Casualties were heavy, and we on the frontal assault felt we were battling at impregnable forces.” Despite the losses, by the early hours of the following day, Mr Coupe’s unit had entered the city’s northern suburbs.
“One hundred of us set off but only eighteen of us arrived,” he said.
Only 18 of his 100-strong infantry unit reached their objective. I just wanted to get off that landing craft and get my feet on the ground.
He had landed on Sword Beach on the morning of D-Day, and despite the enemy fire, said it was a relief to get ashore. The Navy boys brought us as close to the beach as they could and then we waded to shore with water up to our armpits.” Once ashore, and with the beachheads secured, Mr Coupe and his unit were given orders to march on German-occupied Caen as part of Operation Charnwood. If the Germans broke through at Caen they would have been on the beaches in no time.
It was a bit threatening because we were being shelled and mortared the whole time.” Despite repeated German attacks, the bridge – and another nearby – was successfully held by the airborne forces until reinforcements arrived. The next thing I remember is waking up in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.It boosted our morale no end, and from then on any jibes about ‘Brylcreem Boys’ were definitely out.” As the bombers departed for home, the guns of the offshore fleet opened up, joining the barrage of of 21 regiments of Allied artillery, ranged on German batteries and fortified approaches to Caen.“The barrage thundered steadily on through the night and around 0500 hours we began to advance through cornfields and orchards towards Caen. "The Germans were ready for us as they knew we had to come by this route.He said the most unpleasant task of all was to clean out the wreckage of tanks which had been hit and burnt out.
By coincidence, a few days after the landings, Mr Salmon met his brother, who was working for a bakery unit, on the beaches.
After the mission, Mr Anderson spent five weeks laying mines and helping the infantry, before suffering a shrapnel injury. It turned out I had been half buried with shrapnel in my leg, and I was pulled out.” He had joined the Royal Engineers as an apprentice in 1938 – aged just 14 – but later became part of the 591 Parachute Squadron.