A Crewe RAF veteran has recounted going ashore in Normandy seventy years after he took part in the D-Day Landings.
Sergeant Bernard ‘Taffy’ Morgan was just 20 years old when his landing craft reached a body-strewn Gold Beach on June 6 1944.
As a cipher and code operator with 83 Group Control Centre, 2nd Tactical Air Force, he used Type X machines to decipher top-secret messages to maintain allied air superiority.
His heroism during the war forms part of an eventful life in which he narrowly missed out on the 1948 London Olympics, decoded one of the most famous military transmissions ever sent and met Winston Churchill and Mahatma Ghandi.
As part of the 70th commemorations he’s visiting Normandy this weekend to take part in church services and deliver an Alex football shirt on behalf of his beloved Railwaymen, as a gift to remember Crewe lads who gave their life for freedom.
Bernard volunteered aged 18 in 1942. After progressing through basic training in Blackpool – where he encountered a certain RAF officer called Stanley Matthews – he progressed via Norfolk, Oxfordshire and a mobile unit in Folkestone before leaving Felixstowe port on June 2, 1944.
“We sailed through the straits of Dover without a shot fired from the Germans, straight to the Isle of White, which was codenamed Picadilly Circus,” said Bernard, 90.
“The clever lads on the boat were saying ‘it’s just another exercise’ and I was hoping likewise.
“But then they came round with these handbooks full of French phrases. I said: ‘it’s not much of an exercise this – look where we’re going!’”
Confirmation came a short time later, when Bernard was handed two letters – one from General Montgomery and one from Dwight D Eisenhower – informing him he was part of the largest seaborne military operation in history.
It was while on deck, manning a Bren gun against low flying enemy aircraft, that Bernard saw the full scale of the assault.
“There were hundreds of landing craft lined up. It was a 25 mile long front.
“The army were first in. We had six battleships behind us. The Germans were firing from the Atlantic Wall and the battleships were firing back. We were under this canopy of shells, some of which were falling into landing craft full of people.
“You could see them all down the line waiting to go ashore. The shells were dropping and blowing the craft up.
“When it was our turn, I can well remember it. I was only 20 and I’d never seen a dead body, but they were still there on the beaches. It was a sad sight.”
After battling though Holland and Belgium, Bernard was in Schneverdingen, Germany, when he decoded one of the most famous messages of all – that of Germany’s surrender and the end of war in Europe.
“I decoded it as it came through. I couldn’t believe it. All the lads were saying: ‘look at this Taffy! Are you typing it right?’ The next day we had a bit of a party.”
By the time Bernard reached India en-route to fight the Japanese, the Americans had dropped the atom bomb and the war was over.
But Bernard’s adventures continued – accompanying an Indian officer to meet Ghandi, narrowly missing the cut to run the mile for Great Britain at the 1948 Olympics and forming a domestic middle-distance rivalry with the likes of future BBC presenter, David Coleman.