At H-hour on D-day, army chaplain Cpt Leslie Skinner struck out for Gold beach. “This is it. Running for beach by 0700. Under fire by 0710. Beached at 0725,” his diary records. “Man either side of me wounded. One lost leg. I was blown backwards onto Bren Carrier but OK. Made it to beach, though I had hell of pain in left side.”
Skinner’s diary, gifted to the Imperial War Museums (IWM), charts the Battle of Normandy from the beach landings of 6 June 1944 through three months of attrition warfare in hedgerows and in towns and villages that are now household names: he landed with the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry tank regiment at Asnelles, a couple of kilometres from Arromanches, where Winston Churchill’s vision of a portable port was realised in the engineering miracle of the Mulberry harbours.
On the back of the 75th anniversary of Operation Neptune, the seaborne phase of the Allied landings, Normandy is preparing for another invasion this summer.
More than 2 million remembrance tourists are expected to retrace Skinner’s footsteps and those of the other 156,000 Allied troops who landed on that day, at myriad museum exhibitions and around preserved key landmarks.