D-Day 75 Years On. Remembering Heroes.

Five years ago I published this post. Much has happened since then and for various reasons, not least the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, I have decided to re-post it in a slightly edited form. I do hope that you enjoy it and spare a moment to remember those who gave so much for freedom.

When Harley and I visited Normandy earlier this year we were privileged to be able to visit some of the famous D-Day beaches and contemplate the events of 70 years ago when the liberation of Europe from Nazi dictatorship began. Much is said about the actual landings on the beaches, but I mentioned then about the contribution that airborne troops also made to the operation. Sometimes I feel that this vital contribution is not given the full focus that it deserves, because without it the whole operation would not have been the success that it was. I am not decrying what happened on the beaches, merely drawing attention to the oft forgotten massive contribution by the airborne operation

In the hours leading up to D-Day itself, 6th June 1944, 13,000 allied airborne troops either parachuted into occupied Normandy or arrived by glider under cover of darkness. They had set out from fifteen airfields across southern England and crossed over the English Channel in a massive stream of 220 aircraft that was described as being nine aircraft wide and five hours long! Soldiers from all of the allied nations were involved, but the majority were British and American. Let me tell you a little about one of those American soldiers.

Daniel L. Reiling was a classic Mid-Western American kid, he didn’t have the easiest of starts in life, he never knew his father and at times life was a little tough. Determined to get on in life he joined the U.S Army as a career soldier. He progressed well through the ranks and married a good-looking girl from Chicago, named Florine, whose father owned restaurants and whose mother came from Britain. By the time that the war in Europe was raging Daniel was a Sergeant in the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. Soon he found himself and his men crossing the Atlantic to Britain on a troop-ship which constantly zig-zagged to dodge the deadly threat of Nazi U-boats. On arrival in the U.K. the troops were posted to various locations for more training and preparations. Some lucky ones managed to get leave, which Daniel did and took the opportunity to visit his wife’s family, though by all accounts the poor chap was suffering from influenza and spent a fair bit of his leave in bed being looked after by his wife’s uncle, my Grandfather William. You see now that there is a big family connection here!

Following his leave, Daniel returned to his unit and began the final preparations for the Liberation of Europe. His regiment was allocated to two airbases, RAF Membury and RAF Greenham Common. Unfortunately, we have not been able to ascertain yet exactly which one Daniel’s platoon was at. On the evening of 5th June 1944 the various airfields involved swung into action. At Greenham Common, General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, dropped in to encourage the troops. IMG_0343Men and equipment were prepared and loaded onto the C-47 transport aircraft which at the assigned time taxied to the runways and began to take off. Sergeant Daniel L. Reiling and his men would have been dressed in full combat kit armed with a variety of weapons, they sat in total darkness inside the noisy vibrating fuselage of the C-47 as it took off and turned South towards Normandy.IMG_0342Once over the French coast the pilots took the aircraft down to the jumping altitude of 500 feet  The green jump light came on at 00:48 and Daniel threw himself out into the Normandy night, landing in a field near to Saint Martin de Varreville and set about making life difficult for the occupying German force.

By 06:30 St Martin had been captured and shortly after the German garrison at Mésières was taken as well. Five days later the town of Carentan was liberated after fierce fighting that included a bayonet charge. The 502nd then moved to assist in the capture of Cherbourg before stepping down for regrouping and rest, before rejoining the war and fighting their way across Europe, finally capturing Hitler’s private residence and many senior Nazis at Berchtesgaden in May 1945.

By the end of the conflict Daniel had been promoted to Master Sergeant and shortly after was promoted to Sergeant Major, one of the youngest in the Army. Later he was to see action in Korea and became an officer, finally rising to the rank of Major.

During WWII and the Korean War, Daniel was in a total of 13 major campaigns. In all that fighting he was wounded in the leg during the Ardennes offensive near Bastogne, but never received the Purple Heart. He won two Bronze and one Silver Star plus several other wartime decorations. Sadly, he died young in January 1969. I guess you could say he lived a full life, a real American hero, a John Wayne kind of guy. In our family we are all incredibly proud of him; none more so than my cousins, Peter and Marianne.

