Nine New Zealand veterans of World War II are due to spend their first full day in France touring the Normandy beaches tomorrow ahead of a series of events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the day allied troops stormed ashore in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Of the nine former servicemen, all aged between 89 and 97, three were on warships that played a supporting role on the great day and a fourth helped to land men ashore.
Post by Dave Homewood on Jun 4, 2014 18:49:17 GMT 12
It's sad to think only nine vets could make it, of the 10,000 or so who took part from New Zealand.
Also in the party of veterans are: Des Laurie (Spitfire pilot) Hugh Findlater Jim Kelly (landing craft driver) Neil Harton (small fast patrol boat sailor - he patrolled the French coast many times before the Invasion)
Six of the nine D Day veterans who left for Normandy by RNZAF Boeing 757 today served in the Navy; three served in the Air Force. The 70th anniversary of the Normandy D Day landings is imminent. Our Navy veterans served in RN ships protecting the invasion convoys, while the Air Force veterans engaged in similar protection work from the air.
Post by Dave Homewood on Jun 5, 2014 18:31:57 GMT 12
There were also RNZAF personnel who went in on the landing craft and landed on the beaches with the troops at Omaha Beach. They were specialist radar operators.
Another New Zealander who went in with the troops was Brigadier Hargest - not long after he'd escaped from a prison camp and made it all the way back to the Allied lines - only to be killed at Normandy.
But according to reports, historians and the internet, no New Zealanders set foot on Normandy shores on D-Day.
A Ministry for Culture and Heritage history website says, "no New Zealand ground forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, but New Zealanders like Jack Ingham were on the ships and planes that carried troops to France on 6 June - D-Day - and in the months that followed".
One Invercargill man disputes that and has the evidence to prove it.
Pity the first sentence doesn't actually mean the same as the second. I also wouldn't be at all surprised if there were some individuals who could have been reasonably described as New Zealanders (e.g. among the many thousands who immigrated in NZ in the decade prior to the war) serving in the British Army. The MCH phrasing deals with this correctly, as even Brigadier Hargest (presumably in NZ Army, seconded to the Brits) was not part of a 'New Zealand ground force'.
Note that the story doesn't quote MCH as saying they are actually going to change anything.
Post by Dave Homewood on Jun 6, 2014 14:09:55 GMT 12
Hargest was not the only one, there were also members of the RNZAF who went ashore with the first landing crafts, including Omaha beach. They were radar operators and were working with small radar units for the RAF. From what I've heard there were at least seven of these RNZAF chaps involved. My friend Richard Carstens interviewed one bout two years ago, who was living in the Hawkes Bay.
Early Warning Radar in Normandy - Normandy is approximately 80 miles from England. The Chain Home Radar Stations would thus give insufficient warning of enemy aircraft approaching the beachheads. Allied radar cover would therefore have to be extended. Three Landing Ships, Tank, (LSTs), were fitted with Ground Control Intercept (GCI) equipment, to operate off the beaches and warn the Headquarters Ships. This information would be used to generate air raid warnings and to direct anti-aircraft gun control. Two RAF personnel serving on these ships were LAC Eric Ingham and LAC Peter Read who were aboard Fighter Direction Tender 216 (FDT216) off the US Beaches. On D-day they were stationed off Omaha and Utah Beaches controlling Spitfires by day and Mosquitoes by night. FDT216 sailed on 5 June and the ship was sunk on D-Day itself. Vehicle-mounted mobile GCI stations were landed from the end of D-Day onwards to increase the radar cover across the Channel in order for the Allied Bridgehead to develop its own radar reporting screen independent of the UK based Chain Home Radars or the FDTs.