D-Day +1 June 7th, 1944

I found Friday’s remembrances of the 70th anniversary of D-Day very moving, but perhaps for many of us the story that stood out was the journey 89 year-old Bernard Jordan took from his care home in Hove to join his colleagues in France.  It’s already been nicknamed The Great Escape, and I’m sure within a few weeks there will be a film in the pipeline.

Quite rightly, the emphasis this weekend was on the veterans and thousands upon thousands of young men who died on those beaches and in the months following the invasion. But it got me to wondering about the news the British people received, listening to the radio or reading the papers to find out what was happening to their loved ones.

Once again, I turned to The Glasgow Herald of June 7th, 1944 for some insights and gathered together a collection of tidbits that appealed to me.

Whereas other papers’ headlines screamed Invasion, with only 8 pages available (because of paper rationing) The Glasgow Herald wasted little space on pictures and remained as understated as ever. On the front page were the usual blackout times (Glasgow 11.57pm until 4.34am) and notifications of births, marriages and deaths. The current entertainment available at the city’s theatres was listed (including the Half-Past Eight Show mentioned in last week’s blog) as well as a programme of musical concerts in city parks.

But the Invasion did make its presence known on the front page with notices from city churches informing the faithful of special prayers and services for ‘our King and County and Allies and for the Forces now invading Europe’. Glasgow Cathedral offered two services at noon and 3pm for ‘those engaged in the Second Front Operation’.

The Late News column referenced a German report which talked of ‘grim fighting’ between Havre and Cherbourg being the ‘bloodiest of the day’ with several hundred Canadian paratroopers wiped out or forced to surrender.

German Overseas Radio denied any fighting in Caen. ‘Mr Churchill’s reference about fighting in Caen is untrue. No enemy troops have penetrated into the city, therefore no fighting has taken place in Caen.’

Page two carried the Colonial Secretary being forced to deny a ‘silly and harmful story’ which had had much circulation, particularly in America, to the effect that America was being charged for every palm tree they destroyed in battles for the recovery of British possessions.

When talking about the history of invasion in Europe, one columnist pointed out that Caen had been the HQ of William The Conqueror before he turned his sights on England in 1066.

Eisenhower apparently carried seven old coins in his pocket – one being an ancient five guinea piece.  He is said to have given these mascots a rub before the Italian invasion and everyone hoped that the mascots would do as good a job again.

Regarding the Invasion of Italy and France, it had been decided by Roosevelt and Churchill at the Casablanca Conference in 1943 that an invasion of the west would be deferred until the Allies had cleared the Mediterranean and knocked out Italy.

Page 3 contained Scottish news with detailed Invasion news starting on page 4.

The Invasion was originally scheduled for Monday June 5th, but postponed for 24 hours because of bad weather.

German Radio admitted the Allies had a foothold 10-15 miles long and nearly a mile deep in France.

Allied landings also took place on Guernsey and Jersey in the Channel Islands.

Hitler was reported to have taken charge of the military response to the invasion.

Between midnight and 8am on June 6th, an estimated 31,000 Allied airmen flew over France. 1,300 Fortresses and Liberators began their attack at 6am ending at 8.30am.

Priority was being given for troops’ mail so that both the men in the front line and their relatives and friends at home should receive regular deliveries of letters.

One hour before they left for the beaches, the troops enjoyed a meal of pork chops and plum duff. Each solder was then given a ‘landing ration’ –  a bag of chocolate and biscuits and cigarettes for ‘consumption while waiting’.

Civilian workmen and villagers who had seen anything of the preparations at an American airfield were detained in the camp by the authorities for 48 hours until news of the landings were released.

125,000,000 maps were used by the US invasion forces.

Eisenhower broadcast a Call to the People of Europe:  The hour of your liberation is approaching. All patriots, men and women, young and old, have a part to play in the achievement of final victory.

General Montgomery wished the troops ‘Good Hunting in Europe’.

