Corporal Arthur Good

 

Unit : No.3 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade

 

Arthur Good first entered the military following the withdrawal from Dunkirk, joining the Home Guard. Aged 17, he was too young to join the Army and was rejected on these grounds when he applied at a recruiting station on the 26th October 1940. Following a subtle hint from the Sergeant on the desk, however, Good, like many others in his predicament, went for a short walk before returning and claiming that he was 18 years old. The following month he was posted to the 70th Buffs. As a Holding Battalion, the men of this unit were allocated to other units when vacancies arose, or were able to volunteer for the more elite formations of the Army. Arthur Good applied to join the Parachute Regiment and the Glider Pilot Regiment, but after being rejected from the latter he instead joined the Commandos, and upon completing the rigorous training course he was presented with the much prized Green Beret and assigned to No.3 Commando. In January 1943, the Commando sailed for North Africa and in July of that year participated in the invasion of Sicily. The following is Arthur's account of his role on D-Day, beginning with his departure from Sicily.

 

'On Xmas day 1943 we were in Algiers loading the ship for home. Landed at Liverpool on the 5th Jan 1944, rested the night and set off on leave for 19 days. Before going on leave we were told to report back to Worthing in Sussex, where digs had been laid on with civilian households. It was fantastic to be on leave in England, to sleep in a bed again and live with a roof over one's head. During the leave I became engaged to Joyce and before going back off leave arrangements were put in hand for us to be married soon.'

 

'In Worthing I settled in with a very nice friendly civilian couple along with three other Commandos. The usual drill went on from then on; training and more training. We didn't have phones in our houses in those days but I had arranged with Joyce that I would ring a certain public phone box at a particular time each night and it was in this way that we arranged our wedding. When the date was fixed people were invited, church laid on and the usual catering problems were overcome (thanks to Joyce). The next task for me was to apply for leave. This seemed academic but the 'OC' to whom I had to apply referred me to the Officer commanding the Commando. This was unusual and I sensed a problem. Upon being interviewed I stated my case and the CO shook his head and said "No". I said "But everyone is invited, church and everything laid on". He said "I should not tell you this but on that date you will be on extensive training in Scotland; but when we get back you will be the first man on leave". I had to accept this and that evening on the public telephone had to tell Joyce to postpone arrangements until later.'

 

'We arrived in Scotland and did a severe two weeks training then back in Worthing when the CO was true to his word and I went off home and was married. We had a wonderful leave. Joyce was allowed off munitions work and we both went to Worthing, with Joyce staying at my digs for a week. We obviously had to travel across London to get to Worthing and Joyce hadn't seen London before so we spent several hours browsing round the popular spots. It was around seven o'clock when we used the Tube and Joyce was amazed to see the Londoners getting their beds down along the platform. In 1940 they didn't allow people below ground during an air raid but they eventually had to give way due to the number of casualties on most nights. We eventually arrived at the main line station and settled down on the journey to Worthing via Brighton. Alas when we arrived at Brighton there was an air raid on and all trains to Worthing etc, were cancelled during the raid. We had no idea how long this would be so we settled on the Worthing train to await results. The raid went on beyond midnight and the station was hit with incendiaries, shrapnel etc. The glass roof was shattered, glass falling all around. We just hoped that the station wouldn't get a direct hit but there was no safer place to go. At this stage we gave a lot of thought to the Londoners whom we had seen getting their blankets and belongings together and settling down for the night on the platform of the tube stations. They would somehow have to prepare for work next morning. How did they wash? How did they feed? However did they manage to do anything? It could only be sheer determination.'