Over the last few weeks I have been able to visit the remains of both RAF Membury and Greenham Common. There’s not much left at either place to recall events of 70 years ago. There is however, another old base about 60 miles away from Dookes H.Q. that also played a prominent role in that airborne assault, RAF Upottery, here there is still quite a lot to see. Last evening I took the opportunity to make a pilgrimage with Harley and my little brother Greg to the old airfield and remember the events that unfolded on that fateful night.

It was a super evening to be on a motorcycle and riding through the beautiful Devon countryside I pondered if it was like this all those years ago?

The old airbase was quiet and still and much has reverted to farmland, though the runways, control tower and a few other buildings remain. P1010774Just by luck we met the local farmer who gave us permission to go on the site. It was with some awe that I turned Harley onto the main runway, the strip of concrete and tarmac from which 81 C-47’s took off, this was hallowed ground indeed! It seemed fitting that an American motorcycle was visiting the place where so many young American soldiers took off, some never to return.

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In some places the grass is beginning to win.

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After spending some time soaking up the atmosphere, we decided to leave the ghosts of the past to enjoy the sunset. As we rode off the airfield we were aware of other people who were gathering to pay their respects as well. DSCF3394

Stopping to chat with one guy he observed that we have much to be thankful for, we have indeed; like a super ride home west into a crimsoning sky on a growling Harley Davidson! I’d like to think that those young paratroopers would have approved!

Dookes

 

The battle patch of the 502nd, I think that this will look good on my leathers!

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Dedicated to all those who came by air in 1944.

And in loving memory of Greg, Paul and Florrine.

 

 

 

 

 

D-Day 70 Years On. Remembering Heroes.

When Harley and I visited Normandy earlier this year we were privileged to be able to visit some of the famous D-Day beaches and contemplate the events of 70 years ago when the liberation of Europe from Nazi dictatorship began. Much is said about the actual landings on the beaches, but I mentioned then about the contribution that airborne troops also made to the operation. Sometimes I feel that this vital contribution is not given the full focus that it deserves, because without it the whole operation would not have been the success that it was. I am not decrying what happened on the beaches, merely drawing attention to the oft forgotten massive contribution by the airborne operation

In the hours leading up to D-Day itself, 6th June 1944, 13,000 allied airborne troops either parachuted into occupied Normandy or arrived by glider under cover of darkness. They had set out from fifteen airfields across southern England and crossed over the English Channel in a massive stream of 220 aircraft that was described as being nine aircraft wide and five hours long! Soldiers from all of the allied nations were involved, but the majority were British and American. Let me tell you a little about one of those American soldiers.

Daniel L. Reiling was a classic Mid-Western American kid, he didn’t have the easiest of starts in life, he never knew his father and at times life was a little tough. Determined to get on in life he joined the U.S Army as a career soldier. He progressed well through the ranks and married a good-looking girl from Chicago, named Florine, whose father owned restaurants and whose mother came from Britain. By the time that the war in Europe was raging Daniel was a Sergeant in the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. Soon he found himself and his men crossing the Atlantic to Britain on a troop-ship which constantly zig-zagged to dodge the deadly threat of Nazi U-boats. On arrival in the U.K. the troops were posted to various locations for more training and preparations. Some lucky ones managed to get leave, which Daniel did and took the opportunity to visit his wife’s family, though by all accounts the poor chap was suffering from influenza and spent a fair bit of his leave in bed being looked after by his wife’s uncle, my Grandfather William. You see now that there is a big family connection here!

Following his leave, Daniel returned to his unit and began the final preparations for the Liberation of Europe. His regiment was allocated to two airbases, RAF Membury and RAF Greenham Common. Unfortunately, we have not been able to ascertain yet exactly which one Daniel’s platoon was at, but we will! On the evening of 5th June 1944 the various airfields involved swung into action. At Greenham Common, General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, dropped in to encourage the troops. IMG_0343Men and equipment were prepared and loaded onto the C-47 transport aircraft which at the assigned time taxied to the runways and began to take off. Sergeant Daniel L. Reiling and his men would have been dressed in full combat kit armed with a variety of weapons, they sat in total darkness inside the noisy vibrating fuselage of the C-47 as it took off and turned South towards Normandy.IMG_0342Once over the French coast the pilots took the aircraft down to the jumping altitude of 500 feet  The green jump light came on at 00:48 and Daniel threw himself out into the Normandy night, landing in a field near to Saint Martin de Varreville and set about making life difficult for the Germans! By 06:30 St Martin had been captured and shortly after the German garrison at Mésières was taken as well.  Five days later the town of Carentan was liberated after fierce fighting that included a bayonet charge. The 502nd then moved to assist in the capture of Cherbourg before stepping down for regrouping and rest, before rejoining the war and fighting their way across Europe, finally capturing Hitler’s private residence and many senior Nazis at Berchtesgaden in May 1945.

