Chaos ashore

Allied troops landing on Gold beach on 6 June 1944

On 6th June 1944, approximately 150,000 Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy in an effort to reclaim France from Nazi control. One of those brave souls, attached to the Sherwood Rangers tank regiment, was Reverend Leslie Skinner, a remarkable, compassionate man who was the first British chaplain to land on those hostile shores. Upon reaching Gold beach, his mission was not one of combat, but of profound humanity: to treat the wounded, locate and bury the bodies of the fallen, and notify the families of the deceased by letter. Throughout it all, Skinner somehow found the time and strength to keep a detailed diary in which he recorded the events of each day and made a note of all injuries, deaths and burials in his regiment. This was his entry on D-Day.

The Diary Entry
Private Papers of Reverend L F Skinner TD, Imperial War Museum
© IWM Documents.10908


Up at 5am – cold, wet & sea very rough – land visible about 6.30 in mist – rain clears off. Stand to from 7am.

Running for beach 07.00 – under fire from 07.10 – beached 07.25. Volunteered for unrolling matting – struck mine as beached – men on either side of me lost leg – & 2 others injured, self blown on to Bren Carrier but OK. Doors jammed.

Gave [?] rough dressings to wounded. Lifted them out of harm’s way into [hatches?] – Ships officer cut ropes & door fell down – rolled matting off – shell blast immediately ahead of us – water about 5 or 6 ft deep – Shell fire pretty hot – some infantry left matting & made for beach leaving four of us to unroll matting – managed it – pulled muscle in left chest.

Chaos ashore. Germans firing everything [they’ve] got. Unable to get off beach. Road blocked for 1½ miles – some vehicles off beach & many tanks on to road. Road mined so every thing standstill – 2 bulldozers trying to get through to fill hole but mined. Spent 1hr demolishing remains of concrete pillbox to make way off beach – heavy work with pickaxe [?] for 20 mins… chest hurt like hell. Got M15 [motorbike] off beach – saw CO & A Sqdn – still waiting for minefield to be cleared & way out made –

No [Royal Army Medical Corps] on one section of beach – got my [?] & M15 back on beach & opened Dressing Station – many wounded mostly 1st Dorsets – collected [?] – heavy work carrying all by hand – Saw U.S. skipper of [Tank Landing Ship] & after a hell of [a] row persuaded him to evacuate my wounded. By 18.30 13 on board – carried up Jacobs Ladder & down vertical companionways to crew quarters. Terribly tired. