D-Day 70: A soldier’s tale

Paul and Bill Cheall ANL-140206-133214001
Paul and Bill Cheall ANL-140206-133214001

A soldier’s harrowing account of being in the first wave of troops to land on Gold Beach on D-Day -exactly 70 years ago today - has been preserved for future generations.

The late Bill Cheall’s eye witness account has been published by his son Paul through Pen and Sword. His father’s memoirs cover the whole of the Second World War, from Dunkirk to North Africa, Sicily, D-Day and Hamburg.

Bill Cheall retired to Balsham nearly 30 years ago where his widow Anne, 92, still lives. He died in 1999.

The Yorkshireman served with the Green Howards, first as a private and going on to be a lance corporal. Like Ron Mayes, he was wounded in Normandy and evacuated.

His memoir serves as a valuable record of the war.

An extract says: “There were thousands of ships of all sizes and, standing out like huge sentinels, the mighty war ships (in fact, almost seven thousand in all). It was such a vast undertaking that nobody, not even the participants who were part of it, could describe the invasion as vividly as we saw it happen. It would never be seen again in our lifetime. If the British people could have seen it they would have been very proud.

“The sky seemed to be full of planes – bombers, Hurricanes, Spitfires and others I did not recognise; hundreds of them going towards our target for the day. With the continuous barrage of the battleships’ huge guns and the drone of never ending streams of aircraft, the noise was deafening. How could the enemy in their wildest dreams have imagined what the Allies would be able to assemble for this day, the day of retribution for the vile sins which had been perpetrated in the name of the Third Reich?

“When a soldier is going into action, it is not a time to think of the past, or the future. The present is the thing that is uppermost in his thoughts; what is happening now; today is all that matters and God willing there would be another time for his tomorrow. The probability of death does not come into the equation. Get on with the job.”

His account tells of explosions lifting bodies and enemy machine gunners firing.

On the eve of the D-Day 70 year commemorations, Paul Cheall said he realised a few years ago that his father’s memoirs should be published.

“The more I have read the more phenomenally proud of him I have become,” he said. “I wish he was alive today and there are so many questions I would ask.”