Although never recorded there was one civilian on the D-Day beaches 74 years ago this week. He was Adam Macleod, an ordnance specialist, now 99 and living at Gosport.
He arrived off the Normandy coast early on June 7 with the 16in guns of HMS Rodney firing over the heads of the troops.
Born on November 1, 1918, when he left school he joined the civil service in the Royal Navy’s supply department. He later volunteered for the armaments department and travelled throughout the UK delivering arms.
In 1944 he was in Norfolk House, London, the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force, where he was given a docket to visit a tailors for the uniform of a Lieutenant Commander RNVR. He would have been shot as a spy if caught in civilian clothing.
There he met a gunnery officer who asked if he had read about Operation Neptune, the code name for the Allied invasion of Normandy. He hadn’t so the officer gave him a copy to read but had to leave. He ordered Adam to put it in a wardrobe, lock the door and leave the key in the back of a chest of drawers.
In June 1944 he was in Chatham in an RFA vessel when the master told him he had amendments to Operation Neptune but he didn’t know what they meant. ‘How on earth the D-Day landings remained a secret I will never know,’ says Adam.
They were ordered to the Solent where Adam saw ‘thousands’ of ships waiting to sail. ‘There were so many it could have been possible to walk from Southsea to the Isle of Wight without getting your feet wet,’ he says.
Adam and the skipper went ashore at Cowes but a after a few hours were ordered back on board. The invasion had begun.
Steaming across the Channel his ship was kept back to arrive in the early hours of D+1. He transferred to the Southern Prince where he was allocated a DUKW, an amphibious 2.5-ton truck. It had a crew of three Royal Marines and they anchored 100 yards offshore to supply troops with ammunition. The DUKW ran back and forth for a fortnight until the Mulberry Harbours were anchored.
There was a rumour German divers planned to attach mines to the battle fleet so Adam sent a signal to Portsmouth for 20,000 scare charges – small explosives dropped over the side to deter divers.
After a few weeks Adam was ashore and saw the bombing of Caen. He and an officer visited the city and a Frenchman ran up asking ‘Why? The Germans left the city days ago’. More than 2,000 civilians died in Caen.