 

'The raid finally ended and we settled to sleep until 5 am when the train was due to move off. When we arrived at my digs the people had been waiting up for us and (bless them) they were quite decent about the delay. The sojourn in Worthing was very enjoyable but Joyce had to go back home to work and I had to continue training. She (Joyce) managed to spend the odd two or three days at Worthing but security was getting tighter and it was a case of dodging the civilian and military police to avoid her being sent back away from the South coast. If you were not resident for at least twelve months you were considered a security risk. (It was on one of the many training trips to Southampton that I had reason to report sick (a bit of the jaundice returning). The medical officer suggested that I rest in the Medic tent for a day or so, and so it was that I spent my 21st birthday alone in a tent). However, back to Joyce. She managed to stay until we (the Commandos) had cleared our digs and paraded for another of the many trips to Southampton. We paraded at 0500 hrs and the roll call echoed across the Village green as we cleared.'

 

'Though we knew something big was coming off we didn't (until later) realise that it was for "D" Day. Joyce of course had to go back home (the police insisted) and it was at home a week later that she learned of the "D" Day landings. It was whilst we were in the transit camp in Southampton that the whole picture began to form. The many practice landings which we had done (it was during one of these practices that the fiasco happened at Slapton sands when so many poor Americans lost their lives. We were supposed to come in on a beach near Southampton and I thought that we had strayed too near the French coast. It was pitch dark and a terrific amount of shell fire seemed to be heading for us. The information went round, landing abandoned ("E" boats), and so back to our tented camp somewhere near Southampton. We also had time to think about the hundreds of thousands of Army vehicles which had lined the streets throughout the South of England. It was obvious now where they were heading.'

 

'On Sunday 4th June we had been briefed on our particular jobs (after landing). We paraded, loaded on to the TCVs (Troop carrying vehicles) and headed through the barbed wire etc to the perimeter gate. We halted there, a long confab went on, we then debussed and went back to our tents oblivious to what was happening. Played cards etc and the following afternoon (June 5th) went through same procedure again. We arrived in a narrow country lane leading down to Warsash, debussed paraded in a field and were served a reasonable mess tin dinner. Had a few cigarettes, lounged a while and then marched (full kit and parabikes) down to the jetty and were allocated our LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry). The WRENS were there to check us aboard (I noticed a few tears). (Name rank number etc) and we quickly boarded and were ordered below. Once below there was little to do but lounge, so I played cards. At approximately midnight I felt the throb of the engines and thought "Ah well, this is it".'

 

'Later (about 5 am) I went up on deck and was amazed that even though it was dark I could make out thousands of ships of all shapes and sizes threshing towards the enemy. It was cold so I went below and just (uncomfortably) lounged. Later, when I thought it was light I went on deck again and I was even more amazed to see the thousands of ships threshing through the water but now guns were blazing and the noise was terrific. At the rear (some ten miles) the monitors were firing their 15 inch shells and as they went over there was a sound like an express train rushing overhead. Other guns had opened up and flashes were appearing from the sea and from the shore. I repeat the noise was terrific.'

 

"D" Day - 6th June 1944

 

'"Right Lads, kit on and up on deck". That was the sergeant as he leaned over the companion way. I had been up on deck earlier at about 0500 hrs. It was cold, breezy and there was little to see but silhouettes of hundreds of ships of all types threshing through the water towards France. We had seen it all before when we were going in on Sicily last year. One of the lads said "Cold up here, lets go below and get the cards out", and so it was that I was doing quite well at Pontoon when the sergeant's order broke up the school. Stuffing the occupational French franc notes into my battle dress blouse I stood up and proceeded to check my Tommy gun, grenades etc. I then put on my equipment. Having made sure that my Section was ready we started to climb the steel steps to the deck. It was very much lighter now on deck and the LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) was heaving somewhat but nothing to worry about. Looking around I was amazed at the number and types of craft in view, battleships, destroyers, corvettes and landing craft of all types. Shells were exploding on shore, in the sea and on ships etc. The noise was deafening. Some of the craft were on fire, some were sinking but most were still ploughing on. Overhead I could hear the constant sound (like an express train) of the Monitors 15" shells from some 5 miles to the rear heading for the defences on shore.'

