GIVEN NAME: Cyril Walter
DATE OF BIRTH: June 11, 1923
PLACE OF BIRTH: Nottingham, England
UNIT: 19 Beach Signal Section, Combined Operations Command
BEFORE THE WAR:
Cyril Walter Crain was born on June 11, 1923 in Nottingham, England to Sidney and Florence Crain. He had one brother, Frances Edward, who worked in a bomb factory during the war. Cyril was educated at Southwark Street Junior School and Ellis Senior School, and was employed as a wages clerk before enlisting.
ACTIVITY DURING THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC & THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN:
At the start of the war, Cyril was too young to enlist, so he joined the Home Guard. In January 1942, he enlisted in the Lincolnshire Regiment, and was subsequently transferred to the Royal Norfolk Regiment, and then the Royal Corps of Signals in October 1942.
In March 1943, Signalman Crain was asked to volunteer for Special Services – Combined Operations. As the position paid an extra sixpence daily, and as beer was sixpence a pint, Cyril accepted the offer and joined 19 Beach Signal Section, with 27 other men. The motto of Combined Operations was “United We Conquer”.
Cyril trained in Ayrshire, Scotland, acquiring the nickname of ‘Spider’, and practicing amphibious landings, with lots of drill and long marches.
As he recalled, “Much of our time was devoted to making landings from L.C.A’s (Landing Craft Assault). They were flat-bottomed and shaped almost like boxes, so that they were able to run up to the shore and beach, but not very good for sailing in. They would toss about like a matchbox, ride to the top of a wave and flop down the other side with a splash. Not very good for the head or stomach!”
Later in 1943, Cyril was attached to The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, an infantry regiment from Toronto, to prepare for the inevitable assault on Fortress Europe.
“We were blessed with good food as we teamed up with the Canadians, who first called us the ‘Limey Commandos’. We soon became great pals, and ate and drank with them. My mouth still waters as I think of the pancakes and maple syrup we had at breakfast time – very scrumptious!”
D-DAY & BATTLE OF NORMANDY:
Shortly before D-Day, Cyril and his 19 Beach Signal Section were transferred to a high-security tented camp near Southampton. With members of The Queen’s Own Rifles, they were transported to Southampton Docks, and then boarded the S.S. Monowai, a former armed merchant cruiser built in New Zealand, and now converted to carry L.C.A.s (Landing Craft Assault).
“We left port and sailed out into the Solent, which became known as “Piccadilly Circus” due to the large number of craft anchored there. The weather was terrible and the seas so rough that the invasion date, which was originally set for 5th June, had to be postponed. But, if we were to catch the right tide for the landings on that particular month, then 6th June was the latest date it could be delayed until, so 6th June it was!”
Signalman Crain landed with the QOR at 08:15 in the first assault wave at Bernieres-sur-Mer. As Cyril recalled, “The ramps went down and we raced down the ramp quite orderly only to find ourselves up to the waist in water. All hell was let loose, with heavy machine gun fire from beyond the seawall.” Cyril’s friend, Sergeant Freddy Harris of the QOR, was hit by machine gun fire while racing for the seawall with Cyril, and died on the beach.
Cyril’s task was to land with the QOR assault troops and communicate back to their ship off-shore that the attack had been successful. His radio did not work. When the QOR moved inland, he and his comrades in the 19th Beach Signal Section remained on Juno Beach to put up telephone lines. He remained near the coast for the remainder of the Battle of Normandy, and was then returned to England.
AFTER THE WAR:
Cyril met his wife, Doreen, in 1941, and they were married on Boxing Day (December 26) 1944. They had a son, Robert Cyril.
Cyril also served in India and Singapore and, at the end of the war, was given six weeks demobilization leave, then sent back to work to try to pick up the pieces of his life. He returned to his employment for a timber merchant, but like many others, found it hard to settle and there followed a succession of jobs. He eventually found a job which suited him, in the management services of The Boots Pure Drug Company in Beeston Notts, from which he retired.
Doreen passed away in 2009. Cyril joined her in November 2014.