Interview by Peter John, 12 November 1999.

Bookmarks  Called up / Colonels / Stripes / Dai Rees / The landing / Beuville / Good manners / German attack / War prize / Z Company / Y Company / Death of Rees / Warwicks on 7 June / Death of BernsteinHouse clearing later in the war / Close fighting in Normandy / Looking back

Go to Commanding Officer, Col. Jack Maurice obituary / Norman Millward and Howard Duddell interview / John Roberts interview / George Bunting interview

Bob Littlar, summer of 2000. Photos by Chuck Solomon.

Mrs. and Mr. Littlar

The hills of  Herefordshire  where he walked with his father before entering the service.

Robert Littlar
X Company, 2nd Battalion KSLI, Corporal on D-Day. He had been called up in 1943.

Q:  On D-Day, you’d been in the Army for a little over a year?

Mr. Littlar:  Yes, I think so. I was among the first of the 18-year olds to be called up, in March 1943, when we had to surrender ourselves. I asked to go in the RAF, but I ended up in the Army.

Q:  Did you have any say where in the Army you were to go?

Mr. Littlar:  None whatsoever! We were sent to an ITC, which was an Infantry Training Centre, and I ended up at Brecon. I left there after the first six weeks, having put on a bit of weight, I think, and we went off to Shrewsbury, which is the Depot for the KSLI.

After another three months, roughly, anyway August-time, because we were the 18-year olds, and they liked to send you overseas at 19 rather than 18, I was sent to the 2nd Battalion, which was in Scotland. We joined them at a place called Locherbie. There were about 38 of us in this group, all kids like myself, and we all arrived there and were allocated to the best company in the Battalion, X Company, John Roberts’ Company, only he wasn’t the CSM then, that was Yank Allen, who became the RSM when we went operational.

The old boy who had been the RSM was sent back to the Depot: they cleared the older ones out. They’d put the Colonel there to sort the battalion out, to get us into a state fit for action.

I believe before that the Brigade, 185 Brigade, had been lorried infantry for 79th Armoured Division, “Hobart’s Funnies”. We got taken out of that lot, and reconstituted in 3 Division with our Brigade, and replaced them with the Guards Brigade, who had been Dunkirk casualties.

One chappie told me we’d been on our way to Italy, because we went to Callender, which was the embarkation port, but they called us back.

Q:  Have you heard since that was due to the Canadians having kicked up a fuss about being left out?

Mr. Littlar:  I hadn’t heard that. We got called back to Locherbie, anyway, and did a lot of training, and I should think we were very well trained, but we hadn’t met an enemy! Even the old regulars put us kids right: I remember my old Sergeant saying to me, “You think you know all about weapons, don’t you? You don’t know a damn thing: I’ll show you.” Because you don’t just use the weapon for what it’s allocated for, you know, you use them for all sorts of things. It was an education.

I understand from someone I’ve met in the last few years, at the Divisional Battle School at Moffat, he said, “I had your carriers up here, and I could teach them nothing: they knew it better than I did.”

Our Colonel was an expert mortar man. I understand the Anti-tank Platoon, they had 6 anti-tank guns, were about the best in the Brigade. At the exercise at Moffat, which was a scheme of the “hedgehog” defence position the Germans had created in Normandy, they certainly destroyed that.

Our Colonel, Col. Maurice, he was a gentleman. We had a Colonel called Pat Davey when we got to the Maas, and he knew how to fight Germans. He was ruthless, the best Colonel we ever had—he was a young man, and entirely different. He was only 28, and had all the officers out on P.T. at 8 o’clock in the morning—no messing about! He insisted they all use after-shave, all that sort of thing, but my God he was tough!

Q:  Where had he come from? Was he a KSLI man?

Mr. Littlar:  No, he was a DCLI man. He was 28 when the war finished. He was a very good Colonel, our Col. Maurice, but whether that was a good thing I just don’t know. We had another Colonel after Col. Maurice - he was all right, but he got blown up on a mine in Venray, the next bloke did.

Q:  You were a Corporal when you landed in Europe: how long had it between your being a raw rookie, and getting your first stripe, then your Corporal’s stripes?

Mr. Littlar:  When I left Brecon after 6 weeks, a bloke said, “There’s a potential officer in this lot: who is it?” I found out later that was me, so when I was Shrewsbury and on a ‘tester’, a WASBE, I didn’t get through, I was told I was probably a bit too immature. I still wanted to be a “Boys’ Own Paper” sort of bloke! The chap in charge in said, “I want you to try again in six months, when you’ve got a bit more experience.” So I told the Colonel when we were at Locherbie, and he sent me down to Edinburgh for the next one.

