Monday, February 01, 2010

'Out of the night': D-Day 6 June 1944

Private John Slater, 12th Parachute Regiment, WW2.
During the night of 5 / 6 June 1944 John parachuted into Normandy
John had previously been at Dunkirk in the late spring of 1940.
In June 1944 John appeared ‘out of the night’ and returned to France
The long years of waiting were over …


For additional information click on ‘Comments’ below

3 Comments:

Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(Additional information)

Private John Slater, Service No: 3601519, was among the first Allied troops to land in Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944. He landed in the darkness at about 1.30 a.m. John parachuted down into the 6th Airborne Division landing area which was about 5 miles (8 kilometres) to the east of the British Landing Beaches. At that time John was serving with ‘C Company’, 12th Battalion Parachute Regiment - part of the famous 6th Airborne Division.

This Airborne Division were given the key tasks of capturing and holding some important bridges to the east of the Sword Beach Sector. They also put out of action some of the German installations, such as Merville Battery. Later in the war (March 1945), the 6th Airborne troops were involved in the crossing of the Rhine and into Germany

John served in the Armed Forces throughout the war. He had originally been with the 5th Battalion The Border Regiment (the local Territorial Battalion for West Cumbria). In 1940 John was with the 5th Borders in northern France, forming part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) prior to the Dunkirk evacuation. Inside St Nicholas’ Chapel, Whitehaven, Cumbria is a memorial to the Dunkirk Veterans, which takes the form of a casket with sand from the Dunkirk Beaches and a scroll listing all the former members of the West Cumbrian Dunkirk Veterans Association which disbanded at the 60th Anniversary of the evacuation in 2000.

On Friday 22 January 2010 John showed me the Dunkirk Veterans scroll which contains his name. The days and nights of 1940, during and after the forced evacuation from France were long and hard. After four years of waiting, John was one of those able to jump out of the night sky back into France. John was proud to have helped take part in the liberation of France and ultimately the whole of NW Europe.

During the war John had also served with the Royal Armoured Corps for a time before volunteering for the paratroops. As a paratrooper, John wore the coveted red beret, which he is wearing in the above photograph. He now lives in retirement at Frizington, Cumbria.

Tuesday, 02 February, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information
(October 2011)

John Slater, R.I.P.
(12 February 1919 - 5 October 2011)

Peacefully, after a short illness, John Slater passed away at the West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven on Wednesday 5 October 2011. At the time of his passing John was 92 years old.

His funeral service was held at Distington Crematorium, West Cumbria on Thursday 13 October. The service was conducted by Reverend Stephen Griffiths, Rector of Moresby Parish (Church of England) who made a fine and moving tribute of John's life as a family man and the service to his country.

The hymns that were said or sung were "Rock of Ages, cleft for me" and "The 23rd Psalm" ("The Lord's my shepherd"). Towards the end of John's funeral service the stirring sound of the bagpipes was heard. This called to mind an earlier occasion in Normandy in June 1944 when John, as one of the paratroopers waiting for relief forces to arrive heard the sound of the bagpipes coming towards them. Their prayers had been answered and all would be well. The sound of the bagpipes at John's funeral was an appropriate final tribute to an unassuming hero.

John was among the last of the troops evacuated from the Dunkirk Beaches in June 1940 and among the first of the troops to parachute into Normandy in June 1944. In 1945 John was also among the first of the Allied troops to cross the Rhine into Germany. He was later sent out to the Far East and was based in newly-liberated Singapore for a time before being demobbed in 1946.

In May 1944, a matter of weeks before parachuting into Normandy John married his sweetheart, Miss Eleanor (Nellie) Stephenson at St Michael's Church, Arlecdon, Cumberland (now Cumbria). John and Nellie had over 50 happy years of married life. They raised their three children at the nearby West Cumbrian village of Frizington. Nellie sadly passed away in 1995.

In civilian life John had tried his hand at a number of occupations. These included being a hired farm labourer, coal miner, cloth weaver & tie maker and finally a health physics monitor at the Sellafield Nuclear Plant from where he retired in 1984.

John had been proud to be a member of both the West Cumbria Branch of the Dunkirk Veterans and the West Cumbria Branch of the Normandy Veterans. He had also been treasurer of the Frizington Veterans Club for a number of years.

May he rest in peace.

To read John's obituary which appeared in 'The Whitehaven News' (13 October 2011) click on the following link:

Pte John Slater obituary
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Sunday, 16 October, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Wedding day at Arlecdon, Cumberland
(Saturday 6 May 1944)
John Slater to Eleanor Stephenson

As a member of the Allied Airborne Forces, Tuesday 6 June 1944 (D-Day) was an important date in the life of John Slater. It was a date he would always remember. Yet, the previous month there was another - even more important - date John would always remember. For Saturday 6 May 1944 was the day he married his sweetheart Eleanor (Nellie) Stephenson at their local parish church.

At the time, both John and Nellie were serving in the Armed Forces: Nellie was with the W.A.A.F. The marriage at the Parish Church was by Licence rather than by Banns. John and Nellie would, of course, have obtained permission from their respective Commanding Officers to get married. Next, they would have needed to arrange leave at the same time before they could arrange the wedding. This may have been wartime and difficult times but, in the spirit of Caravaggio, "Amor vincit omnia" ("Love conquers all").

John's brother Thomas (Tom) Slater was Best Man, and Nellie's cousin, Freda Jefferson was the Bridesmaid. A report of John and Nellie's wedding appeared in the local newspaper, 'The Whitehaven News'. Below is a transcription of the newspaper reports.
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From: 'The Whitehaven News'
(Thursday 18 May 1944)

1. Family Notices: Wedding Announcements

Slater - Stephenson

On Saturday May 6 1944, Licence, at St Michael's Church, Arlecdon by the Rev. Leycester Ward, John Slater, Air Borne Section, younger son of Mr and Mrs John Slater, Skelsceugh Road, Winder, to Eleanor Stephenson, W.A.A.F., younger daughter of Mr and Mrs Brough Stephenson, Greyhound Inn, Winder.
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2. Wedding report

Slater - Stephenson

Mr John Slater, younger son of Mr and Mrs J. Slater, Skelsceugh Road, Winder, and Miss Eleanor Stephenson, Greyhound Inn, Winder, were married by licence at St Michael's, Arlecdon, on Saturday by the Rev. L. Ward. Mr A. Bethwaite was the organist.

Given away by her father, the bride wore an oyster satin dress with fish-tail and wreath and veil. Her bouquet was of red roses and maidenhair fern. The bridesmaid was her cousin, Miss Freda Jefferson, whose dress was of blue figured satin with headdress to tone and bouquet of pink tulips ad maidenhead fern. Mr. T. Slater, brother of the bridegroom was the best man.

On leaving the church the happy couple were presented with two silver horse-shoes by the little daughter of Hannah Reed, cousin of the bride, and Miss Betty Fell, a friend of the bride. A reception was held at the home of the bride's parents. There were many presents and messages of congratulation from their comrades in the Forces - the bride is in the W.A.A.F. and the bridegroom in the airborne section. The bridegroom was at Dunkirk. As a boy he was a prominent player in the Arlecdon School Football Team.
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Acknowledgements:

Arledon Parish Church Marriage Register, 1914 - 1944 (No 246)
Cumbria County Archives
(Ref: YPR 33/12, Reel JAC 388)

'The Whitehaven News'

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Sunday, 16 October, 2011  

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