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Howard Marshall had by now joined the ship. He was head of the B.B.C. organisation for D Day. His time on board was made a complete misery for him, but such is the penalty of fame. Any pause or dull moment was immediately overcome by "Oh, get H.M. to do one of his talks over the blower": He ran a quiz; he broadcast a running commentary of an inter-service darts match held in the wardroom; he talked; and finally he read out the inspiring messages from Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery,

The weather steadily deteriorated. This was quite normal. Just the same thing happened on the rehearsals, At midday on June 4th a cryptic code-Word was received. Captain Barry dived into the Naval instructions to find that the code-Word meant Operation postponed 24 hours'. A word on these naval instructions would not be out of place. They were contained in a volume three inches thick, and included every detail that could possibly be required. The story goes that at a high level naval planning conference in London one very senior officer referred to the massive volume as the "Eighth Wonder of the World". A voice from an equally senior officer at the back of the room was heard to say amid much laughter: "And the amendments will be the Ninth!"

On June 5th the weather showed slight signs of improvement and the weather experts forecast a greater improvement to come, but only for a short period. The Supreme Commander made the decision upon which the fate of the world would depend; we in H.M.S. GLENROY, together with all other ships and forces taking part, received the signal that June 6th would be D Day.

At 6 p.m. on June 5th, Force G (50 Div) weighed anchor and sailed west down the Solent. There was no hooting of ships' sirens, no cheering crowds, which, in the last war, so inspired the departure of the 29th Division from Mudros harbour for the assault on Gallipoli. It was just like another rehearsal. The ships moved quietly off in their allotted places. The Divisional Commander's ship BULOLO led the field, followed by the Brigade Commander's frigate H.M.S. NITH, We were third.

As we rounded the Needles, the evening sun shone on a perfect setting. The green fields of the Isle of Wight looked very calm and peaceful. In the distance out to sea two immense fleets could be seen moving eastwards up the Channel. These were two more divisions linking up for the assault; truly a noble sight. Above in the evening sky, squadron after squadron of the RAF flew to and fro giving complete air cover to the immense undertaking. All on board must have felt the greatness of the occasion.

The invasion force, consisting of about 4000 ships, concentrated southeast of the Isle of Wight, and then moved in the general direction of Le Havre. At 1 a.m. on 6 June the force changed direction due south for the approach to the Normandy beaches. The writer awoke at about 3 a.m. and went to the bridge to see if anything was happening. There was nothing unusual in our progress, the outline of the neighbouring ships could be seen, all moving at a steady twelve knots. The channel did not look particularly smooth, but the night shadows on the water tend to exaggerate the height of the waves. In the distance to our right and left front, there were signs of battle, star-shells and incendiary bullets were constantly flashing in the sky, but we were still too far away for the noise of battle to be heard. This activity we presumed to be caused by the American and British airborne landings taking place according to plan.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: Story of 2nd Battalion the Devonshire Regiment, 1944 Mar - June

Page: Page 10