By the end of the conflict Daniel had been promoted to Master Sergeant and shortly after was promoted to Sergeant Major, one of the youngest in the Army. Later he was to see action in Korea and became an officer, finally rising to the rank of Major.

During WWII and the Korean War, Daniel was in a total of 13 major campaigns. In all that fighting he was wounded in the leg during the Ardennes offensive near Bastogne, but never received the Purple Heart. He won two Bronze and one Silver Star plus several other wartime decorations. Sadly, he died young in January 1969. I guess you could say he lived a full life, a real american hero, a John Wayne kind of guy. In our family we are all incredibly proud of him; none more so than my cousins, Florine, Peter, Paul and Marianne.

Over the last few weeks I have been able to visit the remains of both RAF Membury and Greenham Common. There’s not much left at either place to recall events of 70 years ago. There is however, another old base about 60 miles away from Dookes H.Q. that also played a prominent role in that airborne assault, RAF Upottery, here there is still quite a lot to see. Last evening I took the opportunity to make a pilgrimage with Harley and my mate Greg to the old airfield and remember the events that unfolded on that fateful night.

It was a super evening to be on a motorcycle and riding through the beautiful Devon countryside I pondered if it was like this all those years ago? An old sentry post is now a memorial to those young men who left to fight in mainland Europe. P1010770The old airbase was quiet and still and much has reverted to farmland, though the runways, control tower and a few other buildings remain. P1010774Just by luck we met the local farmer who gave us permission to go on the site. It was with some awe that I turned Harley onto the main runway, the strip of concrete and tarmac from which 81 C-47’s took off, this was hallowed ground indeed! It seemed fitting that an American motorcycle was visiting the place where so many young American soldiers took off, some never to return.

P1010782

In some places the grass is beginning to win.

P1010779

After spending some time soaking up the atmosphere, we decided to leave the ghosts of the past to enjoy the sunset. As we rode off the airfield we were aware of other people who were gathering to pay their respects as well. DSCF3394

Stopping to chat with one guy he observed that we have much to be thankful for, we have indeed; like a super ride home west into a crimsoning sky on a growling Harley Davidson! I’d like to think that those young paratroopers would have approved!

Dookes

 

The battle patch of the 502nd, I think that this will look good on my leathers!

IMG_0344

 

 

Dedicated to all those who came by air in 1944.

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe Holiday

Sometimes I get the urge to write, but then sitting looking at the empty screen with the cursor dumbly blinking at me my mind goes blank. What was it I was so desperate to say? Perhaps I just needed that interface with the means of broadcasting my thoughts? I dunno, often that’s the moment to say, “Screw it, lets ride!” Riding is sure a good way of getting the old head back together, you have to immerse yourself totally in what you are doing or you end up in the ditch!

This has been a holiday weekend in the UK, people everywhere heading for the D.I.Y. stores or the beach, still a bit cold for me on the beach for me at this time of year! Loads to do in the garden though. Saturday morning saw a quick clamber underneath the Dookes-Mobile car, to change the rear shocks. The left side had started leaking and its good practice to replace the pair, not a tough job, an hour and a half tops, I’d rather pay someone else to work on cars, but as this is a holiday weekend I had to do it myself, shot shocks are dangerous. I don’t exactly detest the work, but I can think of a million other things I’d rather do! Unfortunately the endless grass cutting that followed was not exactly high on that list either! I know I go on about the bloody green stuff of which we have nearly an acre, used to have more before I planted hundreds of trees, and yes I know how lucky we are to have the space…so I’ll shut up being disingenuous and enjoy the view when its all cut!

Number one favourite other thing to do being…yeah you know! On Sunday, Harley and I hit the road!

