Normandy memories still clear
Norm Morris says he can’t remember what he did 10 minutes ago, but his memories of the Normandy invasion in 1944 are crystal clear.
Mr Morris, from Whitby, served with the Royal Air Force Regiment.
His ground- based unit was responsible for securing airfields in the aftermath of the invasion on June, 6, 1944, when the Allies landed in France.
He can name personnel he served with and where he was based with ease – it was a period that shaped his life, the 91-yearold said.
Regular get- togethers with members of the Normandy Veterans Association, as happened at Duck Creek restaurant in Pauatahanui last Thursday, were special, he said.
‘‘It keeps our memories going. It’s nice to come somewhere like this, have something to eat, and talk about those days.’’
Their numbers are waning. Just seven, plus wives, meet about four times a year. They come from Lower Hutt, Porirua and Kapiti and Frank Jones, from Wainuiomata, said it was something they had been doing for 25 years.
‘‘We’re purely a social group. There are no records or minutes of meetings. We’re just trying to keep the spirit alive. Everyone’s good company; we like a laugh.’’
Mr Jones is the ‘‘baby’’ of the group, at just 87. On June 6, 1944, he was on the cruiser HMS Belfast, which sat off the beaches and bombed the German defences inland ‘‘for days and days and days’’.
He is sure the continous shelling from the 6-inch shells contributed to him being hard of hearing later in life.
His memories of D- Day are grim. ‘‘We were off [landing beach] Juno and were assisting the Canadians. I saw the bodies of so many of their young soldiers floating past in the water. I remember that like it was yesterday.’’
Doug Finlay, from Whitby, flew over Normandy for the first time three days after the landings. He was an air gunner in a Halifax bomber, flying with a Canadian squadron.
His then girlfriend Jay, now his wife, worked in an operations room in Lincolnshire. The day Doug’s aircraft ditched in the English Channel was a scary one for her.
‘‘I rang through to his station, but was told ‘he’s unavailable’, which means he’s missing. He spent 11 hours in a lifeboat but he’s here today.’’
Jay, 92, and Doug, 95, enjoy the companionship that comes from the lunches, which used to take place at RSAs around the region until recently.
No New Zealand ground forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, but about 10,000 Royal New Zealand Air Force and Navy personnel served with the British ships and air force squadrons which supported the D-Day landings.