Coventry veteran Harry Sale, 87, survived some of the most dangerous missions in the Second World War – serving with 46 Commando Royal Marines in the D-Day Landings in June 1944 and the subsequent battles that brought about the liberation of France from German forces.
He recalls: “I was only 18 years old when I joined the Royal Marines in January 1942. I’d wanted to be a pilot really but the RAF was fully-recruited and I was told to go next door and sign up for the Commandos. The training was incredibly tough but it prepared us well for D-Day.
“We didn’t know what our mission was exactly until we boarded our ship two years later and left port in a huge convoy of cruisers, landing craft and destroyers. My unit landed at Juno Beach on D-Day + 1 and under heavy fire, we managed to capture a German strongpoint of pillboxes and coastal guns. We took 65 prisoners, linked up the other landing points and helped with the push into France.”
In the days that followed, 46 Commando Royal Marines were involved in a number of perilous missions to liberate inland villages, most notably Rots, where 22 of Harry’s comrades were killed and 30 were seriously wounded.
“Fighting with the Canadians, we defeated the SS Panzer Grenadiers and Hitler Youth movement in house-to-house battles for control of Rots,” he continues. “We lost a lot of men that day against some of the most fanatical fighters I ever saw. They were no-doubt brain-washed and prepared to die for their leader.
“I was also involved in a night assault on the strategic ‘Hill 112’, just outside Caen. This was a heavily-defended German outpost that was key to the capture of the towns that surrounded it. After surviving other battles and skirmishes thereafter I ended up at the port of Dunkirk and the next episode of my service began.”
Harry was also involved in the allied advance through Holland and Germany towards Berlin. His battalion was the first British troop unit to cross the Rhine in 1945 and his last mission was a successful crossing of the River Elbe as victory began to loom large. A blast from a German grenade injured his thigh and brought about an early return from the front line.
He is returning to Normandy in June with his son and daughter thanks to an award from the Heroes Return 2 programme. Whilst there, he plans to visit cemeteries and memorials in Rots and other nearby villages, paying respect to those who fought bravely beside him but did not return.
“There are only about ten veterans remaining from those that I fought alongside all those years ago,” he concludes. “I’ll be travelling back with some of them and would like to thank the Big Lottery Fund for my grant. It’s something that I’m very glad to be able to do and I’d urge others in my position to do the same.”
Filed under: ceremony, Heroes Return, memorial | Tags: BIG, Big Lottery Fund, funding, Heroes Return
As the nation prepares for ceremonies to commemorate the heroism of a special generation on this Remembrance Sunday (Nov 14th), the Big Lottery Fund announces its latest round of funding made today across the UK enabling veterans to embark on poignant visits back to the places they saw action almost 70 years ago.
Since launching in April 2009, the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return 2 programme has enabled more than 11,300 veterans, widows, spouses and carers in the UK to go on emotional trips, home and abroad, to honour and remember those that did not return from the battlefields of 1939-1945.
These are very special people and as Remembrance Day approaches we are glad that we can pay tribute to them in this way. A huge debt of gratitude and recognition is owed by today’s society to the men and women who fought across the world during the Second World War. They built the peace and protected the freedoms we enjoy today.
Filed under: ceremony | Tags: bell, ceremony, Larry, memorial, netherlands, Weert
The bells – more complex and quieter than ours – have been ringing out real wartime tunes. Imagine a piano with small bells instead of strings.
The veterans have returned and are getting into the old vehicles here to go to the memorial.
I overheard Larry say “We are being treated like Gods. We must be careful. ” I think they are really appreciating being real guests of honour.
Many speakers at the book event earlier were quite emotional. This act of being liberated obviously affects people greatly – even a generation or two later. That is what the UK doesn’t really know perhaps – directly.
Anyway sunny, a big wide town square, dominated by this high church, lots of people sitting out in the cafes and this real feeling of a town wanting to welcome the veterans. .
It’s very humbling to be here.
Filed under: ceremony | Tags: centre, ceremony, civic, Larry, netherlands, veterans
Filed under: ceremony | Tags: centre, ceremony, civic, Larry, netherlands, Weert, Wesley
Here now. Arrived two minutes ago. This is where the Town Mayor met everyone this morning. The band play to about 50 people seated. Speeches and Wesley is presenting Larry with a copy of the book he has written about the war history here. He told us over lunch he want’s to join the Army and war history is an important part of training.
Larry and his fellow veterans still look great in their blazers and medals. JP our cameraman has been admiring the cameras of three or four news crews that are here too! I expect this will be on the tv tonight.