At 6.26am on the 6th June 1944 Allied troops stormed the beaches at Normandy. A bold mission that would turn the tide of the war firmly against the Nazis.
Many of those involved were from Shropshire – and yet it wasn’t until August that people in the county were made aware (officially at least) that the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry were amongst those soldiers on D-DAY.
The news of their bravery was released on in August. Here’s report from the Staffordshire Sentinel – Wednesday 02 August 1944.
Light Infantry were among the troops who landed in Normandy on D-Day, it is disclosed to-day.
They did not have an easy landing for, when they left their landing craft at La Breche d’Hermanville, they plunged into between four and five feet of water. There was a heavy sea running, and the beach to which they made their way was under shell fire. The regiment was swiftly engaged in stiff action.
Here’s the first public account of their mission that day – and the weeks following
They rode on the tanks of a Yeomanry Regiment towards Caen but their advance was hindered by large minefields, which they encountered on the road to the town. One company of the regiment met its first group of the enemy on a ridge overlooking the sea. The company cut its way forward through cornfields towards the enemy positions. Here and there, hidden among the tall corn were machine gun nests, and the company advanced spread out in a loosely linked line, looking as an observer put it, like so many beaters walking up game.
Their tactics were to knock out small posts of Germans, sending back prisoners of war and killing greater quantities of the enemy, and then forcing their way forward again. This they did though they suffered a number of casualties. Nevertheless, despite a brush with snipers at Beuville, their first day’s action in the campaign was a fruitful and successful one. On the, second day of the campaign the KSLI were given an important task, and were engaged in a savage fight in the woods near Le Bisey, which they captured, during the day.
Later in the month the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry took part in many bitterly contested actions less than five miles to the north of Caen and West of the river Orne.
Also involved in the action were airmen and one ace pilot from Much Wenlock was singled out for his action.
His name was Maurice Pinches and he flew a Mustang. On one sortie with a group of enemy fighters his plane was left with a whole as big as a coconut.
Sadly he died in October of jaundice that year after being further recognised for his 8 victories.
One brave casualty from the KSLI was L/Sgt. William Derry, who was bandaging the wounds of an officer with with a colleague. It was 3 months after he stormed the beaches, and as he patching up the man an enemy mortar shell landed right beside them. Derry died minutes later uttering a final message for his wife and child. Another (see article on the right) was Private George Patrick Ryan. Killed in August he was the nephew of well known Walsall swimmer and boxer Mark Ryan.
By the end of the day, 29,000 men had been landed at Sword with 630 casualties. Allied forces had advanced about four miles inland and stabilised the beach. A corridor had been created between Sword Beach and Juno but this was not to prove a long-term problem. However, their major targets of Caen and the aerodrome at Carpiquet were still a long way off. (History Learning Site)
For a blow by blow account check out the KSLI D-Day diary