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For today

An oddity of timing meant that close family – even of the correct generation – weren’t involved in the events of 80 years ago. One Grandpa was career RAF (and a distinguished pilot with it too) but by age spent the war running flight engineering depots (Colerne, for example). The other was a doctor and Home Guard Major – and GM.

Their varied children were all too young to be directly involved – Pops was career RN but joined in 1951 (?).

But one I’ve been told did go ashore this day being remembered.

Charles Baerman.

A great uncle. Posted to NI as part of the build up and met there Granny’s sister, Kathleen Murray. Their son, Paul, also a distinguished military career (Silver Star etc in Vietnam, would have gone much further if not for Type I diabetes).

Only met Charles the once (for a couple of days, they came to visit) and he was a very grumpy bastard by that point. Fairly too, already been operated on at least once for what was to kill him.

But, you know, this day ‘n’ all that. Thanks Charles, thank you very much.

27 thoughts on “For today”

  1. Help! I saw an obituary in the last few days and I wonder whether anyone can direct me to it. (I’d like to bookmark it.)

    It involved some British troops who had been dumped on Omaha beach. The subject of the obituary was (if I remember it correctly) a doctor. He, with the help of the padre, started treating American casualties.

    After some time the padre rallied a little squad of Americans and led them on a successful attack on a route off the beach.

    Does anyone know where I could find this again, please?

    P.S. My father invaded France on D+6.

  2. DM – was it Flt Lt Richard Rycroft?

    “There were about twenty American Soldiers…lying in holes in the shingle. They had only received elementary first aid and after twelve hours in the open were in some cases severely shocked.”

    So reads the medical report from Flight Lieutenant Rycroft, one of few British personnel to land on Omaha Beach on D-Day and the only medical officer available to tend to hundreds of casualties.

    Rycroft’s story, and that of the Royal Air Force radar party he landed with – No. 21 Base Defence Sector – is little-known today but is deserving of more recognition.

    Rycroft had arrived to chaotic scenes on D-Day’s most notorious beach, with heavy US casualties strewn across the battlefield and no sign of the medical organisation he had expected, US medics having themselves been caught in the crossfire.

    Rycroft’s unit also came under fire shortly after landing, with personnel forced to take refuge in hastily dug foxholes and under vehicles for several hours until the bombardment stopped.

    Throughout this time, assisted by one orderly and the unit padre, Rycroft tended to the RAF wounded and many Americans, who had only received basic first aid since their early morning assault.

    By 9.30pm, the wounded had been attended to and could be transported to locations more sheltered from enemy fire. Rycroft was to have no rest however, as he continued to treat patients through the night and into the next day. By the time he downed tools, he had worked for 48 hours straight.

    Rycroft received a Military Cross for his actions on D-Day. An extract from the citation reads: “He set an example of great courage and devotion to duty and was responsible for saving many lives.”

  3. Martin Near The M25

    My Dad was in the Navy, escorting the troop ships in.

    God knows what he’d think of the state of the country now but I’ll be thinking of him and the others who served there today.

  4. My father was slogging through the jungle on the India/Burma border, with 153rd Independent Gurkha Parachute Brigade, having just kicked the Japanese out of Kohima.

    Like the rest of the 14th Army , he had a slightly cynical view of the war in Europe.

  5. Bloke in North Dorset

    My father was in the Fleet Air Arm in the far east, he was always a bit resentful that they were the forgotten ones, although he didn’t hold it against those who fought, it was the press and politicians who revived his ire.

    What really wound him up was the holding of a GE without them being told, the first he knew of it was learning Churchill was no longer PM, they were still fighting and nobody seemed to care.

  6. One of my grandfathers was in the RAF in the Far East, but all I can find out about him is a reference to “Administrative And Special Duties”.

  7. Thanks, Steve: just the job.

    I’m still learning new things about The War, partly because my father was loath to say much about it.

  8. Also for today, fvcking, fvcking cvnts. Murphy would no doubt also want their pockets to be felt by Customs officers for import VAT and excise duty liabilities

    “British paratroopers who dropped into Normandy ahead of D-Day commemorations were met by French border officials.

    Hundreds of soldiers jumped into the same rural drop zone which was used on D-Day 80 years ago on Wednesday.

    Footage shows soldiers wearing camouflage combat gear walking towards a temporary customs check and producing their travel documents.

    French security officials, who were standing behind a wooden desk with two laptops on top, then checked their passports.”

  9. I’d guess my dad would have been somewhere in Borneo on 6 Jun 44.

    Luckily the American generals felt that only Americans could make real soldiers, so Australian veterans were sent to fight in minor secondary theatres.

