6th June 1974.

The above date and the month (6/6) are probably quite well-known to most people, especially the sad bastards like me who read military history.

The year however will not mean too much at this time…….but read on and all will be revealed.

30 years to the day a combination of the date, month and year was extremely significant to a few hundred young men who were  part of Rhodesian Army Intake 139, destined for their National Service with the Rhodesia Regiment at Llewelyn Barracks near Heaney Junction outside Bulawayo.

I was part of Intake 139, and I don’t think my fear was any different to any of those brave men who were going to land on the beaches of  Normandy……..the ones with the unforgettable names….Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.  On a different level I was just as shit scared as those brave men must have been……..and Llewelyn Barracks was also to become an unforgettable name.

There is no argument that the scale of the threat in 1944 was different, but the knowledge that certain death from an enemy bullet could be around the corner must have been very much the same.

There was the sound of a car horn from downstairs……the taxi had arrived to take me to the pick-up point.  I was on my way……it was a cold and gloomy day outside.  And it was raining again……”guti“…..a soft mist of refreshing happiness from the sky.

My first Cap-Badge-The Rhodesia Regiment

My first Cap-Badge: The Rhodesia Regiment

D-Day……Part 1

December 8, 2009

6th June 1944:

In November, 1943, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt met together in Teheran, Iran, to discuss military strategy and post-war Europe. Ever since the Soviet Union had entered the war, Stalin had been demanding that the Allies open-up a second front in Europe. Churchill and Roosevelt argued that any attempt to land troops in Western Europe would result in heavy casualties. Until the Soviet’s victory at Stalingrad in January, 1943, Stalin had feared that without a second front, Germany would defeat them.

Stalin, who always favoured an offensive strategy, believed that there were political, as well as military reasons for the Allies’ failure to open up a second front in Europe. Stalin was still highly suspicious of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt and was worried about them signing a peace agreement with Adolf Hitler. The foreign policies of the capitalist countries since the October Revolution had convinced Stalin that their main objective was the destruction of the communist system in the Soviet Union. Stalin was fully aware that if Britain and the USA withdrew from the war, the Red Army would have great difficulty in dealing with Germany on its own.

At Teheran, Joseph Stalin reminded Churchill and Roosevelt of a previous promise of landing troops in Western Europe in 1942. Later they postponed it to the spring of 1943. Stalin complained that it was now November and there was still no sign of an allied invasion of France. After lengthy discussions it was agreed that the Allies would mount a major offensive in the spring of 1944.

General Dwight Eisenhower was put in charge of what became known as Operation Overlord. Eisenhower had the task of organizing around a million combat troops and two million men involved in providing support services.

The plan, drawn up by George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, Bernard Montgomery, Omar Bradley, Bertram Ramsay, Walter Bedell-Smith, Arthur Tedder and Trafford Leigh-Mallory, involved assaults on five beaches west of the Orne River near Caen (codenamed Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah) by the British 2nd Army and the American 1st Army. Follow-up forces included the Canadian 1st Army and the American 3rd Army under Lt. General George Patton.

Juno was assigned to the Canadian Army. Canada contributed 110 ships to the invading force, 14,000 troops, including paratroopers, and 15 RCAF squadrons of fighters and fighter-bombers. It is estimated that Canada contributed about 10 percent of the D-Day invading force.

The invasion was preceded by a massive aerial bombardment of German communications. This resulted in the destruction of virtually every bridge over the Seine.

On 6th June, 1944, 2,727 ships sailed to the Normandy coast and on the first day landed 156,000 men on a front of thirty miles. It was the largest and most powerful armada that has ever sailed.

The Allied invasion was faced by 50 divisions of the German Army under General Erwin Rommel. At Omaha, steep cliffs favoured the defenders and the US Army suffered 2,500 casualties.

The Allies also sent in three airborne divisions, two American and one British, to prepare for the main assault by taking certain strategic points and by disrupting German communications. Of the 23,000 airborne troops, 15,500 were Americans and of these, 6,000 were killed or seriously wounded.

Over the next couple of days 156,215 troops were landed from sea and air in Normandy, at a cost of some 10,300 casualties.

Soldiers waiting to be parachuted in France (6th June, 1944)

Soldiers waiting to be parachuted in France (6th June, 1944)

And the rest is history……..listen closely to the words of “Say Goodbye To It All” by Chris de Burgh……study the photo above closely, imagine what they imagine……think their thoughts……. and it will bring a tear to your eye……if it doesn’t you are a sad, lost, and empty soul…..Fox.