D-Day

My Grandfather

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of northern France that led to the end of the Nazi regime. I have been staying with my brother (I’v taken a day off riding) and visiting my mother, who lives next door. My Grandfather (Mum’s father) was one of the most influential commanders on D-day, so my mother has been glued to the television and other media coverage – in fact she barely looked up when I arrived yesterday! He was Major General Sir Percy Hobart, though he hated the “Percy” and preferred Patrick, but was known to most as Hobo. He had been bought back by Churchill from enforced retirement (by the Army) into the Home Guard – in fact he went into a meeting with Churchill as a corporal in the Home Guard and emerged as a Major General! His appointed role was to develop and train all of the specialised armour that was first ashore on D-Day – and continued to spearhead the assaults on Nazi defences across northern Europe afterwards. He formed the largest armour division that the planet has seen, and the importance of the armour can be demonstrated by comparing the results from the five Normandy beaches. The Americans in their pride decided not to use the British armour and sustained many more casualties and did not advance as far as the allies on all other beaches.

A specialised swimming tank (note the propeller as well as the tracks) that were among the first forces ashore on D-Day)
Flail tanks were used to clear the minefields to make safe routes for infantry and other tanks
A flame-thrower tank – apparently particularly effective against gun emplacements and in woodland

My mother suffers from vascular dementia but can remember quite a few things from the past. On D-Day, she was 14 years old and remembers having no lessons at school for the day, instead listening to the wireless commentary of the invasion. She remembers her father bringing camembert cheeses back from liberated France (remember these were luxury in wartime) and even sending his dispatch rider with cheeses also.

Hobo has been written about extensively, including in a full biography – Armoured Crusader, by Kenneth Macksey. He died of cancer before I was two years old so I remember nothing of him, but he sounds like a very strong-willed character with a very fierce drive to get things done; he did not suffer fools gladly. Maybe some personality characteristics can be inherited….

If you wish to read more, here are a few sources:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-48521692/percy-hobart-s-funnies-the-man-behind-the-unusual-tanks-of-d-day

https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-funny-tanks-of-d-day

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobart%27s_Funnies

https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/d-day-funnies-no-joke-to-the-nazis/

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160603-the-strange-tanks-that-helped-win-d-day

4 thoughts on “D-Day

  1. Enjoyed this especially the photos.
    35 years with your brother has taught me you’re not the only family member to have a “Touch of Hobo” in the genes

    Like

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