Don't miss a story sign up to Sidmouth Herald's FREE daily newsletter CLICK HERE

D-day preparations confuse allies and enemies

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).

1 comment

  • My mum, passed away last week and I've been looking up her past for the funeral. She was a WAAF stationed in Sidmouth. The night of the DDAY landings she and her fellow WAAFs were locked into their rooms (don't know which hotel they had commandeered) and told not to go out, open the windows or let anyone in. The next day the beaches and roads were empty. She later realised that the men knew something was up the the officers were worried that the men would be looking for a last night standfling before possible death so locked up all the young beauties! I'll scan in a photo soon and upload it. Her name was Muriel Gunnell.

    Report this comment

    Elizabeth Allford

    Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Other News Stories

52 minutes ago

Onlookers feared the worst when they spotted what looked like a man and boy ‘scratching away’ at rocks under Sidmouths unstable cliffs - near the debris of a recent landslide.

Read more
11:45

Labourer Robert Trott was not wearing seatbelt prior to fatal collision

Read more

A charity worker from Sidmouth is calling on anyone with a sweet tooth to resist their urges for 40 days to support African agriculture.

Read more

Seaton and Beer RNLI district branch kicked off its golden anniversary by raising more than £500.

Read more
Yesterday, 16:46

Date for this year’s event revealed as organisers promise to serve up a fun-filled platter of demonstrations, local produce and children’s activities

Read more
Yesterday, 11:27

A dinner held in memory of one of Branscombe’s ‘big characters’ has raised £520 for the British Heart Foundation.

Read more
Yesterday, 09:26

Sir Hugo Swire’s Sidmouth Herald column on why his party loyalty is being tested

Read more
Tue, 18:00

With NASA set to present new findings on exoplants, we’re asking the people of Devon if they believe there is life out there. Take part in our poll here.

Read more
Tue, 17:40

Restoration crews have discovered an ancient peacock drawing on timbers at The Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter

Read more
Tue, 16:00

The independent consultants tasked with helping Port Royal fulfil its potential have held their first meeting with town and district councillors.

Read more

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 10°C

min temp: 2°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

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Local business directory

Devon's trusted business finder

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists


Find planning applications