Sidmothian veteran remembers D-Day

06:00 06 June 2014

Bill and Edna on their wedding day in 1943

Bill and Edna on their wedding day in 1943

Archant

Seventy years ago today (Friday), an armada of more than 5,500 Allied ships made the crossing across the English Channel and towards the beaches of Normandy.

The subsequent landings would prove to be a turning point in the war, as Allied troops gained a vital foothold in mainland Europe – forcing Hitler to fight on two fronts as Russian forces continued to push from the east.

Among the 160,000 men ferried across the Channel on June 6, 1944, was Sidmothian Bill Maeer, who was part of the 12th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment.

The 12th was an Airborne unit, and the men had been specially trained as glider troops – a completely new concept for the British military.

The 12th Devons would later become part of the much larger 6th Air Landing Brigade in the run up to the invasion.

“They just handed us our red [Airborne] berets one day and told us ‘you’re Airborne now’,” said Bill, 95. “But we got paid two shillings extra a day, so we didn’t complain.”

Bill’s place in the reserve company meant he was tasked with ensuring the battalion’s vehicles and supplies were quickly delivered to the front line troops.

“During training flights I’d sit in the rear gunner’s seat of the glider, and we’d be carrying two 1500 jeeps,” he said. “The floor was made of metal, but the rest was made of balsa wood and cardboard - you could push your hand through the side of them.”

However, because of shortages in supplies, there were not enough aircraft for the whole of the 12th Battalion to make the D-Day assault by glider.

In fact, despite being an Airborne unit, the bulk of the 12th Battalion made the journey to France by sea – with just one out of the unit’s four companies taking part in the night-time glider landings.

Bill said the hours building up to D-Day involved waterproofing vehicles to make sure they could be taken ashore safely.

He left from Tilbury, Essex and landed as part of the nearly 30,000 strong British force at Sword beach.

“The boats didn’t go all the way in so we had to drive the vehicles in,” he said. “We were chest high in the water and you weren’t allowed to touch the pedals because the throttle was all by hand.”

And although he landed after the bulk of the fighting, the beaches had been pre-targeted by German artillery and were shelled throughout the day from guns hidden inland.

“You’d get the odd round flying overhead,” he remembered. “The beaches certainly weren’t safe – we were still under fire.

“You had to be a bit careful what you did, because you never knew what you were going to run in to.”

Bill would serve in France for a further four months, then go on to the Ardennes and later join up with Russian forces on the Baltic Coast.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Sidmouth Herald visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Sidmouth Herald staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Sidmouth Herald account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Other News Stories

Yesterday, 12:54
Ian West completed the gruelling Tough Mudder challenge to raise £1030 for CLIC Sargent

A man who has battled cancer – and lost his brother to leukaemia - undertook a gruelling 10-mile obstacle course to raise £1,030 for a charity that supported him and his family.

Read more
Yesterday, 09:01
Trustee member Adrian Ford and chairman Rachel Johnstone presented flowers to June Waters on her last day as a volunteer at the Sid Valley Memory Cafe.

A widow has backed the Sid Valley Memory Café’s Admiral Nurse Campaign after marrying twice and seeing both husbands suffer from dementia.

Read more
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Josh Gutierrez will soon be heading off to Cambodia where he will take part in a VSO project. Ref shs 7653-34-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

A university graduate has quit his job to go and help families in a struggling third world country.

Read more
Saturday, August 29, 2015
A vintage teddy donated to Jeannie and John's appeal

A couple’s appeal to raffle off teddy bears to thank a prostate cancer charity has captured the imagination of the town – and revealed the impact of the little-discussed illness.

Read more
Friday, August 28, 2015

Sid Valley residents are being warned to be on their guard against fraudsters claiming to offer a discount or rebate on council tax.

Read more
Friday, August 28, 2015
The Red Arrows at Sidmouth. Ref shs 5777-35-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

Pictues:

Read more
Friday, August 28, 2015

Police are appealing for information after a ‘suspicious man’ approached a young woman waiting for a bus by the mini-roundabout in Newton Poppleford to ask for directions.

Read more
Friday, August 28, 2015
Ian Hartnell of the P4 Drivers Guild Devon hands over a cheque to John Fowler and Phil Shepperd of the Sidmouth lifeboat. Ref shs 2544-34-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

A show of classic British cars netted £1,000 for Sidmouth Lifeboat - and the petrolheads were eager to learn about its new tractor.

Read more
Friday, August 28, 2015
Straightgate Farm, Ottery St Mary. Ref sho 7761-07-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton

The public will have chance to express their views on sites earmarked for extraction of minerals across Devon as part of a 12-week consultation.

Read more
Thursday, August 27, 2015
County Hall in Exeter.

District leaders could form part of a ‘unified front’ alongside other South West authorities in a move that would see the region gain more independence from Westminster.

Read more

Local Weather

Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 15°C

min temp: 13°C

Most Read News

Great British Life


Great British Life

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

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Sidmouth Herald e-edition today E-edition


Devon's trusted business finder