Cyril Roach in Gibraltar, 1946.Cyril Roach
A British military marching band, 1944. Cyril Roach is second row, third from right.Cyril Roach
Landing Ship, Tank (LST) aground on Sword Beach, Normandy, 6 June 1944.Cyril Roach
Dutch Resistance 50th anniversary reunion. The Netherlands, 2005.Cyril Roach
British landing ships moving troops upriver to Paknam, near Bangkok, Thailand.Cyril Roach
"I will be quite honest with you, the moment we were landing, I thought, whose mother’s son dies today? Not just our own boys, but our enemy as well."
My name is Cyril Roach and I was born on the 21st of October 1924. I went through training and I became an engineer officer aboard an LST, which was a double-decker landing ship, which was used at the time of our landings in France. On June the 5th, we were destined to leave from Portsmouth [England], with troops. We landed on the three beaches – which was at that time deemed the British sector [Sword Beach].
On D-Day, we arrived in France, having left the Isle of Wight on the night of the 5th of June, about 11 o’clock. We arrived off of Le Havre, which was in the sector near Ouistreham. This of course was the point where troops were landing, with the objective of Caen. On landing, the ship dropped the anchor a half a mile out and we then put full speed ahead onto the beaches, so that we were able to land the troops and light equipment, which supported also part of the [British] 6th Airborne Division, as well as other contingents of the army.
At that time, we were being shelled very heavily from the high ridge over Le Havre and the sea was full of ships, as far as you could see and there were thousands of aircraft, overhead - bombers, fighters - and many of the gliders that were towed in, to support the landing of the ground troops.
However, at that time, shortly after our arrival, we started to unload and there were three Messerschmitts* that then strafed the beaches. Regretfully, we lost many men. I also was injured at the time. However, I survived, I’m happy to say.
I was the engineer officer aboard that ship. I was a senior, second-in-command and, of course, we had stokers in the engine room. All of my crew were actually Canadians from out west. And they did an excellent job. But, of course, the most important thing was, that at the time, the diesels were 1,500 horsepower diesels that drove the ship, twin screws. And, my responsibility was to ensure that we – the equipment, everything was fully operational.
I will be quite honest with you, the moment we were landing, I thought, whose mother’s son dies today? Not just our own boys, but our enemy as well. I learned unfortunately that Hitler Youth were in exercise in that general area and those boys were only 14, 15, 16, just kids. They never saw their homes again. However, I can only put it just the way I saw it. And the time was – the action, one… I can’t say I was scared. I was just doing my job. And my boys did their job. And like everything else, when you’re called into action, you have to concentrate on what you’re doing and also to ensure that we survived and looked after the boys when we picked them up. But, it wasn’t a day that one will forget. I assure you.
*German fighter aircraft