D-Day - A Personal Recollection

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D-Day and the events of WWII will have a personal meaning to many of us who had relatives involved, none more so than Jenny Staple, Holiday Products, Portsmouth, her mum served as a Wren and sends us her recollections of the time...

My sister and I are immensely proud of our mum (Freda Hipkins) who joined the Woman's Royal Naval Service (collectively known as 'Wrens') in the 2nd world war. She was a radar operator based on HMS Excellent, Whale Island right next door to our ferry port in Portsmouth where in 1942 she met our Dad, a cheeky little gunnery officer. Mum will be 96 in June and 70 years ago she remembers the time around D-Day very well indeed. These are her own words;

"D-Day must have been the biggest secret ever perpetrated on a nation. I'd been a Wren for five years working daily with all ranks of the Navy, even signed the Official Secrets Act.  5th June 1944 was my 26th birthday and that evening on South Parade Pier my friends and I had danced with soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen but not a whisper from them about the next day's events. One soldier did ask me if I liked 'Eau de Cologne' which at the time I thought a bit odd.

I should have guessed what was about to happen as previously I had a run ashore with a friend and we cycled around the countryside on the other side of Portsdown Hill. We suddenly had to rush up a steep slope by the side of a lane when a colossal tank came around the bend followed by six others - the noise was terrific. It also seemed that every house in the village had a camouflaged army vehicle in its garden - somewhat unusual but then it was wartime.

With other Wrens I was quartered on Eastern Parade Southsea and in the early hours of 6th June 1944 we were roused by a horrific roar which had us all sitting up in our bunks with a 'what the hell!' look. 'That girls', I said 'sounds like landing craft - hundreds of them - something's on'.

The next day two of us went off to South Parade Pier to smile, wave and blow kisses to hundreds of soldiers queuing for the boats. They must have been terrified by what was ahead of them. These weren't the highly trained troops that are sent out to war zones today, just lads 18 plus called up to defend their King and country. Many of which, very sadly, never returned home."  

Freda Hipkins and Jenny Staple

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