 

'"Thats it Lads open them up for us". Was the general shout from our lot. Then the command "Stand by" brought us back to the job in hand. I went forward, my section (12 men) following to the steel steps which would soon plunge forward as the LCI ploughed into the beach. "Right lads, when we hit the beach, get clear as soon as possible and head for the road up ahead". All were very tense (it was the first time for some of them) but we were all eager. I was now at the top of the steps, full kit on (which meant, Tommy gun, hundred rounds of .45 inch ammunition, 4 grenades, not forgetting shaving kit, clean vest and pants, cigarettes and a parabike on which were strapped six 3" mortar bombs) waiting for the bow of the LCI to plough into the sand and shingle which was fast approaching.'

 

'When this happened the craft stopped dead, catapulting me down the steps at a fair rate. I hit the beach in about 2 feet of water, the bike somersaulted and I landed on my chest. I was quickly afoot and running for the road which I had seen earlier. Most of us made it but others were hit by shrapnel, rifle or machine gun fire, some toppled off the side of the LCI, went into the water and didn't surface. I was repulsed and saddened but unfortunately nothing could be done. It was hard going up the beach and I was pleased to reach the little cover which the edge of the road presented. We were soon reformed and as Jerry seemed intent on demolishing the edge of the road under which we crouched it was obviously time to move. On the command we went across the road and dived for cover on the other side, but alas the enemy had flooded the fields beyond the beach and we plunged into about 2 feet of water, another soaking but at least the water was having a cushioning effect against the mortar bombs and shells which were dropping in profusion. The water stretched for some quarter mile and in the distance we could make out shrubs and bushes which would afford some cover. We were ashore, casualties were fes, "half the battle lads, half the battle".'

 

'The noise was more apparent now, shells and mortar bombs crashing from two sides but mainly from the right. It seems that Jerry was still concentrating on the beach but had spotted us and so it was on the move again. Across the flooded field we waded heading for the sanctuary of the copse ahead. Fortunately few casualties due to the cushioning affect of the water. "Arch look at this". It was Alf shouting and pointing to his grenade pouch which was burst open and yellow powder was streaming down his trousers. A shell splinter had hit the grenade, broken it open but had missed the detonator which was fortunate for both of us. Chas was not so lucky, he had a piece of shrapnel in the throat and went under the water.'

 

'The copse was reached; reassemble and push on over dry rising ground towards the "Bridge" (River Orne and Caen Canal). Near a church another hold up, Paras inform us that snipers are still active from the vicinity of the Church. We all wait and civilians pop their heads up from ditches and from behind shutters. Bit of commotion up front as two French girls, one blonde and one brunette start screaming and gesticulating. I don't speak French but it transpires that their boy friends are holed up in the spire of the church and sniping. We wait a short while whilst the artillery line up on it. Two or three shells and the spire topples - sniper fire stops. On we went towards the bridge diving for cover now and then until at last round a bend, there it was. Arriving at the bridge it was obvious to us that the Paras and Glider troops were still coming in for some stick and we assembled under cover awaiting the next move. "Right corporal, take your section over the bridge and cover us from the other side". "Watch it" yelled a glider officer "we are still under sniper fire".'

 

'"Right lads" I said "when you see me move forward follow and peddle like mad over the bridge". Half way across a German came running towards me hands held high. As we drew abreast he dropped like a stone. It seemed to me that he had been shot by a sniper who had me in his sights as we drew abreast. We reached the other side and formed a covering position until we were joined by the rest of the Troop. About a quarter mile further on the Captain received a radio signal and we were told to rest in a hollow and unload the mortar bombs from our bicycles and await the arrival of the mortar section.'