Not a mega ride, just a bit of head time on a glorious loop around Cornwall. For a Holiday Sunday the traffic was very light. Not too many Sports Bike People in their colour coordinated leathers and boots as well! Bodmin Moor looking good as always, I love that place which is just as well cos we live there!DSCF3378

Harley and I did about a hundred miles, like I said not the biggest ride ever, but you know sometimes it’s not about quantity, it’s quality that matters! My Harley sure delivers that in bucket loads.

Unusually for a holiday weekend the weather has stayed good. Today, Monday, I have promised not to bugger off again on two wheels; not to cut more grass and not to disappear into either the Man-Cave or Man-Lab….what the hell am I going to do?IMG_0348

Anyway, thinking ahead, I plan to be off on another adventure in mid June. This time taking in Spain, Andorra, The Camargue, Italian and French Alps…. you get the drift! Before that another family pilgrimage in connection with D-Day. Stick with me, this is just gonna get more interesting…again!

“I was born in a cross-fire hurricane….”

Dookes

 

 

 

They Came By Sea

Our hotel last night was in Ouistreham and looked out onto one of the famous Normandy invasion beaches from Operation Overlord, Sword Beach. On D-Day this beach was the landing site for the British 3rd Infantry Division, this morning it is a very different place and quite beautiful in the early light of a spring dawn.

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Some evidence of wartime defences remain in the sand. >

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Further up the coast, the Canadians landed at Juno Beach, last night children played where battle had raged.>

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There seem to be relics and memorials everywhere, I leaves everyone in no doubt about what happened there nearly 70 years ago.
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Which is a very good thing to do.

Next up we head to the Somme.

Stick with us, this is going to get more interesting!

Dookes

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They Came By Air

Nearly 70 years ago, in the early hours of June 6th 1944, the liberation of Europe from the Nazis began. Operation Overlord started on what is now know as D-Day.

The first assaults were made from the sky.

In the East, British paratroopers were silently landed by glider adjacent to the key strategic bridges at Raneville. The brief, yet intense, battle for what is now know as Pegasus bridge was a total success with the defending force neutralised quickly and the bridges were captured intact. Today the original bridge is preserved as the centre piece of a fantastic museum that tells the story of that phenomenal moment in history. As our route took us across the new bridge, that sits on the exact site of the old one, we just had to look in!

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Bullet holes and scars, a battle was fought and men died here.>

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The new bridge.>

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In the West, American Troops from the now famous 101st Airborne parachuted in between Saint Martin-De-Varreville and Pouppeville at 00:48 hours the night before the invasion…. to agitate the Germans and to confuse them by raiding their barrack’s and gunnery positions to make them believe that the main assault was coming from the air. Maybe I can tell you some more about that on another post.

In the meantime, I’ll catch you later.
Dookes

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An Appointment In Normandy

Good evening everyone, tonight we are in Ouistreham, Normandy.

I am really having trouble getting going with this post, partly because today has been quite an emotional roller coaster ride. Firstly was the sheer unbridled joy of being out on my beloved Harley, letting her do what she does best, munching the miles on open French roads!

Next we came down to earth with a massive bump, our appointment was at Banneville la Campagne War Cemetery, where Mrs Dookes Grandfather is buried.
This is the first War Cemetery that I have ever visited and it has left a deeply indelible impression on me. There are just over two thousand men buried at Banneville, sobering enough, but this is not classed as a large cemetery! Lying next to a small wood, the place has an serene sense of peacefulness, although the sounds of the world bustle from beyond. As we walked around silently reading the many inscriptions, skylarks sang in the sky above us and the scent of spring flowers wafted in the air. This truly is a sacred place.

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Our mission was to deliver three crosses and poppies, from the family back in Cornwall, to Grandfather’s grave. In addition I placed some Cornish Granite chippings in the ground with them. I took the opportunity to introduce myself to him and explain why I was there, it was incredibly moving and I have tears in my eyes as I write this ten hours later. I hope you understand that I am not posting a photograph of his grave, it’s to personal, a private thing and not for the world of cyberspace.

I’ll leave this post with one more photograph, this is the Grave next to Grandfather. It’s not at all unusual, there are sadly many, many, more just like this. Who ever you are reading this, where ever you are and what ever you believe in, please spend a minute pondering this photograph and reflect on the inhumanity and plain stupidity of war. Then thank your God that you are free.

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There is a corner of a foreign field that is forever England.>