Marine Edward Salthouse

 

Unit : "E" Troop, No.45 Commando

 

My section being first off, we were in the fore hold of our landing craft. So many of us crammed into a small space with the rough seas, nearly all of us sea sick. We were in a mess, the smell awful, not allowed on deck, lack of space and all the flak flying about – it was dangerous. We took turns poking our heads out of the hold to look at the beach. What a sight – just like a giant firework display, the noise was tremendous, a sight never forgotten.

 

We hit the beach. The two ramps went down. A few of us started down the ramps but the skipper had made a slight error and we found ourselves going over the side of the ramps into deep water. The skipper had a second go at the landing and the rest of the troops went ashore without getting their feet wet. Meanwhile the few of us were struggling not to drown. Being up to our necks in rough seas with 80lb packs on our backs, being constantly knocked off our feet had not been part of our training. Eventually I crawled ashore. I stood on my head to get rid of all the water as it was making it hard to move very quickly. I was in pretty poor shape to fight a war. I had no weapon, it had been lost at sea. There were plenty of weapons I could have used, the owners not having any use for them but I could not bring myself to take one. It felt like I would have been leaving them defenceless. I did acquire a rifle later. Getting off the beach as quick as possible we made our way to our rallying area, marshy ground. Fortunately the mortars (moaning minnies) dropping near us were not causing any casualties. The soft ground was smothering the shrapnel.

 

I was part of Lord Lovat's 1st Special Service Brigade, 45 Royal Marine Commandos. My troop "E" (Easy Parachute Troop), all troops specialised in something. Our objective on D Day was the Monville Batteries, a back up in case the Airborne didn't do the job. We had two men drop with the 6th Airborne, Lt Peter Winston and Marine Donald. The idea being that they would link up with us at Pegasus Bridge with the latest information about our targets. Unfortunately both were taken prisoner. Peter Winston did escape, made his way back to England and rejoined us several months later. Sadly he was killed in action in Germany.

 

Although in the hands of the Airborne, Pegasus Bridge was still a dangerous place. Our C.O [Lieutenant Day] was wounded crossing, evacuated back to the beach and received another wound whilst waiting to be shipped out. My Sgt wasn't so lucky either. A sniper put a bullet through his neck. I think maybe he was the first Green Beret to be treated in the Café by the bridge [This was Sergeant Hepper; he survived the war]. Our orders now were to attack Monville. This proved to be very costly in lives, 25 dead plus all our wounded on top of the previous casualties.

 

Our heavy packs were causing problems. They were self sufficient, three days supplies of ammunitions and rations. However they were slowing us up so it was decided to dump the packs at the side of the road and carry what we could in our pockets. This was a decision we came to regret. With the heavy fighting the ammunition got a bit low. During the night a patrol set out to retrace some packs. No luck – Jerry had been there first and booby-trapped the lot. From then on every shot had to count. At the end of the day we were low on men and ammunition.

 

So ended my D Day.

 

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