 

'Whilst lounging there I realised how tired and hungry I was, but I was able to review the day's events. Running down the L.C.I. steps and conscious of others falling over the side to disappear under the water, looking back on the beach to see some lying, waving and shouting, some were staggering and some were lying very still. The lads who were hit whilst wading through water and they were ignored as we pushed on. I saw two elderly people dressed in night attire running to across a field, then a puff of smoke, a flash and I didn't see them again. Diving into a ditch to avoid shell and mortar fire and finding the others had done the same thing previously, but they were still there, lifeless. The irony of war; I dived into a ditch alongside a more or less new BMW motorcycle and I couldn't afford a decent push bike. Germans, French civilians and British soldiers were still lying where they had fallen, and French people coming out of their houses waving but totally bemused at the day's events I had no idea at this stage what casualties the Allies had suffered. We were warned to expect that we would lose about a third. Back to the present and I thought, "tis no wonder I'm tired and hungry"; I hadn't rested or eaten since last night and we were now about 12 or 15 kilometers from the beach. I ate a portion of dark ration chocolate and was promptly sick. Never could stand dark chocolate; back to the present.'

 

'It transpired that the Battery to which we were heading was now in the capable hands of the Paras and Sword beach was now safe from shelling from that direction. We were now free to tackle other objectives. The Captain decided that we would take the nearby village of "Amfreville" and gave the order for the mortars to drop a few on the village to soften things up a bit. Alas, as the bombs were dropped into the mortar barrels they wouldn't fire due to the soaking the detonators had received during wading through water.'

 

'We then dumped our bicycles and headed on foot towards the village. I didn't at this stage agree with the method with which we were approaching the village. I thought that at least we should send a couple of scouts in to reconnoitre the place, but it was not my do, I had to follow orders; however, experience had taught me to hug the wall at the side of the road and keep my section tight behind me. The road to the entrance of the village was as a bottle neck, the top end of which had a house wall on either side. Beyond this it opened out on to the village square. I hugged the right wall and to my left the Troop was going forward in extended formation. As soon as the first man was in view to the square and apparently to the enemy a machine gun opened up and the lad on my immediate left went down, the Captain had two through the wrist, his batman went down with one where he couldn't show anyone but me, the sergeant had one across the top of his head giving him a permanent parting whilst others had bits and pieces from bullets and about their person. The lad on my left had taken four or five across the stomach, one of which had obviously gone through the main artery. He dropped but only lasted a minute or so. We then withdrew to patch wounds and reorganise. It was then decided to send in a couple of scouts to weigh things up. On their report it was deemed safe to rush the place and take pot luck.'

 

'There was very little resistance in the village and we were soon in control. As we moved through we cleared any resistance, took prisoners etc and it was then decided that we had advanced to the required position to halt, dig in and await the arrival of the rest of the Commando Brigades. They had been held up more than we had because their job had been to clear up the villages, hamlets etc on route which had apparently cost them dear in time and men. However we started digging in on a line at the far side of Amfreville and I found myself on the far right of Number 3 Commando with the French Commando on my right. We were settling in when the enemy decided to attack. They came across the field in front in arrowhead formation at about 700 yards and of course everything opened up and we were pleased to see a few drop before their Commander decided that we were too much for them and they withdrew. By this time it was raining so we gathered we were in for another soaking. The French Commandos had taken advantage of the horses used by the Germans in the village that had been wounded and then shot; they could eat horse flesh, I wasn't that hungry.'

 

'As darkness began to fall we settled down in our slit trenches and hoped that the night wouldn't be too hectic. We had landed, fought our way 15 or so kilometers inland, and we were dug in. "D" DAY had drawn to a close. (Addendum - "D" Day is military jargon for a specific day on which any operation would commence and had no reference whatsoever to the myth published by the Media that "D" Day was meant to be deliverance day etc, etc. On any operation we went in at "H" Hour or "D" Day; which was a target that we could train for, weeks before the event.

 

"D" Day Plus One. June 7th 1944

 

