Tag Archives: bayeux

Interview: Graham and John Stevenson

I met Graham Stevenson and his nephew, John Stevenson at a lunch held by L’association Libération de Berjou for the 70th D-Day Anniversary.

Graham, who is 89 years old, served with the Sherwood Rangers who landed on Gold Beach on D-Day. They were the first British battalion to enter Bayeux. Bayeux would become the first French town to be liberated on 7th June, 1944.

Two months later, the Rangers navigated their tanks to the village of Berjou to close the emerging ‘Falaise Pocket’.

Graham explains that it’s important to realise that 90% of the soldiers who fought during the Second World War had no training. Only a few battalions, such as the Sherwood Rangers, were privileged enough to have some preparation in warfare.

He also emphasizes that the real casualties in war are the women and children.

Graham landed in Normandy two weeks after the 6th June, 1944. Only a third of the original Rangers who landed on D-Day were still able to fight by the time of his arrival. They regrouped and waited another two weeks before they advanced to Tilly-Sur-Suelles.

He was in one of three tanks that advanced forward while the rest of the infantry followed not too far behind.

He explains: “The ‘Gerries’ used to call the tanks we were in ‘Tommy Cookers’, because of all the petroleum that was in them.”

An unseen, camouflaged German tank fired at the tank next to Graham’s which caused it to explode.

Consequently, the infantry pulled back; leaving the three tanks (one ablaze) alone.

Before Graham knew what was happening, these tanks were under intense fire. He remembers mortar bombs landing everywhere.

Graham stuck his head above the turret a few times and narrowly missed one of these mortar bombs. It hit the tank cover just below him and ricocheted off the tank.

Graham explains: “The tank commander was terrible… He just did not know what he was doing.”

The tank commander took up a gun and left the tank. When Graham next stuck his head above the turret in the midst of explosions, something hard hit him on the back of his neck. He assumes it was the body of his tank commander.

The wireless operator was also panicking. He left the tank and ran off.

Graham and his troop commander later both left the tank, leaving the driver and co-driver of the tank behind with the gun turret empty.

They ran down a narrow trail. Graham has since guessed that a German tank caught him in a gap through the hedges. Bullets were lodged into his right arm.

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Bayeux Museum: D-Day Exhibition

To commemorate the 70th D-Day Anniversary, the Bayeux Museum introduced a temporary D-Day exhibition, featuring several D-Day veterans’ artwork.

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Tim Gray

Tim Gray is from the World War II Foundation, which is an organization that aims to honor the bravery and contributions made by the men and women of the United States military during the Second World War.

More to follow…

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The Bayeux War Cemetery

The land on which the Bayeux War Cemetery was founded was given to the UK by France in recognition of the sacrifices made in the defense and liberation of Europe. Last year I visited this Commonwealth war cemetery –  an incredibly moving experience. I was touched by how tranquil and beautiful the place was.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, today, a specially crafted ‘Bell of Peace’ will be blessed in an official ceremony at Bayeux Cathedral. Both civilian and inter-religious personalities will be attending along with the bell’s nine godmothers or godfathers of many different nationalities.

From 7pm there will be theatrical visits of the Bayeux hospital centre where young actors will perform regularly until the end of July. Bayeux was not bombed but the village’s schools were turned into makeshift hospitals.

As if there wasn’t already lots going on here, at 9pm, 45 choir singers from Arizona’s Sonoran Desert Chorale will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings in the ‘Gratitude and Peace Concert’. The choir is one of the best in the Southern Western United States and through their music, hope to express their hope for a more peaceful world.

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