Pte. Levi Reginald Whiten
My Father, Levi Whiten, first landed on the beaches of Normandy in January 1944 – to collect sand samples for scientists to test to see which areas were capable of taking heavy equipment.
On D-Day he landed with the first wave at Arromanches as part of the Beachmasters contingent. He remembered hearing “roll out the barrel” being played over the tannoy system on one of the ships as he climbed down the netting into the landing craft. Breakfast had consisted of a ham sandwich and a cup of char.
As they headed towards the beach he could hear the “whoosh” of the shells passing overhead both from both the ships and the shore – and as they got closer the whine of the small arms fire and it pinging off the side of the craft. There were also the screams of those in the water whose craft had suffered a direct hit and who they couldn’t stop to help – getting to the beach was the priority.
As they approached the beach some of those in the craft began praying.
The shout came of “stand by”, my Father shook hands with his best mate, the ramp went down – and off they went up the beach trying to reach cover with the sand spurting up as the Germans opened fire. His best mate was killed within a few yards and he could see others going “man down” around him - “how the hell I made it up that beach I don’t know”.
By the evening the beachhead was secure and having found a cinematograph in one of the German bunkers, complete with reels of Mickey Mouse cartoons they commandeered a generator and played the films on the back of one of the “white houses” for the wounded awaiting evacuation.
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