'It was dark now and somewhat quieter and I was ordered to move to a position ten yards to my left. I moved (with my section) and started to dig in again amongst the brambles. In front was a natural rise in the ground which afforded a good amount of cover and below this I started to dig in. The object of digging in, was to stand in a trench up to waist deep and hope that when the bombardment started you could duck down and be more or less covered from shrapnel etc. The night was noisy, rain had started to fall, so we were in for another soaking and were expecting a counter attack at any time. At one time planes were heard and leaflets began to fall informing us that Yanks were back at home sleeping with our wives etc and that we might as well pack in, otherwise we would be pushed back into the sea before morning. We obviously ignored this and concentrated on the actual. During the night we had a mortar and shell bombardment every hour for twenty minutes. As daylight broke I was peering into the mist and I was fascinated with the jewels formed by the rain clinging to the leaves of the brambles etc. I suddenly noticed a particularly large jewel shimmering in the hedgerow and as I peered closer I was dismayed to discover that the jewel was in fact a pool of water in a man's ear. Upon closer inspection I found a dead parachute captain who had lost a foot and had died trying to draw attention to us. His trail was well marked in the wheat field behind him.'

 

'Throughout the rest of the day we were straffed at regular intervals always expecting a counter attack. At midday I was again ordered to move some fifty yards to my left, (reinforcements were obviously coming in on our right), I dug in once again and this time lined my trench with a parachute, (luxury). My bren gun as erected above the trench ready for whatever and with two to a trench we were able to rest and watch alternately. The bombardment was intense (twenty minutes every two hours) and there were casualties to move and tend after each session. Somebody needs the toilet (what toilet?)'

 

'At the far end of the field a couple of lads appeared carrying dixcies etc. food was in the offing. The lads came along the trenches dishing out porridge, bread jam and tea, what a party. When food wasn't available we managed with emergency rations warmed up over Tommy cookers, (a bit of heat formed with a tablet lit with a match). In this way I was able to make porridge, tea etc, providing you were covered from the rain.'

 

'During a lull I spotted a Chateau to my left and thought "there must be water" so I crawled along the hedge back and bramble and was surprised to meet up with mates from my ex troop and was able to check up on the latest news, casualties etc, then I crawled back with the latest news on my old mates and a small bucket of water. Just then Jerry opened up again and I had to make a dash for it, drop the bucket on top of the trench and dive in. The barrage was intense, two or three badly hurt and my bucket reduced to a sieve. On another visit to the Chateau I was surprised to see a beautiful young girl laid out on a bier on the front drive of the house. She looked so calm and peaceful and I can only assume that she had been put there to alert us to the fact that civilians too were suffering. There was a shell hole in the roof of the house under which was probably her bedroom.'

 

'After one barrage the usual call went out for stretcher bearers and the lad in the trench to my left was calling out. I crawled over to offer help and was surprised to see Ginger badly wounded with most of his bottom blown away. He was loaded onto a stretcher and away the lads went, running across the field. Unfortunately the rear bearer tripped and Ginger was tossed off the stretcher and rolled across the ground. Needless to say Ginger was dead before they got him to the aid post, five hundred yards to the rear. This sort of thing went on for about five days and nights which was totally alien to Commandos. We were used to going in, doing the job and out again. It seemed that we had gained about ten miles inland on a front of some one hundred miles and were to hold this at whatever cost until the necessary force of reinforcements had arrived to enable us to break out of Normandy. However they decided to pull us back from the front line (we had taken a stationary beating) and give us a break about a quarter of a mile back in the woods.'

 

'We rested here for a day (not free from the barrage but less troublesome) and then we started night patrols into enemy territory etc, etc. On one such patrol we had to check on a particular copse that was supposed to be manned by Paratroops. When we got there (in no mans' land) we discovered why communications had ceased. (The trenches, equipment etc, were blown apart). We hadn't time to bury them so had to leave, knowing that the graves commission would be along in a month or so. It was during one of these excursions that I discovered a field of potatoes. Two of us went back next day and under fire managed to get about a stone of potatoes. I also managed to lead a young bullock back to our clearing. He was butchered and a good meal was had by all. We didn't realise it but someone else had got to know and next day we received two geese with the Colonel's compliments, and did we have a bit of beef to spare?'

