So many South Shields men played a vital role in D-Day success

So many men from South Shields played a vital role in the success of the D-Day landings and the fighting in the days afterwards – and paid with their lives, as historian Dorothy Ramser reveals.

Friday, 7th June 2019, 9:48 am
D-Day landings.

Three local men, all members of the Durham Light Infantry, Private Thomas Speeding (14508700), Private John Gaffney (14410327) and Lt John Rudd Mackie (138536), serving in 10th Battalion of the regiment, came ashore on Gold Beach on June 11, and by 5pm on the 12th were in St Gabriel near the Bayeux-Caen road.

On June 18 they attacked a wood where the Germans were holding out, and captured it. That night a patrol was sent out to search for the dead, one of whom was Thomas Speeding, who was just aged 19. Thomas, the son of Isaac and Isabella Speeding, is buried in Tilly-Sur-Seulles War Cemetery.

Just four days later, John Gaffney was killed, though, as a double blow to his parents, Edward and Hannah Gaffney, of Chestnut Grove, South Shields, his body was never found. He too was just 19 years old. He is remembered on the Bayeux Memorial.

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On June 19, the 10th Bn Durham Light Infantry were in the Mesnil- Mt La Vigne when the Germans launched a strong counter-attack, resulting in A Company being completely cut off and having to fight their out. John Rudd Mackie died that Saturday,aged 27, and is buried in Bonneville- La-Campagne War Cemetery.

He was the son of John Rudd and Dorothy Blanche Mackie and husband of Olive Mackie, of South Shields, who had the words: “Dearly Loved And Always Remembered By Mother, Dad, Olive and Colin” inscribed on his grave.

South Shields men Private Peter Thornton, Sgt Frederick Mason and Private Arthur Glister, all served in 11th Bn Durham Light Infantry which landed on Gold Beach at 11.30am on June 12.

They advanced quickly through Ver Sur Mer, Crepon, Creuilly and St Gabriel and set up camp in fields between Brecy and Rucqueville where they stayed for the next two days before the battalion sent out a reconnaissance unit to Cristot on Thursday, June 22. Arthur Glister (5680314) died that day, aged 31, and is buried in Bayeux War Cemetery. He was the son of Charles Alfred and Margaret Stephenson Glister, of Tyne Dock.

His family chose these words: “Worthy deeds they wrought and wonders, worthy of the name they bore” for his headstone.

On June 27, The 11th Durhams encountered the 12th SS Hitler Youth at Rauray, and fixing bayonets attacked the enemy.

Of the 70 soldiers in the two platoons, only six were still able to fight on. Both Peter Thornton and Frederick Mason were killed.

Private Thornton (4443738) was 38 and is buried in St Manvieu War Cemetery, Cheux. He was the husband of Ada Alvira Thornton of South Shields who had inscribed these touching words on his headstone; “You Lie in a Grave Across the Sea, But in my Heart You are Ever Near To Me”.

Sgt Mason (4462490) was 30 and is buried in Fonteney-Le-Pesnil War Cemetery, Tessel. He was the son of Robert Alexander and Grace Mason and husband of Margaret Fullerton Mason, of South Shields, and his inscription “Love’s Last Tribute, Remembrance Loving Wife Margaret and Son Michael”. Desert Rat, Lance Corporal Charles Rising (7957911), from South Shields served in B Sqn of 4th County Of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters).

On July 13, Charles and his comrades clashed with 101 Heavy SS Panzer Battalion Villers Bocage, which destroyed 13 tanks, two anti-tank guns and 13 transport vehicles in just 15 minutes. Although Charles survived the battle, he died on July 20, trying to capture Verrieres.

He is buried in La Delivrande War Cemetery, Douvres.

Charles, who was just 21, was the son of Charles and Rachael Rising who gave him the following epitaph: “To The Glory of God and in Memory of our Dear Son who Laid down his Life RIP”.

Having landed in the second wave on Gold Beach on D-Day, South Shields Trooper Joseph William Brown (7948680) was killed whilst defending the Durham Light Infantry at St Pierre.

Joseph William Brown, who was 21, is buried in Tilly-Sur-Seulles War Cemetery. He was the son of Joseph and Helen Brown who asked for this inscription “Beloved Only Child of Joseph and Helen South Shields. His Memory Liveth Ever”.

Lance Corporal Thomas Hunter (7928514) died on Tuesday, August 15, aged 24, and is buried in Banneville-La-Campagne War Cemetery. He served in 23rd Hussars tank regiment. Thomas was killed on a push to Canteloupe.

l Read Dorothy’s final tribute article on Monday.