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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 June, 2004, 08:52 GMT 09:52 UK
'I watched D-Day carnage unfold'

Bernard Morgan
Sergeant Bernard Morgan in 1944, shortly before the D-Day landings

Sergeant Bernard Morgan was 20 years old in 1944 and worked in the RAF as a code and cypher operator responsible for directing aircraft to where they were needed for immediate action.

On D-Day he watched from a landing ship constantly under fire at anchor off shore as the first waves of troops went into battle.

Many of them did not make it, and he saw his first dead bodies.

The night before the D-day landings, we were anchored off the Isle of Wight, on a Landing Ship Tank (LST). On the way we had a football match - the army against the RAF.

We weren't told what we were going to do until we were mid-channel.

The officers gave us a handbook of France, with French phrases telling us how to treat French people, and phrases we could use when we wanted to get food.

We didn't really sense the danger. As a young man you're naive, you have no fear.

But at one point I remember a padre came round and conducted a very solemn church service. It was an appropriate hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers.

Flying bullets

We arrived off the Normandy coast at about 0300. The route had been cleared by minesweepers and marked out by anchored vessels the whole way across the Channel.

Bernard Morgan at Imperial War Museum's D-Day exhibition
Bernard has vivid memories of his landing on Gold beach in Normandy

Wherever you looked it was a mass of craft around you and aircraft going overhead.

There were battleships behind us firing at the Germans' Atlantic Wall, to prepare for the infantry to go ashore at 0500. And the Germans were firing back.

When you saw all the bullets flying over at night it was like a firework display.

When it was light, we were a short distance from shore, just off Gold Beach, watching the infantry going in. We were watching it all happen in front of us.

Sad sight

I remember seeing all the dead bodies littering the beach.

Some were killed on the first landing. They were fodder for the German guns. Others were washed in by the tide where their boats had been caught.

Sadly a lot of the lads didn't make it because they were dropped off in water that was too deep.

It was perhaps only four feet deep but that's a lot when you've got a backpack and a big gun.

They got dragged down into the water. They tried to wade ashore but we could see they'd got no chance.

I can picture them there now.

When you saw bullets at the time, you didn't think one could be meant for you
Bernard Morgan

There was a squad responsible for going round to pick up the dead bodies as quickly as they could, and putting them on dry land.

They had to check the identity discs they wore. There were hundreds of them.

At the time I was only 20 and they were the first dead bodies I'd seen. It was the same for many others, a sad sight.

We stayed just offshore under a canopy for most of the day. There was firing going on all the time.

Great spectacle

Shells were dropping each side of our LST but we had no casualties.

When you saw bullets at the time you didn't think one could be meant for you.

We were saying to each other what a great spectacle it was, what a grand job the army had done and what a dangerous job it was for the first ones going in.

They were very brave men, the army lads. But like us, they had no choice.

There was no turning back, no saying "sorry I don't like it".

Bernard Morgan
The invading troops were all given French guide books, but most units knew little about what was going to happen on D-Day

We didn't think about how the Germans saw it. Their job was to kill us, and our job to kill them.

We finally landed at 1830. The vessel dropped anchor and the beach master and the army military police on the beach directed you.

You had to move like lightning, ready for the next lot coming in. They gave you a pinpoint to stop overnight.

Hell on earth

We went to a holding place, like a car park. We wanted to get cracking with our work, but we couldn't move inland until we were cleared by the military police.

If our secret equipment got caught, everything on our unit would have to be destroyed.

It was like hell on earth on the beach. The tracer bullets they used at night were firing continuously.

You wouldn't think gun salvoes could keep going for so long but it was non-stop.

We spent two nights on the beach living on compo rations, and hunkering down.

I kept a diary during the war. That was a court-martial offence.

On D-Day I wrote about the weather and the food, and some personal things.

Friends not enemies

D-Day veteran Bernard Morgan
A Lancaster plane at the Imperial War Museum brings back memories

Looking back at D-Day, I didn't realise how vital it was until I started reading books about it.

I'm going back for the 60th anniversary commemoration.

I want to pay homage to my colleagues who gave their lives. Now that I'm a good old age I like to make friends not enemies, so I can't think badly of the Germans now - they weren't all bad.

I was an only child, and I often think about what my dear old mother used to say when there was news on the radio about how many German planes had been shot down.

My dad would say: "Oh, great!" But my mother would say: "Well they all belong to somebody. It could have been my lad."


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