Veteran Stories:
Ian Mair

Navy

  • Ian Mair(far right) and three other sergents on leave in Alexandria from the 7th Battalion Royal Marines, 1943.

  • Anti-aircraft tracers over the harbour of Alexandria Egypt, as seen by Ian Mair, before sailing for Sicilian landings in July 1943.

  • Italian propaganda of the Partito Nazionale Fascista obtained by Ian Mair in Sicily 1943.

  • June 6th, 1944 D-Day landing map showing the beaches and defences to be maintained by Ian Mair's 48th Royal Marine Commando Unit. Ian was wounded and evacuted sixty hours after storming the beach.

  • Ian Mair and the 48th Commando unit landing at Walchensee in an attempt to open up Antwerp as an advanced port for the Allies, November 1944.

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"I will always remember the Monday night, 5th of June."

Transcript

My name is Ian Douglas Mair. I was with the 7th Battalion Royal Marines. After initial training in the south of England, we saw very little action in North Africa but we did help train some of the 8th Army Units for the Sicilian invasion. I was at that time, a sergeant in charge of a group of six three-inch mortars. After the end of the Sicilian campaign, where we lost about 20 men during that battle, we crossed over to Italy and on New Year's Eve, saw the greatest fireworks display you could have ever have seen when every ship in the harbour and all the anti-aircraft around the city, just let off their guns out of sheer exuberance rather than any threat of enemy action. We eventually went up further through Bari, Brindisi to Foggia air fields on the Adriatic coast. And we were withdrawn from the front lines in Italy in early February of 1944 to return to the United Kingdom. As we withdrew up through the mountains, we passed the Canadian Artillery Regiment digging out from three feet of snow. And none of us were properly clothed for that type of climate. We got back to the UK in mid February and, the interesting feature of that trip was we came back on the Canadian Pacific Liner, Empress of France. We had 4,000 troops aboard. And about ten years later, I came to Canada on the same Empress of France. And we had 400 passengers. Quite a difference. We did extensive and hard training in the UK in preparation for D-Day. I will always remember, what I call for myself, the longest day in my life. Where we embarked on landing craft infantry. We were one of the very few units that sailed all the way from the British shores to the Normandy shores without having to transfer from ship to landing craft. Our craft went right in on the beach. I will always remember the Monday night, 5th of June. By the time we were awakened at about four a.m., although not many of us slept, we were given pork sausages and beans. I'm convinced to this day that we were given that so we would all be seasick. And be glad to get off the landing craft. Every ship that was moving had a barrage balloon about 250 feet above. The whole sky seemed to be filled with barrage balloons. We were going in on the Canadian Beach, Juno, and we landed on the extreme left of it, Nan Red, with the Winnipeg Rifles. When dawn broke and we could see the whole armada. And out beyond us were the naval ships firing onto the mainland, where we were to land in about an hour. One felt that nobody could have survived the barrage that landed on the sea front. We were soon to learn that that was not indeed the case.
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