Billy

Billy-by-FenBilly Reynolds with his medals (and wife)

Today, 6th June, is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy.
Despite huge losses it is seen as a turning point in the outcome of WW2.

Billy Reynolds is now 90 years old and a survivor from that day. He is an active and lively chap, who has been invited this week to spend time in Normandy reflecting on his experience and remembering those that were lost.

Billy was born in London. His family moved to Jersey, Channel Islands, when he was three years old. The family fruit and veg business has been going ever since. I had the pleasure of celebrating his 90th birthday with Billy and his family last year. What an amazing man – still full of life and anecdotes about his many adventures.

When the war started, Billy dreamed of flying spitfires but ended up in the army with his two brothers. All three returned home safely at the end of the ear. Like many others, Billy rarely talked about the war after it ended but he clearly remembers Sword Beach:

“There was so much carnage. There was a a destroyer with its nose up and stern down, with dead bodies floating around it. The beach was full of smashed up planes and debris and we were just anxious to get away from there quickly.”

Billy actually landed in Normandy ten days after the initial invasion. The reception was still hostile and dangerous despite thousands of soldiers having beaten back the German defences over the preceding days.

“We knew it was the big push but I don’t remember being frightened before we left. There were still planes firing at us but we were never hit. I remember driving through the dunes with ‘achtung minen’ signs everywhere but a path had been cleared for our trucks by the flailing tanks. We didn’t really know what was happening elsewhere, though, and the experience was horrendous because you could never relax. For three days the guns and bombs went off constantly and I didn’t sleep for the whole time. The sound screams into your brain. Some of the men really struggled.”

Billy was a driver with responsibility for steering huge trucks laden with three tonnes of ammunition, explosives, mines and guns to provide the infantry with the hardware they needed on the front line. During the few months he spent in France, Holland, Belgium and Germany he had a remarkable run of close shaves, including bombs landing two feet from his head and failing to go off, a booby-trapped munitions store exploding, driving a burning truck loaded with ammunition, a shell landing at his feet and exploding on a nearby bank and being sunk in a small boat that was hit by a mine (which Billy had put in the water with the intention of catching some fish!).

Of course, Billy has lived a long and happy life since those days and has had many other adventures and near death experiences … but that’s a whole other story for another day.

On this day it’s fitting we acknowledge people like Billy
and remember those who weren’t so lucky.

More information on D-Day here:

http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/d-day


billy0372Billy and his wife Doreen

 

Top photo by Fenby Miskin (http://www.fenby.net/)

Some text taken from Jersey Evening Post 

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~ by marysia on 6 June 2014.

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