St Edward’s D-Day Contribution Remembered

Today – Thursday 6th June 2019 – marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy; to date, the greatest seaborne invasion in history. Operation Neptune (the seaborne landing element of Operation Overlord) saw over 150,000 men land on the beaches of the Normandy coast to establish their five initial beachheads, supported by hundreds of escort vessels, minesweepers and aircraft, all preceded by the deployment of 24,000 men of the allied parachute regiments. 

As explained by the School Archivist, Chris Nathan OSE, it is challenging to say precisely how many of the 1,700 OSE in service were directly involved on D-Day itself, or the days immediately following it, known as the Battle of Normandy. Through the analysis of troop and ship movements, Chris places an estimate of 10 to 15 OSE involved in operations on 6th June 1944, with a further 30 involved up to and including Operation Market Garden. 

Among those involved was Peter Coop OSE, who landed on Sword Beach with the Rifle Brigade. He survived the landings but was killed just one week later on D-Day+7.

Another to land on Sword Beach was Major Anthony (known as Tony) Lewis OSE of No 6 Commando, and formerly the Dorsetshire Regiment, who at the age of just 24 was required to take on the command of No 6 Commando following the loss of senior officers, and was later awarded the DSO – an account of Tony’s remarkable experiences will feature in the upcoming Chronicle.

Michael Parker OSE pictured for the School Cricket XI in 1939, from the School Archives

American-born Mario Sorrel OSE landed on the infamous Omaha Beach with the American 120th Infantry, surviving the landings, but was killed in action a month later. 

Sadly, two OSE who survived the fighting on D-Day died recently: Michael Parker OSE (pictured left) who died on 30th May 2019, just one week prior to the 75th anniversary commemorations and had been a Gunnery Officer on HMS Warspite, the battleship which fired the first shots of the entire operation; and Edward Burn OSE who landed on the British beaches with the Buckinghamshire Regiment who had the remarkable accolade of having landed on the beach with dry feet after clinging onto the tank barrel of a landing craft having professed a strong aversion to fighting in wet socks and boots!

Several OSE also flew sorties in fighters and bombers to support the landings, and several more were among the naval escorts. Of the more than 1,700 OSE who served in the Second World War, 150 lost their lives, whilst 79 OSE fought in both the first and the second world wars. 

Chris Nathan’s book on St Edward’s and the OSE involvement in the Second World War, Let it Roar, Let it Rage, We Shall Come Through will be published in the autumn.

The photograph at the top of the page shows US troops playing baseball during some R-and-R on the Lower Fields in May 1944 shortly before the invasion began. 

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