Normandy Invasion June 1944
Veterans' Stories

D-Day 80th Anniversary - A Commando's Story

May 30 2024

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces launched a massive assault in Nazi-occupied France known as D-Day.

This historic event marked the start of 'Operation Overlord’ which proved to be a turning point in WW2.

Royal Marines Commando Clifford Coates' firsthand account from Sword Beach, Normandy, vividly captures the intensity and peril of the invasion, which required unprecedented cooperation between international armed forces who attacked from the air, land and sea.

Clifford landed with the first wave of troops on D-Day, facing the daunting task of overcoming entrenched German defences under heavy fire. 

He recalls the urgency that drove him and his comrades: "The moment we landed, everything was about survival. You either moved fast or didn't make it at all. The faster you moved, the better your chances." 

Advancing from the blood-soaked sands into the heart of enemy territory, Clifford encountered relentless resistance and he described the surreal experience of pushing forward under constant threat: "When you've got up the beach and you're lying down, you thought Christ almighty, it was unbelievable and something you’d never want to do again."

The emotional toll was profound as he witnessed the fall of fellow soldiers. Reflecting on the indiscriminate brutality of war, he remarked, "Nobody is sacrosanct when that shell explodes, when that bomb drops, and when that gun fires, somebody's going to die."

As the beach became a frenzied hub of activity, Clifford and his unit were pivotal in supporting further operations. Armed with heavy weaponry, they targeted key German installations, crucial for the continued advance of Allied forces under General Eisenhower.

Naval gunfire support proved decisive, with precision strikes from ships like the Ajax cruiser and the massive American battleship Massachusetts disrupting German fortifications. Clifford praised the naval bombardment: "Their fire was fantastic, spot on. The Germans were gobsmacked because they didn't know where it was coming from."

Reflecting on his service and the broader implications of their sacrifice, Clifford poignantly stated, "What we did was for the kids, to give them a decent life because they had no life. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. It made a man of me. This was for the children, to make the world a safer, better place."

Clifford Coates' story reminds us of the sacrifice they paid and the courage they displayed for our freedom.

Sadly Clifford Coates passed away peacefully at home on the 22nd of December 2021, aged 96.

Lest We Forget.

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