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Forces War Records Blog

NEVER FORGETTING THE D-DAY HEROES

Blogger: GemSen On this day 69 years ago allied troops were getting ready for D-Day, which took meticulous planning, and on the night of the 5th June six gliders towed by Halifax bombers took off from RAF Tarrant Rushton, Dorset, to capture two road bridges in Normandy.
 

Flying above units of the Royal Navy, airborne troops are seen over the English Channel on their way to Normandy as the spearhead of the invasion forces. In the foreground is a destroyer and on her starboard side are H.M.S Warspite and H.M.S. Ramillies. Source: Forces War Records Historic Library.

Operation Deadstick was the codename for the operation across the River Orne and the Caen canal which aimed to prevent the Germans from crossing the bridges and attacking the eastern flank of the landings at Sword Beach. The mission was vital to the success of the British airborne landings on 6th June of which many ordinary soldiers played a vital part and should not be forgotten. From the early hours of the 6th June soldiers stormed the beaches and the Pioneer Corps were ready and eager to tackle any job - their activities were wider than the majority of other soldiers. Pioneers performed many difficult and dangerous tasks during the early days of the assault, for which their varied training and wide experience proved invaluable. Typical of the young men who went to “simply do their duty” Ernest Mears of the Pioneer Corps played a significant role in the Normandy Invasion on June 6 1944 by landing with the Pioneer Corps to dig trenches and build shelters under fire. According to a recent report by the BBC, Mr Mears who had no family was given a military funeral by the Royal Norfolk Veterans’ Association and  now a group of veterans are taking Mr Mears ashes to Normandy with the hope of interring them there, in Bayeux Cathedral. The plan is to have Mr Mears ashes buried at the cathedral next year, which should make a focal point for next year’s 70th anniversary. Mr Mears was typical of the young men who went to “simply do their duty” said Norfolk veteran Jack Woods. “At the moment his ashes will be interred in a Commonwealth War Grave cemetery as close as possible to the beach he landed on,” added Mr Woods.

"We think there should be a representative of all the young men who went over there from all over our land. "There should be one ordinary guy similar to the unknown warrior to represent them and we think our Barnardo's boy Ernie Mears is the type of guy who would fit the bill."
Their trip has been made possible with money from the Big Lottery Fund and is part of The Heroes Return 2 Programme gives WWII veterans a chance to get funding to return to the places where they served. Since 2009 the Heroes Return programme has awarded more than £25m to more than 52,000 WWII veterans, widows, spouses and carers across the country for journeys in the UK, France, Germany, the Middle East, Far East and beyond. Alan King from Eye in Suffolk, who is also making the journey, said of the lottery funding programme: "I'm very grateful they're allowing us to go back again. "It was my generation that died there you see." Source: BBC Do you have any D-Day heroes in your family? Were any of your relatives in the Pioneer Corps? We're always interested to hear your stories - feel free to comment below. Maybe you are searching for more information on your family's military history - search the Forces War Records vast collection of records or take a look at the various war publications we have in our historic documents library where you will find lots of information involving World War II including D-Day.
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