  10. My Dad was a young man in the Navy, just conscripted the year before…

    He was manning a 20mm Orlikon on HDML 1411 and scarred for the rest of his life by the events of that day…

  11. Recusant: My Dad was a navigator in the RAF in India and reading his log book he was dropping SEAC newspapers on the front line for those guys at the time. However on 6th June he was hanging around at an airfield in Calcutta because his aircraft had hit a vulture on approach the previous day which badly damaged the wing. He was back the following day to Comilla (now Cumilla) near the Burmese border to continue the newspaper drops, then a flight a few days later to pick up General Slim. Not as glamorous as fighters or bombers but he came home.

  12. Looking at his logbook, Dad (RCAF Pathfinders) was in a Lancaster on ops against Longues-sur-Mer dropping markers, for 3:05 of night-flying. Supporting the Brits at Gold Beach, I suppose.

  13. @BraveFart:

    “Alexa: Show me an example of the word ‘graceless’.”

    For context, since Brexit I have been to Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Poland, Portugal and Spain. I have never once had to show my passport.

  14. I’d guess my dad would have been somewhere in Borneo on 6 Jun 44.

    Not unless he was a POW, Boganboy, and the rest of your comment seems to indicate otherwise. The liberation of Borneo didn’t begin until May ’45. It was quite the Australian D-Day type operation; a mammoth undertaking and certainly not minor.

    I doubt the yanks thought lowly of fighting Aussies. There was some political inclination to not have US forces engaged in the restoration of imperial colonial holdings, so they possibly felt Australian forces should be kept together for this type of operation instead of spread out over various theatres.

  15. @ dearieme

    Mark Felton did a piece on the British group at Omaha beach. Plenty of general filler (which at least shows the serious non walk in the parkness of the whole scenario) but still a good look at their involvement. Not least being that despite their terrible diversions through the bloody chaos they still managed to complete their mission and get their radar operating after three days.

    Quite a good channel if you want to learn about the lesser known aspects of WWII. Though some is pretty trivial at the level of Hitler’s Dog’s Nazi Walkies Outfits.

  16. My grandfather never spoke about the war to me – I never knew what form his service took.

    My ex-wife’s grandfather took part in the 1944 invasion of France (not sure where he was on D Day itself). He, too, never spoke much about those days but he had a very, very poor opinion of the US army.

  17. And thanks to you too, PJF.

    Mr Felton passed rather quickly over the horrible cock-up of the USN launching its swimming tanks too far from the beach so that almost all sank. The PBI therefore had virtually no armour in support.

    On the British beaches the RN launched closer in (2000 yards rather than 5000 yards) and so got most of their tanks into action.

  18. “The other was a doctor and Home Guard Major – and GM.”

    GM? If that’s George Medal then respect very much due.

    One of my Grandpops worked as an engineer in the oil industry. A Reserved Occupation, and he played a part in the development of PLUTO: Pipe Line Under The Ocean, first laid a few weeks after D-Day from IoW to Cherbourg then later from Kent to the Pas de Calais. Quite a thing to support those facing grave hazard.

  19. Yep. GM. Actions during bombing etc. Read the file of citations (stories perhaps?) once. Made me very glad indeed Mum had been born before the war.

    One was collapsed house, woman trapped in basement, house burning down around her. Beam had trapped her leg, leg was v smashed up. So, firemen dig a little tunnel. Gpops has rope around his feet, lowered into hole with his instruments. Amputates leg, hauls woman up out of same hole by being dragged backwards by his feet.

    Really not sure they make them like that any more.

  20. @moqifen

    Yes, thank you – I’m a member of The Medusa Trust and have been on board her… Very moving to think of my Dad in the same setting all those years ago.

  21. As PJF says. Mark Felton youtube channel is very good. I’ve learned a lot from it, especially the missing Vulcan which could have bombed Argentina

    When 1st Vulcan bombed Falklands runway Argie conscript to mate:”Holy mother of God, how big are their aircraft carriers?”

  22. PJF

    You made me curious, so I checked the campaigns of the 9th Division.

    According to wiki, they had a nice break in Oz from Jan 44 until the invasion of Tarakan Island in Apr 45. So I’m happy to note that dad must have been swanning around on the Atherton tableland on D-Day.

  23. . . . the horrible cock-up of the USN launching its swimming tanks too far from the beach so that almost all sank.

    My recollection of reading about those losses was that there was also an unexpected complication of wind and current that led to waves primarily hitting the sides of the canvas “boats” instead of the front. All the beaches and approach waters had been visited and assessed several times by combat engineers and other specialists to check such things, but there was an occasional current direction change at Omaha that was missed. And, of course, it occasioned at just the wrong time.

  24. @PJF: and if the USN had gone into 2000 yards the risks of such surprises sinking all the tanks would presumably have been lessened.

    Beevor discusses the problem in his book D Day, and also the problem of the cowardly cocking up of the bombing of the German defences.

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