Story:John Mellor Main photo: Cameron Rapheal-Storm
Two World War 2 veterans who landed on the Normandy beaches (in June 1944) within 24 hours of each other, and now live within 5 minutes’ walk in Carwood, had never met until 5th November 2009. It was fascinating to listen to their conversation and see the immediate rapport they made with each other through their shared wartime experiences.
Both of them are now 85 years old, having been conscripted into the British Army when they were 18. Both still have vivid memories of what they saw and experienced of the brutality of the war, with many of their friends and fellow soldiers losing their lives.
Douglas Jones, better known to most of his friends as Taff or Taffy, was born in North Wales and served in the Guards Armoured Division as a radio operator. His father had fought in the infantry in the First World War and Doug said about him:
“My father had a bad time in that war, he was shell-shocked and gassed and never worked again after returning from the war.”
Ken Riley, a native of Sheffield, served in the Royal Armoured Corps, also as a radio operator. On the relative merits of the armaments used by both sides, Ken observed:
“Churchill said that our armour was as good as that of the Germans, but it wasn’t! Our armour-piercing shells bounced like peas off the 76-ton Panzer tanks – we had no chance against them. Our only defence against these tanks was the RAF.”
There followed a detailed discussion of the technical merits of the various guns and tanks they were required to operate. They also spoke of the mistakes that led to the high casualties (17,000) among the allied forces in the battle for Arnhem (1945). Ken explained:
“The parachute regiments that landed in Holland had only enough food and ammunition for 2 or 3 days, but were not re-supplied for 10 days because the tanks could not reach them in time. Added to that, the strength of the German forces in the area was much greater than Field Marshall Montgomery had predicted. The forward troops had indeed gone ‘a bridge too far’.”
Doug reflected that:
“Although I hated the war, it was necessary to fight the evil of Nazism which was seeking to dominate the world. The other good thing about the war was the tremendous comradeship that developed between those of us who were fighting together.”
After two hours the conversation had to come to an end, but Doug and Ken promised to meet up again.
There could well be other war veterans in the Burngreave area who may not have had the opportunity to meet up with others who have had similar experiences. If you would like to make contact you can leave your details by phoning or e-mailing the Burngreave Messenger Office so that we can get in touch with you.
Telephone: 242 0564 Email: email@example.com