I must have thought I’d sooner get into an OCTU, and get out of this blooming landing, if I can help it. If I could get 6 months in an OCTU things might have got a lot less sticky!

I didn’t get it, anyway.

I’d gone down with another chap who was commissioned in the field in our battalion, actually. He’d just seen his cousin the day he’d got shot up. [NOTE: This was Cpl. Millward, MM, and his cousin Mr. Norman Millward] He got shot up himself on the Maas later on: I’d said, “You want to watch it, boy, these boys are SS officer cadets, and they’re absolute mustard.” He took a platoon patrol out and was badly wounded.

To get back to your question, I got made a Lance-Corporal at Locherbie as soon as I’d come back, and I don’t know what happened when we got down to what they called J-5 near Lewes, but I was made a Corporal there, and my Lance-Corporal said, “Well good luck to him; he must deserve it.”

I was given a new section then, and a new platoon commander, who was later killed in Square Wood. He was another public-school boy, a gentleman, by the name of Dai Rees, a ruddy good officer actually. He got killed on D-Day night.

Q:  This was coming back in after a patrol?

Mr. Littlar:  Him and his sergeant and me: I was next to him at the time. Our carrier platoon took him down with a burst of machine-gun fire. He’d been given the pass-word, but he was a bit slow in answering—about 5 seconds too slow, and our sentries weren’t taking any chances.

I think it was that night or the next one, in our company position, the bloody fire that went off …. All by mistake, as they thought there was somebody in one of the orchards. It was all machine-gun fire, it was horrendous.

Talking to my Lance-Corporal, Davies, he was in charge of the Bren group, and I’d got the best Bren-gunner in the battalion: this was on the day of the landing: when we got into the concentration area just short of the T-junction where you go up to the Periers Ridge, in a bit of an orchard, the mortar fire or shell-fire was bursting in the trees, and the shrapnel was coming down, the Lance-Corporal was nicked, and he started to ooze a bit of blood.

“That’s it,” he said, “I’ve got a Blighty!”

“You’re not going to blooming well leave me?” I said.

He was experienced, of course: he knew all the ropes, every twist, “You can’t just leave me with this lot!” But he was gone!

“Cheerio!” And he was gone!

Anyway, I got this bloke who was the very good Bren-gunner, he got wounded at the same time as the chap who was wounded with the platoon-commander, got killed the same night. We were both lying on the ground as we were trying to take the Lebisey Ridge, which was on the Friday night the bombs were dropped on Caen. It was absolutely black with debris: when we started we were 8 kilometres away, and by 3 o’clock in the morning we were right on the Ridge, and they were dug in everywhere. I think we’d made three attempts.

Abbo who was with me, he was wounded, he’d had the Bren gun shot away from him, that was how rough it was, a bullet had smashed the butt of the Bren when we were out in the open. I said, “Go back, Abbo”, but he said, “I’m bloody well stopping behind you, it’s the safest place!”

Just then, a Schmeisser opened up behind us, and I thought “It’s not safe anywhere up here!” We were trying to crawl up to this position where the Spandau was, and I’d got my head where his knee was, and I heard this belt of fire coming across the ground. It just cut him in two: I heard the breath go out of him, and I lay as still as a flipping mouse.

After a bit I rolled over him, and got into a bit of a ditch at the side of the lane, and got away from there eventually. What there was left of us, I said to old Thorney, “What the bloody hell are you going to do with what you’ve got left?”, only I didn’t use such polite language at the time.

There were only about 40, certainly less than 50, left out of the Company, and he said “Put the yellow triangles out and keep your head down!” This was for the Warwicks from the other Division, 49 Division, I think, who were coming up through us, and that was as the light was breaking.

When we eventually got the stretcher-bearers up later, they told me that my companion had died with a 36 grenade in his hand with the pin out, so again I was lucky.

Anyway, I was a section-commander then. We started off with two companies up, X Company on the left, and W Company on the right, them slightly behind us. We went up the first ridge, and there was a hell of a lot of mortar-fire, and machine-gun fire. I’ll stop there.

