Bexley man who was present on D-Day speaks about his memories

PUBLISHED: 12:00 30 May 2014

Frederick William Norris, 94

Frederick William Norris, 94


As people across the country prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, one man shares his own experiences of the day.

Sapper Fred Norris MM was drafted into the Royal Engineers and he sailed out of Gosport on the morning of June 6 1944.

He was on the first vessel out of the harbour, a Landing Craft, and Fred recalls the “poignant” moment of a Marine standing on the harbour castellation and blowing “reveille” as they sailed out of the entrance.

“I was the youngest in my unit, I was about 24,” he said.

“We were due to land on Sword but we landed on Red because the commander’s tank was hit and destroyed and they died on it.”

Fred showed incredible bravery on the day and was awarded a Military Medal for his actions after he courageously helped his fellow men in their time of need.

After advancing from the beach into Lion-sur-Mer and on to Boulevard, Fred dragged Sapper Morris, who had been hit from the blast of a German grenade and badly wounded, into an alleyway to protect him.

Under fire he returned for Sapper Buchanan and en route encountered the Sergeant of 41 Commando lying in the road crying out for water.

Fred heroically saved both men, taking the Sergeant’s Thompson machine gun which he used to buy enough time to drag Sapper Buchanan to the safety of the alleyway before returning to give the Sergeant water and get him to safety too.

Fred was later formally presented the Thompson machine gun by a Major of 41 Commando who was impressed by his actions.

By the time Fred had helped his comrades, his Squadron had moved on and the beach was a chaotic scene of devastation.

He and Sapper Buchanan returned to Lion-sur-Mer, where Fred recovered the bodies of three of his friends from the burnt out tanks there. He also found the body of Captain Mclennan, who had been killed by machine gun fire, and he and Sapper Buchanan buried the bodies in a shallow trench on the beach before moving away.

The four men have now been buried side by side in graves in Bayeux Cemetery.

A parade was held in Coleville before General Montgomery, for those who had won the Military Medal.

All men in the British Army were immediately promoted to the rank of Sergeant but Fred actually declined his promotion and remained a Sapper.

When the General asked him where his “stripes” were, Fred replied: “Sir I turned them down because I wanted to stay with my mates.”

Fred is set to attend a memorial service in Bexleyheath to mark the anniversary on June 6.

It will be taking place at 11am at the Oakloands Road war memorial.

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