Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Trip Brings Horror of It All Back for Dick

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Trip Brings Horror of It All Back for Dick

Article excerpt

Byline: By Daniel Cochlin

Durham Light Infantry veteran Dick Atkinson yesterday stood in the exact spot where he landed on a Normandy beach 60 years ago ( and the sights, smells and sounds flooded back.

The Dunkirk and D-Day veteran landed on Sword Beach at 11am on June 6 1944, driving a three-ton truck crammed with ammunition.

He watched as friends and comrades he served with were mown down by shells and bullets.

Mr Atkinson, now 83, of Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, had to steer his truck the length of the beach to avoid mine-strewn roads.

"The beach was covered with bodies when I came ashore," said Mr Atkinson, who is making his annual trip to Normandy ( as he has done for the last 14 years.

He said: "This is where we came ashore but the area was covered in mines. I had to find my platoon who had gone on ahead to fight their way to Bayeux.

"They were about four or five miles ahead so they chalked TT64 ( the codename of my regiment ( on gateposts and signs to show me how to get there."

Troops from the Green Howards had led the early assault on Sword Beach ( and those were the bodies lying in front of Mr Atkinson as he drove.

He said: "The Germans were lined up in front of us and the Green Howards and the DLI had to clear that.

"They got past the beach without much problem but it was when they got about two miles in and the Germans were firing down on them they started dropping.

"The whole area was either flooded or covered in mines ( it was covered in cornfields full of dead cows. The Navy was shelling over the top of us and there was firing from either side ( the noise was terrible."

Mr Atkinson, who has four children and five grandchildren, remained a private despite seeing action for the entire war.

He said: "The officers used to ask me to become a NCO every week but I always turned it down. I didn't want to get myself killed ( the Germans would always target the senior-ranked soldiers."

During the long, winding drive through the now picturesque Normandy countryside, the four North-East veterans on the trip chatted excitedly ( pointing out where they had stayed or where friends had fallen. …

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