Two Second World War veterans from Longridge have been recalling their roles in the D-Day landings on the 70th anniversary of the biggest sea-borne invasion in history.
Gerard Rogerson, who is 89 in August and lives on Whittingham Road, and 90-year-old Harry Paintin of Langton Brow were responsible for ferrying men and machines on to the beaches on June 6, 1944.
Both were called up when they were 18, both now live in Longridge and both have very vivid memories of their war service in the Royal Engineers.
On D-Day, that service included taking goods ashore to the beaches in the amphibious vehicles known as DUKWs.
After training including mine detecting and a stevedore’s course in County Durham and Hampshire, Gerard joined 25 others in Purfleet to board a boat to the beaches, landing at Juno Beach – and failing to find the company they were assigned to!
“We eventually joined a Canadian company, went back to the beach, found a dry ditch, needed our box of 24 hour rations and later under fire and shrapnel, had to board another boat up a rope ladder to move up to Dieppe and take over that port,” he said.
They found Antwerp bombed out by doodlebugs, took over the port of Ghent in Belgium, and Gerard was then sent to Hamburg before returnng home for his first leave in the October of 1944.
“I then felt I would never get home again as I was sent off to India for 13 months!”
He was posted all over that country crossing the Indian Ocean, through the Bay of Biscay. “Then we rebelled at picking up Germans in Hamburg so were paid out going up the English Channel to Southampton!” he said.
Gerard met his wife Freda at a dance at Whittingham Hospital where they both worked and she wrote to him for those 13 months.
Both have been in Normandy for the recent D-Day commemmorations from where Gerard was interviewed by a Sky news reporter “relieved that he had found someone from the north!”
Following his six weeks training with the Royal Army Service Corps, Harry Paintin looked after Home Guard members, then went to Liverpool docks to pick up the amphibious DUKWS, trained on them in Scotlandt and eventually landed on the beaches at Arromanche.
The first company was sent in on D-day with 85 per cent losses, the second was expected to have 50 per cent losses. Harry’s company lost one and he recalls “Obviously it was very frightening. It was very hairy to begin with, I can remember being out on the water trying to get to five miles an hour and hearing the German machine gun fire raining down around us.” Harry served in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Italy until he returned home in 1947.