Jim Smith D-Day
|September 3, 1924
|Date of Death
|December 25, 2015
James (always known as Jim) Smith was born on 3 September 1924 in Hulme, Manchester, where he lived with his parents and extended family. He attended St John the Baptist School where he achieved excellent academic results and passed the test to attend a grammar school, but because his parents could not afford the cost of buying the school uniform he was unable to go. He left school at 14 to help on a milk round until he was given his own round, covering a large area of central Manchester, delivering the milk on a horse and cart (his horse was called Joey).
He received his call up papers on 2 December 1943 and enlisted in the South Lancashire Regiment. His training took place at Freshfields, in Formby, undertaking hours of running and physical exercise as well as training to fire a rife and mortars, throw grenades and generally prepare for invasion.
The Normandy Campaign
Jim was a nineteen year old private when he landed on Sword Beach at around 7.30 am on 6 June. Jim saw his commanding officer killed on the beach, shot in the head by a sniper. 60 years later he recalled: “The landing was terrible, terrible. Anyone who says he wasn’t frightened is a bloody liar.”
It is only nine miles from his landing to the centre of Caen and the objective had been to capture the city on Day One – but Caen did not fall until 9 July (2 days after a 450-bomber raid had razed the city to the ground and killed more than 5,000 citizens) since the allied troops met fierce resistance from German defenders. It was on this advance towards Caen that Jim lost his best mate. “He was a Chinese lad, Private Ling. We shared a slit trench in a cornfield in front of Chateau le Londel. My friend was on lookout in a barn above us. He was waving down to tell us there were Tiger tanks approaching and an 88mm shell took him in the chest. There was nothing left of him. We lost a hell of a lot of men there.
Following the invasion of France, Jim’s regiment (as part of the 3rd Infantry Division) was involved in Operation Market Garden in Holland. In this conflict he was badly wounded when a bullet lodged in the base of his spine. After returning to England he was transferred to a specialist unit in Swansea Hospital to have the bullet removed (in an operation performed by the physician to King George). It took Jim a year to recover from his injuries, and when he returned to army duties on 20 September 1945 he was excused from wearing army boots, gaiters and webbing equipment since although he had regained mobility he was classed as disabled. He had to wear specially made surgical boots and continued to do so until his death.
He was discharged from the army in July 1947 and when returning to his family home in Hulme with his wife Beryl he was offered a new council house on the Wythenshawe estate (purpose-built as homes for returning servicemen) by Alderman Harper in recognition of the sacrifice Jim had made.
Like many veterans, Jim did not readily share his war memories with his family and the pilgrimage on the 60th Anniversary unlocked the memories recorded here.
Written by the family of Jim Smith