, red-tabs aching to be in the line but dutifully managing petrol and ammunition, chaplains, the RASC, Bletchley Park, and those devilish-clever chaps behind operation Fortitude and Twenty Committee who kept the enemy pinned down with phantom armies and a phantom threat to Calais.


And these are but a few of the proud regiments and ships who, five and sixty years ago, fronted a demonic evil and liberated a continent.  This is but the least and most superficial of call-overs of the men and women and establishments who won the war, with the Americans, the Canadians, the Poles, a few valiant Frenchmen, a few gallant Dutchmen, a few determined Norwegians and Continentals who refused the easy path of slavery, and all the splendid manhood of the Empire, Sikhs and Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans and Malayans, the Nigeria Regiment and the Bikaner Camel Corps, the Ghurkhas – always and evermore and marvellously, the Ghurkhas – and all who served the King-Emperor.


The honours of these regiments are ancient and moving: Minden and Malplaquet, Mysore, Badajoz, Waterloo, Inkerman, Gallipoli, the Somme, Imjin.  None shines more brightly than Normandy 1944.


The paths of glory may lead but to the grave; yet all, even golden boys and girls, must come to dust.  It is a better path to the grave than any of the others, not because glory is something to seek, but because, not once or twice in our long island story, the way of duty has been the path to glory; and duty is to be done.


Our king went forth to Normandy
With grace and might of chivalry,
There God for him wrought marvellously,
Wherefore England may call and cry,

Deo gratias Anglia
Redde pro victoria.


Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.


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3 comments or Leave a comment
pathology_doc From: pathology_doc Date: June 6th, 2009 10:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you very much for this. You've said it better than I ever could.
magic_at_mungos From: magic_at_mungos Date: June 6th, 2009 12:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lest we forget.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 6th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC) (Link)


My people owe our freedom to the Allied armies who fought, bled and died to free Europe from Hitler's stranglehold. It is a debt that can never be repaid and is too seldom acknowledged by my country.

My grandfather was one of the few Swedish marines killed in World War II, blown to pieces at 22 years of age when his ship encountered a German mine, leaving behind his wife and his 1½-year old daughter. Were he alive today, I know he would cry "Deo gratias!" with you.

God bless them all, the men and women who served freedom's cause in those bleak days. May their sacrifice never be forgotten.

3 comments or Leave a comment