 

'On one occasion we went amongst the enemy at night, they were tired and snoring as we crept amongst them, but we came back with yet another prisoner. This went on for a week or so; we were slowly being whittled down and on one occasion my bren gunner along with the sergeant and myself were blown high as he stepped on a mine. The sergeant and I were fortunate but the gunner was gone. The sergeant and I couldn't take him back right away, but later on (evening) three lads went out and brought him in. The usual procedure, when there were any dead, was to set to after the night patrol and give them a burial in a shallow grave, put a stick at the head, and place their beret or steel helmet on it. At a later date, a month or so, the Graves Commission would remove them to a proper cemetery. In the meantime we were using the vegetable plot of a chateau and a spare plot on the village green of "Amfreville", as a burial ground. The gunner (Robbo) had been lying on the stretcher all night and as I picked up the stretcher at the rear end to carry the stretcher to the grave, the lad in front was too quick and lifted too high too soon, consequently four or five pints of blood laying in the stretcher poured back and soaked me from waist down. Robbo was laid to rest (in several pieces) then I took the stretcher to the nearby duck pond to wash it, myself and uniform. I waded in to thigh depth and managed a decent job, very wet but it was raining anyhow. We seem to have had a lot of rain in that June/July. I was alone and I shed a few tears.'

 

'Later, on a day patrol (two of us) it was my turn. I thought I had three Germans covered but unseen ones had me covered and opened up with a machine gun. I ran for it but before I reached cover I took one through the knee. The French commandos fetched me in and that was the end of Normandy for me. That night I was laid on a stretcher in a big marquee along with a score or so of others. Here we were looked after by lovely nurses in crisp white starched uniforms and white starched squares on their heads. They were the first females I had seen or heard for well over a month. I was lying (off the ground) with a roof over my head (albeit canvas) and it wasn't raining on my face. I had a blanket which was so cosy. I had been spirited from Hell to Heaven.'

 

'Next morning we were transported in a field ambulance over ploughed fields to a "make do" landing strip and flown to England. I have no idea where we landed but it was obviously some hospital where I had an operation to clean up my wound. They used penicillin (the latest drug to offset gangrene). During the next day or so I was moved up country and finally put on a train bound for Worcester/Hereford. I was dropped off at Worcester and ended up in Ronkswood Hospital. In the meantime Joyce received a telegram to say "Corporal A. Good arrived in U.K." She was obviously overjoyed until she saw PTO, which said "wounded, more to follow". The more to follow arrived after about five days and informed Joyce where I was. She apparently had no idea as to what extent I was hurt, so was left with the imponderables until she arrived at hospital. I was fortunate, the lad on my right had lost a foot and in the left hand bed Paddy had lost his leg. There were also several shell shock cases.'

 

'The stay in hospital lasted a fortnight or so and then to convalescence near Warwick. We were well looked after near Warwick, the house we were in was a huge country mansion in its own grounds. There must have been a holiday due (beginning of August 44) and I was able to book Joyce into a lovely country house belonging to a Mrs Wright. She was a very benevolent darling who unfortunately had lost her Pilot son during the battle of Britain. She was anxious to do whatever she could and would not charge. She made our stay most enjoyable. We visited Warwick, Coventry, Leamington etc, but Joyce had to return to war work.'

 

'When we went to Coventry we were able to see at first hand the result of the 1940 bombing raids. There was utter devastation, in particular we were astounded at the amount of damage inflicted upon the Cathedral. Completely shattered. My stay there lasted some three weeks after which I was sent to Trentham Gardens (Stoke). More treatment and then I was posted to the Holding Commando unit Wrexham (North Wales).'

 

'It was obvious when I arrived there that they hadn't a clue what to do with us and we milled around doing various odd jobs until in January 1945 I was sent down to Worthing to arrange "Digs" for the lads returning from Germany. I was pleased to see some of the lads again and was also very pleased that Joyce was able to spend time there staying at the house of a wonderful old couple who really took to Joyce over a period of a few weeks. Joyce enjoyed her stay at Worthing. There was Joyce, myself, a Captain Blay (ex Army), Mr and Mrs Hepplewhite (ex Customs & Excise) whom we referred to as Ma and Pa Hepp. Joyce got on really well with Ma and loved to help around the house and do Ma's shopping.'

 

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