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Landing on the beaches

In the early hours of 6 June 1944 thousands of Allied troops had begun landing on the beaches of Normandy in northern France at the start of a major offensive against the Germans. Sergeant Lee Wrake, 94, was a mechanic in the RAF, responsible for transporting vehicles on a landing barge, unbeknown to him at the time, loaded with radar equipment on to Omaha beach.

Lee says: "I was the last one on the barge and the first one off on the other side. As we got to the other side someone shouted, 'right, off, off, off!' I went to get off and all of a sudden there was a bang and the ramp they have for getting on to the beach hit a mine and blew it right off; it went down like a submarine.

"My vehicle still managed to keep going, as luck would have it. I got to the top of the beach but we had to make sure that all the vehicles were on shore. The idea was that I would use my big recovery vehicle to get the trucks on shore if they got water logged, stuck or broke down.

"I had no idea what was on them – I found out later that some were packed with radar – but we didn’t know anything about that at the time.

"The wind had died down but it was rough before that, we couldn't see much because we were in a small craft. The barges had flat bottoms and the wind blew them around, we didn't have much control over them.

"When we got off we still didn’t know which beach we had landed on – I found out afterwards it was Omaha beach.

"My job was to make sure we got all the vehicles on shore, but it was pretty chaotic - there were quite a few people in the water - not only from our vehicles but from other vehicles as well. They were trying to swim but couldn’t because of the kit they had on – some managed to struggle ashore. My vehicle kept going and got to the end of the beach. I can remember, as we tried to get to shore, there was jeeps floating with there backsides sticking out of the water, you'd of thought they would have sunk but they didn't."

This blog is in memory of all those men who did not return.

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