And then, on pages 7 and 8 it was back to normal with commodity markets, situations vacant, property, livestock and farms for sale.  A five-room terraced house with kitchen and scullery could be bought for 800 pounds. So much for the biggest invasion force the world had ever seen.

If you ever get the opportunity to watch the film The Longest Day, I highly recommend it. It’s a comprehensive view of the events of June 6th, 1944 from all sides involved.

 

 

 

Ma Wee Gas Mask

Before I start a post, I usually have a clear idea of what I want to write about. However sometimes I can get pulled off track and this evening was one of those occasions. So this is going to be a long post, but if you hang in, there’s a rather sweet Youtube video at the very end!

With the 70th Anniversary of D-Day rapidly approaching on June 6th, I thought it would be interesting to look at The Glasgow Herald from June 2nd, 1944 and see if I could find any hint of the approaching invasion.

As noted in previous blogs, paper rationing meant each issue was comprised of only 8 pages. The Glasgow blackout began at 11.52pm and ended at 4.28am, a far cry from six months earlier when it lasted from 5.25pm until 9.17am the following morning!

As always, the war news was buried in the middle of the paper, so there were all kinds of fascinating articles to read through first.

Films showing in Glasgow included:
Lifeboat – Tallulah Bankhead.
Jack London – Susan Hayward
Madame Curie – Greer Garson
For Whom the Bell Tolls – Gary Cooper
The Cross of Lorraine – Gene Kelly
Life and Death of Colonel Blimp – Deborah Kerr

A list of legacies given to The Western Infirmary – remember this was 4 years before the NHS came in to being.

Mr Herman Anton Andrews, a London banker, bought the Scottish islands of South Uist, Benbecula and Eriskay. Following the purchase, the Scottish National Party sent him a letter detailing their concern that the buying up of large tracts of land by those operating from London and other centres outside the borders was contrary to the interests and people of of Scotland. (Given that Scotland is voting on Independence in September this year, I this particularly apt.)

And then came the war headlines.

Germans ‘getting a licking’ in Italy.

Notification that 47% of US Army troops (3,500,000 men) were stationed overseas.
The US Air Force had 50% of its personnel (2,357,000 men) and more than 50% of their machines stationed overseas.

Allied Gains on the Burma Front.

Three beachhead columns were moving on Rome.

4,000lb bombs were dropped at Roumania’s Iron Gate (where the Danube narrows), reducing German barge traffic and their ability to repair their railways.

Admiral Sir William M James, Chief of Naval Information in London, said the Navy would soon appear again in the public eye. ‘Before long, we shall reach that stage when we begin to launch a great amphibious expedition… We are going to have dramatic moments soon.” So there it was, the hint that something big was in the air.

And then it was back to general news, where one item in particular caught my attention. The Half-Past-Eight Show, starring entertainer Dave Willis was playing at the King’s Theatre.

As a child in the 60s, I remember going with my mother to see The Half-Past-Eight Show starring Dave Willis! I had no idea it had been going for so long. Before the 1930s, it had been the tradition for theatres to close during the summer when the citizens went on holiday. In the early 30s, however, it was decided to produce a high quality summer variety show. It was so successful it became an annual tradition lasting a long – long – time.

I seem to remember one of Dave Willis’s famous songs was about fox-hunting, but I’ve been unable to find any mention it on the internet. If anyone out there has any information, I would love it if you could send it to me.

Another song he sang during the war was Ma Wee Gas Mask.  I was unable to find a video of Dave Willis singing it, but I did find an absolutely charming video.  Enjoy!

In ma wee gas mask
Ah’m working oot a plan
The weans a’ think that Ah’m the bogey man
The girls a’ cry, an’ bring their friends to see
The nicest lookin’ warden in the A.R.P.

When there’s a raid on, ye ought tae hear me cry
‘An aeroplane, an aeroplane awa’ wa up a kye’
They a’ rin helter skelter, bit dinna rin efter me
Ye’ll no get in ma shelter for it’s faur too wee.