Infantrymen of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders aboard LCI(L) 135 of the 2nd Canadian (262nd RN) Flotilla, 9 May 1944. William Kennedy served in a similar vessel, LCI(L) 301, on D-Day. Lt Gilbert A. Milne / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-206493Lt Gilbert A. Milne / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-206493
"So finally here comes D-Day and when daylight comes and I see all these ships and all the aircraft going over, and as we were going into shore, I could see these British cruisers firing their guns and that deafening explosion."
It was a corvette and the pennant numbers were K177. And the name of the corvette was [HMCS] Dunvegan. The short, at that time, the corvettes were short fo’c’sle [forecastle] and you’d walk from your mess deck to the galley, where the cook would serve the meals and then we had a meal called, we used to call them, “red lead and half-tallies”. Red lead of course was the [tinned] tomatoes and half-tallies were strips of bacon. And you’d be walking along when it was your turn to go to the galley and pick up that meal and that darned wind would be whistling right across that short fo’c’sle and it was a battle to keep the stuff on the damned plate.
I took an advance course in visual signaling and actually the ship left without me of course. I knew that it was a couple of weeks or whatever it was, I can’t just remember how long, and then I’d seen there was a bulletin at the signal school in Halifax. So I then went over on the [SS] Ile de France to [HMCS] Niobe in Scotland, in Greenock, Scotland, and I forget how many weeks I spent there training and then we took the train, naturally, from Greenock to Southampton [England] and went aboard this landing craft. And that was the LCI (L)-301, the 260th Flotilla.
So finally here comes D-Day [June 6, 1944] and when daylight comes and I see all these ships and all the aircraft going over, and as we were going into shore, I could see these British cruisers firing their guns and that deafening explosion. And we were - there was approximately 12 craft in our flotilla. And we were one of four in our flotilla to be the first to land - of this type of landing craft - on the beach at Normandy.
Now, the town we landed at was called B-E-R-N-I-E-R-S. And I don’t know if it’s pronounced [Bernières-sur-Mer]. What we did is we had the, when we ran up the beach, we would drop a kedge anchor at the stern and then when we disgorged - let our soldiers off, I think we carried about 100 soldiers - and they would go ashore and then we would wind this anchor and pull us off the beach. Alright, well, the third day of when we went in, they dropped the kedge anchor and they ran out of line. And here we are, high and dry on the beach. And so we had to wait of course for the tide to change. And so myself, and there must have been three or four of us, went ashore. And there was a British, I think it was a sergeant major or a sergeant in charge of traffic there and he said, what the H- are you guys doing here?
We had our little dog with us, a little beautiful black and white dog, must have been about seven, eight months old. He made us leave the dog there and he said, get back into that boat and he said, and he pointed to this doggone - there was a church there like with a tall spire on it - he said, there’s still snipers in that place. He said, we’ve gone around it and left it isolated and you know, we don’t know just what is in there. So he said, get back to your ship. But we didn’t, you know, we had to go see what the heck was going on and I remember going into this, it was a trench that they, on, from gun emplacement to gun emplacement. And in that trench, I looked on and the trench only seemed about, oh, I don’t know, two-foot deep or something. And I remember seeing two German soldiers there - dead of course - and one, and I can remember this so vividly, had a pencil in his hand. I don’t know if he was taking a message or delivering a message. And the other one not too far from where he lay dead was, I think they call it a potato masher, a grenade-type, hand grenade, type of thing.
And so then, and I remember seeing the cattle there that had been killed, because they’d been bombing the place by air for days and days and days. And they were all swollen up and they were lying there with their legs in the air, you know, and gosh, they were big as balloons - big, big balloons. And anyway, so then we went back to the ship, to our landing craft - it wasn’t a ship, it was a boat or a landing craft - and our commander, our captain, he was going to charge us with desertion in the face of enemy fire. And, of course, thank God the flotilla leader who was a lieutenant commander said, no, you won’t do that at all.