Coming in to land, in the morning, our right-hand ramp turned over. They shoot [the craft ramp] forward down to hit the ground, well it didn’t hit the ground, ‘cos we were up to our blooming necks in water. A Midshipman or something from the LCI ran a rope from the hand-rail, and he stood on the beach and took the weight while everyone got off. Everyone had these fancy gas-cape-type trousers which were full of water. I was carrying a German bayonet which had been cut down for me, and had a 9” blade. I was using this to slice the blokes’ behinds to let the water out to lessen the encumbrance.

We got up to the sea-wall, and were using this for a bit of cover, as there was just a bit of a dip. My Sergeant came up and said, “You can’t win the war staying there. Come on, and bring your blokes with you!”, because I’d got with me at the time about ten bangalore torpedoes in my group.

So I got the blokes out from under the wall, and we got cracking on to the road, the axis of advance.

Bill Baines, who’s a Lieutenant-Colonel now, he was a Lance-Corporal of Police at the time, he was standing on the corner, and said, “This way!” He was directing us due South, of course. We got in about a mile perhaps, over the bit of land just behind the immediate coastal strip where it’s a bit boggy, and just then a German bomber plane came over, and he was dropping oil-bombs—the original napalm, I suppose. I thought to myself, “My God, he’d going to catch us right in the open!”. He was only dropping them, not machine-gunning as well, fortunately. I saw the first one burst so I shouted, “Those bangalore torpedoes, into the left-hand ditch quick, and lie on the road, and hope he misses us!”

Well, he did: he dropped one before us and one after, and we were through the wire anyway, so I decided to leave the torpedoes where they were.

The next thing I can remember is that we got up to our concentration area, in an orchard, in Hermanville, at the North end of the village. Then the CO put X Company on the left and W Company on the right, and we went up the ridge.

Q:  How did you go up? Did you use the road?

Mr. Littlar:  No, we completely opened up. It would be a sight to see, absolutely what you would call English battle-order.

The Colonel went up the right, I think. This would be about 1 o’clock, I’m guessing. We went down the other side, and I saw on my left flank guns that looked like 5.5”s, but I know now were more likely to have been 88’s, and these were being pulled by trucks. I said to my Bren-gunner, “Can you reach ‘em, Abbo?” As I’ve said, he was mustard, better than anyone in the battalion. They must have been 1800 yards away, and he said, “Just about.”

So I said, “Right, see if you can take out the first truck.” He was just setting up in what had been a German gun-position, when up comes the Second-in-Command, and says, “What are you doing, Littlar? You’re wasting your time”

“That lot over there, Sir!” He said, “Get on the axis and go!” Well, you can’t ignore an order like that, so I went off.

As we got down, coming into Beuville, there’s a tiny little stream and a bridge, and we had to come down to cross it. We came down , and came on to the road—we shouldn’t have done, I suppose—and I was on the left of the road.

W Company were just over on the right, just about to join us. A bloke called Gisser Owen came round the corner level with me, but I was on the inside of the bend so not visible from the church (I didn’t know it was a church then), and a sniper got him with an incendiary bullet, caught him right in the ammo. We were carrying extra ammo, you see, round the waist. Well, the sniper got him in the ammo, and the lot went off. What a way to die!

The next thing I saw was Major Slatter, and he’d presumed it must have come from over the wall, from a biggish house on the right, so I saw he was hit then, and I saw him change the grenade from one hand to the other and sling it over the wall.

I’d thought it must have come from a house on the left, so I immediately opened up with my Sten, and took all the blooming windows out!

Old Dai Rees came up and said, “Never mind about that, cross the road to the right, and we’ll do a couple of Monty’s Hooks: we’ll leave this to W Company.”

There were three tanks with us then—the first tanks I’d seen that day—Shermans; the Captain in charge of them was talking to Dai Rees, and said he’d just seen 38 Jerries go into a house 3000 yards away, and I remember thinking, “Pray God don’t let’s go after them: leave them where they are!”

We were out in the fields and orchards, and got the order to get cracking again, and off we went. It’s more or less ribbon-development along that road now. We came in opposite the school, and there was a big farm on the right which I don’t think is there now.

Under the shadow of the wall, the platoon got there, and Dai Rees said, “Right, over the road, take that house!” Well we were all blacked up, we all had camouflage-paint and made up so that we looked like Red Indians, so I took the section across the road (We were still complete except for the Lance-Corporal, of course).

