It was the longest of all days

By David Newble

Sunday, June 8, 2014

 

It was the longest of all days

Fred Shave photographed after being wounded during D-Day, as reported by the Daily Express. Picture by Robin Crossley.

WIGHT LIVING

THIS photograph on the front page of The Daily Express in 1944 shows a wounded Lance Corporal Fred Shave, from Lake, relaxing after being wounded during the D-Day assault on Normandy.

Mr Shave, then 23, was a member of the Yorkshire Regiment and was among the first wave of soldiers to storm the beaches on June 6 but was wounded in the knee.

News of Mr Shave’s lucky escape from the horrors of the ferocious beach assault reached his anxious parents on the Isle of Wight — not through official channels, but when his brother, Bert, who was serving with the RAF in India saw his kid brother’s picture in the newspaper.

The extraordinary family story forms a lasting and treasured memory for Mr Shave’s daughters, Nikki Shave, 52, and Tina Lane, 48, who both still live on the Isle of Wight.

Their dad’s experiences were recorded on tape for posterity during the 50th anniversary commemorations of D-Day in 1994.

Nikki, of Cliff Path, Lake, said her father had been a member of the Isle of Wight Rifles before volunteering to join the Yorkshire Regiment.

She said: "He was on the first assault on Gold beach, which was a combination of commandos and infantry. He was shot while he was still in the water."

Mr Shave was transferred to a hospital ship, where the picture was taken.

Bert was alerted in India by a comrade, who recognised his unusual name. He contacted his parents in Lake and was the first to to tell them of Fred’s survival.

Mr Shave died in 1998, aged 76. He worked as a bricklayer until his retirement. Nikki added: "When he talked about D-Day he would only say he kept on looking at his watch and thinking, 'this is such a long day, this is such a long day’."

Planning for invasion

Charles Davies  
 Charles Davies.

A FORMER town clerk of Ventnor, Charles Edward Davies, was one of the backroom boys who made the D-Day landings possible.

Charles, who died in 1993 aged 91, served with the Royal Ordnance Corps rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.He joined the War Office, where he was based throughout the conflict, and one of his main tasks was inspecting the central ordnance depots across the country.

He worked with his American counterparts equipping the allied army before and after the landings.

After the war, he was offered the chance to serve in India under Lord Mountbatten, who became governor of the IW.

After discussions with his wife, 'Mac’ he left the army in 1946 and they moved to the IW, in 1952.

He was the town clerk in Ventnor and was involved in many local activities.

We had to write our wills

AS 19-year-old Arthur Taylor huddled on a troop ship on his way to Normandy more than 70 years ago, he broke down and cried.

He, along with all the other scared young men, had just been told to write his will on the back of his paybook.

It was then the enormity of what he was about to face struck him.

  Arthur Taylor
 Arthur Taylor

Now 88, Mr Taylor, of West Green, Middleton, Fresh-water, vividly recalled rounding The Needles as a young man on his way to France, 13 days after The Longest Day landings, which took place on June 6.

Mr Taylor, who served with the Royal Engineers, recalled seeing hundreds of men and tonnes of equipment being landed at Normandy seven decades ago.

He said: "It was quite a sight. While I was off The Needles, we had to write out wills on the back of our pocketbooks. I actually broke down and cried. I knew it was serious."

After landing at Juno beach, Mr Taylor fought his way through France and Belgium and on to Germany. He lost friends on the way but returned home safely to the Island after the war where he married, had one son and two grandchildren.

He said: "Losing friends was quite a harrowing experience. I think there but for the grace of God go I."

In Normandy with Churchill

PICTURED on the Normandy beaches are two iconic figures from the Second World War, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General (later Field Marshal) Montgomery.

However, in the background, keeping an eye on the VIPs is Lt Ron Fairhurst, whose son Michael, lives on the Isle of Wight.

Ron, who served in 242 Provost Company, Military Police, was photographed with the two wartime leaders at Graye-sur-Mer about a week after D-Day.

Ron Fairhurst  
 Ron Fairhurst in the background, with Winston Churchill and General Montgomery.

He was assigned to guard them when they landed at Normandy to find out how the invasion was going.

His unit was attached to the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division and he was in command of the 100-strong 242 Provost Company when he eventually arrived by jeep at Graye-sur-Mer, codenamed Juno, in June 1944.

One of his duties was to usher King George Vl ashore at the beach, around two weeks after the initial invasion force had landed.

Ron moved to the IW in 1969 with his wife, Mary, and the couple ran a cafe at Chine Hill, Shanklin, before they took over Dunnose Cottge, Luccombe. where they remained for 15 years. He died in March 2011, aged 96.

Ron’s son runs the Seven restaurant in Brighstone. He said: "Dad never really talked about his wartime experiences. Then, I bought him a DVD of Saving Private Ryan and he burst into tears. He told me how he had been talking to an American officer and he witnessed him being killed."

How the Island is marking D-Day

A CEREMONY to commemorate the D-Day landings takes place at noon in Seaview today (Sunday).

Bembridge RNLI Lifeboat will be laying wreaths following a veterans parade, which will take place along the village’s High Street and Esplanade.

At Shanklin Chine, there is also a D-Day exhibition commemorating the chine’s involvement in the PLUTO (pipeline under the ocean) project.

The pipeline ran for the Island and supplied fuel to troops landing at Normandy.

Reporter: davidn@iwcpmail.co.uk

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