D-day preparations confuse allies and enemies

PUBLISHED: 10:30 06 June 2014

Subaltern Nancy Bowstead (nee Owen)

Subaltern Nancy Bowstead (nee Owen)

Archant

Preparations for the Normandy landings on this day 70 years ago caused confusion for ally and foe alike as British, American and Canadian forces readied themselves to retake Europe.

Nancy Bowstead was a war substantive subalertern, defending Wales from airborne enemies with the artillery when ‘Operation Neptune’ took place.

Remembered decades on as D-Day, the servicewoman’s first insight into the mission came when, as the eldest grandchild, she was granted leave to return in early May to Lancashire for her grandmother’s funeral.

En route through the valleys she was puzzled – the verges beside a vast stretch of the railway were lined with new, but seemingly abandoned, army vehicles.

On her return five days later, the tanks and trucks remained, still with no one guarding them.

She mentioned the sighting to her officer colleagues, who thought the forces must be getting ready for something.

“Perhaps we are about to do something drastic,” they told her.

But then, with the summer months approaching and the nights getting shorter, the Germans had less cover to use and the war quietened down, at least for the artillery.

That was until one sunny evening, when Nancy was sat out in the officers’ mess lining the Bristol Channel from Cardiff to Pembroke, and as far as the eye could see – hundreds of boats, big and small.

Yet, there wasn’t a light, not a sound.

The convoy’s silence continued through the night, and the servicemen and women awoke to find the ‘graveyard’ empty once more, gone from under their very noses.

Gossip established that the boats would not be travelling up-river to Stratford, so they could only be going up the English Channel or into the Mediterranean – and that’s exactly what the Allies wanted their enemies to think.

So, while German command fell for the ploy and deployed its best forces to the south of France, British, American and Canadian forces were attacking the north.

They landed in droves on the beaches of Normandy, stopping for nothing in an advancement that proved pivotal in turning the tide of the war.

British forces paid a heavy toll for the attack, taking the brunt of the retaliation when the Germans realised they had been duped.

It is a mission burned into the consciousnesses of those involved, and even those like Nancy who were more remote.

“How many other people saw them? It’s a memory I will never forget,” said the nonagenarian.

Now an avid advocate for Blind Veterans UK, she spent eight months knitting an enormous flag for the charity’s 75th anniversary.

Nancy is a member of Sidmouth’s branch of the Royal British Legion, with whom she attended a royal garden party on Wednesday.

Residents can reflect on the D-Day landings in a service at Sidmouth’s war memorial led by the Reverend Philip Bourne at 9.45am today (Friday).

Other News Stories

Yesterday, 17:00

Plans have been submitted to turn a Grade II listed building and former care home into nine apartments.

Read more
Yesterday, 07:00

Online paedophile hunters have reportedly carried out a daytime ‘sting’ in Sidmouth, after a woman allegedly sent ‘graphic’ messages to someone posing as a schoolgirl.

Read more
Thu, 06:55

Talk of the great floods of 50 years ago has revived a curious tale of three pigs who got swept away by the surge.

Read more
Wed, 17:55

Big plans to extend a Sidmouth school, increasing the number of students it has, have been given the green light by planning chiefs.

Read more

Eagle eyed volunteers are hitting the streets of Sidbury to collect data to back claims of increased traffic, large vehicles and speed through the village.

Read more
Wed, 07:15

Sidmouth firefighters help to free her

Read more
Wed, 07:00

Guests dressed to the nines for a night of music and merriment, helping to raise more than £1,000 for Sidbury Primary School.

Read more
Tue, 17:15

Thousands of pounds have been given to good causes, thanks to the hard work of the Salcombe Regis Fair organisers.

Read more
Tue, 15:57

It may look like a crime scene but Sherlock Holmes or Poirot won’t be needed – though a visit from Special Branch might be in order.

Read more

Local Weather

Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 19°C

min temp: 14°C

Most Read News

Useful Links

Family notices
Advertise in the paper
Submit a Story
Submit a Story
Buy Photos
Competitions
iwitness24
Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus Page
Reader Travel

Family Notices 24

Read Online

Image
Read the Sidmouth Herald e-edition E-edition

Newsletter Sign Up

Sidmouth Herald twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Local business directory

Devon's trusted business finder

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists


Find planning applications