That was the only time I ever knocked on a door! In my best schoolboy French I asked “Allemagnes?” The girl just screamed, of course, so we dashed straight in, and the blokes behind me in true house—clearance mode, they were in after me like a flash and straight up the stairs—as soon as the door’d opened up they were straight in, and on up the stairs, and were down again in no time to say the house was clear. I got the blokes out to the south side of the house through a hedge where we lined up, and I could see Jerries 400 yards ahead of us

Q:  Organised troops, or individuals?

Mr. Littlar:  Individuals. I thought “What the hell are we going to do now? Dig in, I suppose.” The Sergeant called me back across, and told me to bring the lads back again, and the next thing we did was another right hook, out into the country, to avoid everything.

We came in immediately to the South, right on to the Epron road, which was to the north of Bieville. There was a little track there, there was an orchard to our left, there was a farm-house with a well, and the road went off down to join the main road which comes from the coast into Caen.

If you go a bit further on that that now, there’s a great big stone stuck up on the right-hand side of the road, stuck in the ground, which says “This was the furthest point British troops reached and they consolidated here.”

It wasn’t, actually. If you go another 100 yards you turn right into Caen golf course. One of the local blokes when we went back for the 50th., he said to me pointing out a little copse, “That’s Square Wood, you know.” That really was a terrible place too, terrible .….

You start to climb then you go over a culvert then and start to climb, to climb towards Lebisey.

When we got to what I said was the school—it was only a little private place—it would have been about 4 o’clock, it didn’t take us long to do our right hook, we went into the south of what there was of Bieville, and he called us in.

I think we were lying along the line of the road mainly, and I saw the anti-tank guns come up, our own anti-tank guns. I said to a bloke from South Wales, a man with much more experience than me, “Trouble coming up, mate!” This was the Jerry counter-attack, of course.

Well, I didn’t know that at the time—I hadn’t seen any German tanks by then, but obviously the Colonel had seen something. They opened up and took out two Mark IV’s I believe, and then the Germans got the range and took out two of our anti-tank guns, but then veered off, I gather, to where our main anti-tank boys were waiting for them on the Periers Ridge.

When we were in the orchard, and just beginning to form up, we were getting shelled, and at that point I suppose the Colonel, or it may have been the Brigadier, sent off Z Company and told then to “Go and deal with that!”

My own Company Commander told me years after that the Z Company Commander was the brainiest bloke we’d got in the battalion —he was on accelerated promotion and all that sort of thing—well, it took him until 9 o’clock, the light was going, to subdue it, to get in and get the remainder to surrender. Our company had 30 casualties. They didn’t come back to the battalion until the next day, so Maurice was down to three companies, and with about 130 casualties, 30 to each company, he hadn’t got a lot.

I’m going back now to where the tanks were attacking in Bieville. I think it was a bit of a worry as we were on the right hand side of the KSLI, not the furthest forward, as I think W Company were slightly further forward.

On this Epron road (I digress now), there was a German jeep stopped, and my Welsh mate says, “I’m going to take a look in there, Bob, you cover me.”

“I’ll cover you from 25 yards with a Sten, and I’ll shoot anything that moves, but I’m not coming nearer than 25 yards in case the whole thing goes up!”

Well, I went with him, and this was a bit up the Epron road, and there was a dead Jerry in there and a dead lass—obviously a Spitfire or something had got them. I covered him, lying in a ditch, and when he came back he said, “I won two pairs of silk stockings, Bob: I’m going to send them home!”

When we got back to the platoon, we were ordered to consolidate in this orchard, which was more-or-less square, so we had one section dug in along each side, with Company headquarters right up the farthest forward, nearest the Jerries.

So we dug our holes, then we had to line this blooming road again and wait, I’ve no idea why, and I saw Y Company come down in perfect formation, absolutely opened up, like a text-book field-day, going up the Lebisey Ridge. There was one tank firing, and I know it was one because I could see the tracer going from it, one tank only in support.

They only got to within about 35 yards from the front of the wood, or most of them, anyway. There was one of these water-towers overlooking the wood, and somehow this had failed to have been knocked out, and I’m sure Jerry was using it as an observation-post. That was the sort of the sort of target that was allocated to the Navy - in fact, we had a Naval Liaison Officer, a Lieutenant-Commander, attached to us, but he got knocked out himself on D-Day. Perhaps that’s why they never got the water-tower.

Since then, one of the Y Company signallers has told me that, in fact, the leading section did get into the wood. Major Steel was killed there, though I didn’t see it. It was all a bit of a shambles, and they came back after dark.

