Thursday, June 05, 2014

'D' Day Dad

My father was the Navigator on board HMS Argonaut in 1944.
He was one of the first to know the date of 'D' Day when he sent this Top Secret 'Chit' to key Officers.

This is his story:-

HMS ARGONAUT - Our Task in the Invasion off GOLD Beach

On D-Day 1944 I was aged 27 and Navigating Officer of a fast modern cruiser, HMS ARGONAUT, armed with a powerful battery of eight 5.25-inch dual-purpose (air or surface) guns. At 0515 as dawn broke we reached our allocated position as one of a line of 35 Allied cruisers, battleships and monitors, each of which had been tasked with putting out of action one German coastal battery. We were tensed up expecting a hail of enemy fire but to our surprise all was quiet, we anchored and I fixed the position of the ship. Another surprise was that our spotting Spitfire circling over our battery reported no sign of activity. However it was not long before the next cruiser to us, HMS AJAX, asked for our assistance in knocking out the German Naval Battery on the cliffs at Longues-sur-Mer. This consisted of four 6-inch guns in massive concrete emplacements. History records that AJAX and ARGONAUT fired 179 shells at the battery, scoring direct hits on two of the guns and finally silencing it by 0845. This was the only German heavy battery to return the attacking ships' fire on D-Day. Too huge to demolish it remains there to this day, and photos of it have appeared in the recent flood of D-Day media coverage.

There were further calls for fire from our forward army observers on shore or from Spitfire spotters. We moved about off the Normandy coast for a further 4 weeks, firing a total of 4,395 shells at enemy targets. We re-ammunitioned once in Portsmouth, but by the end our guns were so worn that they all had to be replaced before our next operation which was in support of the landings in the South of France on 15 August 1944. The Germans admitted that the cruisers' fire was very effective, e.g. on one occasion we destroyed Tiger tanks about 10 miles inland.

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