We were cycle troops, pedalling inland to secure a site.
D-Day was almost two months back and at last the battalion (1st King’s Own Scottish Borderers) had moved on from ‘our’ little village in Normandy, Cambes-en-Plaine, and the long line of vehicles had been forced to a halt near Rouen.
Our job when we landed on D-Day was as cycle troops to pedal inland and secure a site for the airborne and gliders to come in later. That first day was very hot and sweaty – we had successfully moved onto the site, dug in and waited. Then on the second day we moved to take the Germans on at Cambes-en-Plaine, which was a strongpoint for the enemy. We were successful and stayed there for eight weeks after that. The Germans and their armour were never far away and there were patrols out regularly. We had shelling and casualties. The local chateau was the hospital then.
So long as we held that area the troops following us in had a ‘safe’ place to land and the engineers and navy had a Mulberry Harbour to get our ammo, food and water, and the heavier armour of bigger guns for the initial move on to Caen.
On that first day we had three Dorniers to bomb us, but they were got rid of quickly. At nights there had been a lot of bombing by the Luftwaffe trying to destroy our harbour and limit the landings. It had seemed then that D-Day had failed, but seemingly the plan had been for us to ‘contain’ the German armour and the Americans would move in to the south of us. It had worked well – the Germans had lost thousands of men and all of their guns and tanks in what was called the Falaise Gap.
Caen had some heavy bombing, and when we moved in to take that town we had a lot of casualties. We had more than the Americans and the Canadians put together, but we had succeeded in our job and now there was movement again, to Paris and on to Belgium, to free them from their occupation of the previous four years.