Q:  Do you think your officers, at that early stage, were trying to be “too brave”?

Mr. Littlar:  Well, they certainly became more cautious as we all got more experience.  Hardly any of them had seen action before—perhaps they were just a bit too rash early on. We certainly seemed to lose a lot of officers. The penny had certainly dropped for our CSM, as he made it his business to go round the NCOs and tell them to cut their tapes off: I didn’t wear rank badges ever again after, as this helped make us less conspicuous. Apart from their badges, I think the officers would have been conspicuous due to their revolvers—perhaps their map-cases as well.

We stayed put in the orchard overnight, and there was a ghastly cock-up when Dai Rees and his patrol came back during the night and got taken down by our own blokes when they tried to get back into our position. I don’t know exactly what happened, as I was the opposite side of the copse. Everybody was pretty much on edge after the counter-attack, and we were half-expecting him to have another try, this time with ground troops. We’d been machine-gunned by three Me-109’s at last night, so it was obvious he knew where we were all right.

I didn’t say earlier, but as the light was failing, and Y Company were still hung up on the ridge, we were ordered through W Company into another coppice and formed up, our lot, for an attack on the ridge. Fortunately for us this was called off, and we were sent back to the positions we’d just dug.

In the farmyard nearby, the FOO, he was a South African, Tooth if I remember his name was, had a tank in the yard as radio link.

Anyway, next morning the Warwicks attacked about 8 o’clock, up the Lebisey Ridge. Their Support Company got detached somehow, and got nearly into Lebisey, where they were shot up good and proper. There was no artillery support at all. The Norfolks had to go in in the afternoon to try and extricate what was left of the Warwicks. I spoke to the FOO about this later, and he swore they were being rationed on ammunition, and had been told to reserve this to cover the Airborne on our left. As far as we were concerned, we stayed put all day: the shelling and mortaring stared about 7.50, and just kept on for about 12 hours.

Something which happened that day concerned a bloke named Bernstein. He hadn’t been supposed to have been with us at all, he was a last-minute replacement. What had happened was that after we’d embarked in Newhaven on the Saturday, it all got too much for one of our blokes, and he’d shot himself through the foot using the blank ammo we still had. We didn’t get live ammo till after we’d sailed on the Sunday. Anyway, this bloke was hustled off a bit quick, and there was time to organise a replacement, this Bernstein.

This day I’m telling you about when we were being steadily plastered, Bernstein got hit and killed. We buried him in the ditch on the left-hand side of the road. A few days later we dug him up again, because his mother had written asking if we’d been able to remove the rings he’d been wearing. For some reason, I’m sure he’s still there, too: I got in touch with the War Graves people a few years ago, and they told me they didn’t have any record of anyone called Bernstein from our lot buried in any of the cemeteries, so I reckon they missed him when they were clearing up afterwards.

The next day we were sent back to dig positions in Beuville Chateau for Brigade HQ. The best bit about that was finding a dead German with a bottle of Calvados in his knapsack, which my blokes didn’t take long to polish off.

After that we went back up to the line, and were eventually relieved after 5 days. We got sent back somewhere near the artillery positions, so it wasn’t exactly restful. We had a new Brigadier on D+5.

 Q:  Did you have any problems as a very young Corporal in a section of men most of whom were a lot older than yourself?

Mr. Littlar:  I didn’t have any problem with any of the Regulars or the older wartime soldiers. I’d established my kudos in the unit early on, when I’d had a fist-fight with a Lance-Corporal who thought he’d try and push me around just because I was a youngster. As it worked out, we were hard at it when I was sent for to appear before the CO, so the others stopped the scrap and cleaned me up pretty quick, and I don’t think “authority” ever realised what had happened.

In my own section, too, after I’d got my Lance-Corporal’s stripe, when we were out on a scheme in Scotland and the blokes were absolutely starving, because I’d got a map I was able to go into a village and buy us some bread, and I think they thought I was all right because of that, as well.

Q:  How did you see yourself in the chain of command?

Mr. Littlar:  There was never any doubt about that: we NCOs ran the men, while the subalterns’ job was to run us!

In the field, the men’s motivation was based on respect—which worked both ways, I suppose. Our tactical formation was as a combat group of about 25: we’d “sweep to contact”, then immediately hit the deck. Our first priority was to suppress the enemy’s fire. Instructions between groups were passed verbally.

