A resident at The Royal Star & Garter Homes who was
serving in the Army during the D-Day landings has recalled events leading up to
and beyond the Allied campaign.
Joan Sprigg was just 20 and in the Auxiliary Territorial
Service (ATS) when the largest seaborne offensive in history commenced on 6 June
1944, serving at the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Group Command at RAF
She had joined the war effort in 1939, when she fibbed about
her age, declaring she was 16 when she was actually 15 so that she could join
the Air Raid Precautions (ARP). At 18 she joined the ATS and was transferred to
RAF Uxbridge, where she worked as a secretary. Her fiancé Leslie took part in
the invasion and survived, and the couple later married.
She was speaking as the Charity’s Homes in Solihull,
Surbiton and High Wycombe marked the 75th anniversary of the
invasion on Thursday 6 June with a two minutes’ silence and other events during
“We knew that it was
coming, that something was imminent,” said Joan, who is now 95 and a
resident at Solihull. “There was a great
deal of activity immediately before the D-Day landings. When the balloon
went up on June 6 we were very busy moving anti-aircraft guns to different
parts of the south-east corner of England. From our base in Uxbridge you could
hear the naval guns involved in the Normandy invasion. It was a terrible,
“I was engaged to a
very dashing sailor who was on a motor torpedo boat. He took part in the D-Day
landings. It was organised chaos. I wasn’t to know he was taking part, but I had
a good idea he’d be involved.
“It was a combined
operation and the Navy, RAF and Army all had their designated roles and the
organisation, which was commanded by Eisenhower, was meticulously plotted and
it did go pretty much according to plan. Thank God things went our way. There
was a tremendous loss of life and a lot of heartache but it was the beginning
of the end of the war.”
At Surbiton, poems were read out, while a volunteer from the
Home visited the Normandy beaches and took part in a commemorative walk. At
High Wycombe, residents attended a service at the war memorial in Marlow,
before sharing tea and memories at the local Royal British Legion (RBL).
In Solihull, residents will visit the National Memorial
Arboretum on Friday (7 June). Activities Manager Charlie Wilson and Activities
Assistant Kevin Dempsey will then give a talk, with photos, about their recent
visits to the D-Day beaches.
Surbiton Home volunteer Rosemary Lever, who is also a member
of her local RBL, took part in the commemorative walk. It was organised by the
Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames War Memorials Association, and retraced
the steps of the No. 47 Royal Marine Commandos, who walked 13 miles under enemy
fire to help capture the small French port Port-en-Bessin. The walk raised money
for the 47 Commandos charity.
Rosemary’s father-in-law Arthur Eric Lever was in Royal
Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and landed in France about a month
after D-Day to support troops and help to build Bailey bridges to enable the
advance into Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
The walk began at Asnelles, where British Troops landed on
Gold Beach, with a ceremony featuring Royal Marines and including a
two-minute’s silence and the playing of the Last Post, Reveille and God Save
Rosemary said: “To be
in Normandy for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and to have assisted the 47
Commandos charity in retracing their footsteps in 1944 from Asnelles Beach to
Port-en-Bessin has been very special, in particular working alongside the Royal
Marines. It has been heart-warming to see the British so warmly received by a
grateful community who value their freedom.”