Bert Holmshaw , Normandy veteran

Bert Holmshaw
Bert Holmshaw

Bert Holmshaw spent his early childhood years in the Burngreave area and Bert’s sister, Macyl Holmshaw, who died of diphtheria at the age of six, is buried in Burngreave Cemetery.

Bert went on to become a Driver Mechanic with the 7th Field Artillery in the 3rd British Infantry Division. He landed on Sword beach on the morning of 6th June 1944 (D-Day) just after the infantry cleared the beaches for the invasion of France. Due to bad weather on the previous day the invasion had to be postponed by 24 hours and their Tank Landing Ship had to wait off the Isle of Wight overnight in very rough seas. Bert's truck carrying tools and spares for the guns and also towing a trailer full of artillery ammunition, was on the top open deck of the landing ship.

Bert recalls:

“Our Tank Landing Ship (L.S.T. 302) beached just before 10 am on D-Day after crossing the English Channel, dropping its ramp and starting to unload the lower deck of guns, tanks and other heavy equipment. During the unloading we were attacked by two enemy fighter-bombers with machine guns and bombs.

During the attack I dived for cover under the vehicle, completely forgetting about the load of live ammunition in the trailer!

“When it came for the turn of the top deck vehicles to unload it was found that the lift which was to lower the top deck vehicle cargo to the lower deck had been made inoperative by the bombing.This made it now impossible to disembark and it seemed that we would have to return without unloading.

However after some time another Tank Landing Ship, which had unloaded, and our ship were backed off into deeper water and tied up side by side and two makeshift planks placed between the two ships to allow our vehicles to be driven onto the top deck of the undamaged ship. Due to the position of my vehicle I was the first to attempt the crossing, a very dodgy operation.

Whilst there were no more air attacks there was gunfire from the shore and shells were hitting the surrounding water whilst this hazardous operation was taking place. It was an experience I would not care to repeat!

However, I made it and my truck and trailer were lowered down to sea level on the other ship's lift and I drove off the ramp into about 3 feet of water.

“On landing on the beach shells seemed to be just raining down and there did not seem to be any part of the beach free from exploding shells. Dead bodies seen bobbing about in the sea earlier were now also washed up on the shoreline by the rising tide and the beach itself was littered with burning trucks and more bodies. Amongst all this chaos I saw the Beachmaster directing us to the beach exit which I had not seen, but luckily I made it without being hit.

“One incident I can remember was, on leaving the beach, I saw my first French inhabitant, an elderly man dancing along the road by the side of my vehicle, throwing his arms in the air and shouting ‘Good! Good! Good!’ I can remember my front passenger saying that he would not like to be in his shoes if we got pushed back. We did not get pushed back and I often think of this old chap who, unlike some others, did not wait to see the outcome of the invasion before declaring his support for us.

“On driving a short distance inland I was reunited with the rest of my regiment, receiving an unusually warm welcome – the speed with which the ammunition in my trailer disappeared explained why! For myself, I was very glad to get rid of the load which had originally been seen as just a hindrance to the manoeuvrability of the truck. But since the attack on the ship and the crossing of the beach, it was now regarded as much more dangerous.”

These incidents were just the beginning of Bert’s war experiences as his regiment continued through Belgium and Holland, taking part in Operation Market Garden as ground troops at Arnhem and the taking of Bremen at the very end of the war in Europe.

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The content on this page was added to the website by Saleema Imam on 2015-03-23 15:46:25.
The content of the page was last modified by Gaby Spinks on 2016-10-12 12:04:23.

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