Q:  What sort of relations did you have with the French civilian population?

Mr. Littlar:  Not a lot! I didn’t seem to run into many people at all, not after our first house-entry on D-Day. I suppose we were a bit wary, because we were never sure of strangers at all. I can remember buying cheese when we out at rest at St. Aubin, so there must have been a few around …. I can remember a Captain or Major being shot in the village street in Bieville a few days after the landing, and we suspected this was by civilians.

The village was sealed off that night and thoroughly searched: they found two Jerries, but not until nearly morning. They’d stayed behind, and had radios. I’m fairly sure we had almost no contact with civilians. Just as well, perhaps, as we certainly had no gentlemen left by the time we’d crossed the Seine.

Q:  Could you clarify the matter of personal armament: I was slightly surprised to hear you refer to your Sten gun.

Mr. Littlar:  A Sten was a ‘perk’ of being a section commander! Everyone else in the platoon, except the Bren No. 1, would have a rifle. I think the only time we had to carry bangalore torpedoes was on the day of the landing itself, and I wasn’t half glad to get rid of them, too!

I think I mentioned earlier our FOO’s radio-tank in the farmyard where we were holed up for the first 5 days or so: there was a well in the yard, which we’d thought was under reasonable cover, and we were using it to get water. We lost a number of men at that well - they were being sniped. When Tooth realised this, he took five of us Corporals, with Stens, to find the sniper and winkle him out. It took a while, but we got two of them eventually, and that seemed to sort out the problem.

Q:  Had you had much training for house-clearance, or house-to-house fighting?

Mr. Littlar:  Not a lot: we did some street-fighting in an area of bomb-sites in Limehouse, in the East End of London, and we’d done some house clearance in Edinburgh and Glasgow. When we were in the J-Camps, I seem to remember we had to climb up the outsides of three- and four-storey buildings.

The time I remember we had to put all this into practice was in Dreye, outside Bremen. There were Jerry flamethrowers at the top of this street, and we were working up towards them with a platoon in the buildings on either side—I was a Sergeant by then (I’d got my third stripe after the Goodwood operation), and I was controlling both platoons. It hadn’t started out like that, as the other platoon had started off with their own Sergeant, but he’d been sent for urgently while we were in the thick of all this.

We’d got to the end of the street on my side, while opposite they were still one house away from the end. Jerry seemed to have cleared off, and the senior Corporal on the other side shouted that his men were going,

“Job done,” he said.

Something made me insist they check the last house as well, and it was just as well, because it looked clear but somebody realised that the stove was still warm.

They hunted about a bit more, and found a hidden way into a cellar, which turned out to be the Jerry Company HQ. We got 18 Germans up from there.

In Normandy, the action I remember most for close engagement amongst buildings was when we were fighting our way into Caen - into Colombelles, the industrial district, with a lot of railway sidings and warehouses. We were the lead company, the leading section had just got the other side of an alleyway, but then Jerry opened up so my section got into a building, which I got the lads to loophole.

Jerry was no more than 30 yards away with MG 42’s, sited at low level with camouflage nets over the approaches. We were pretty much pinned down.

My platoon Sergeant decided that the only way we were going to make any headway was with a mortar, so he broke through until he found one of our 2” mortar crews and brought them back to our building. They managed to shoot the Jerry machine-gunners out, but it was all a bit hairy.

Q:  How much experience of close co-operation had you had with the tanks before the invasion?

Mr. Littlar:  Absolutely none, as far as I was concerned. The battalion might have had some before I joined them, but I don’t remember anybody talking about it. I’m fairly sure the first operation we did with tanks was “Goodwood”.

Q:  When you look back now, would you go through it all again?

Mr. Littlar:  I’ve certainly got a very different outlook now from what I had as a youngster. My father had been in the First World War, and I remember him taking me up into the Herefordshire hills soon after I’d got my call-up papers on a glorious day. We stopped somewhere where there was a wonderful view, and he said “That’s what you’re fighting for”. It sounds corny, I know, but I definitely believed I was fighting for my country.

There was no real choice, of course, but I wasn’t reluctant to go. Looking back, I still think we had to do it. You tend to forget the sheer terror.

I go back to Normandy fairly regularly, there’s a bunch from the Carrier Section of the Herefords (they were in 159 Infantry Brigade, 11 Armoured Brigade) who meet locally, and I go over with them—we always seem to have a good time.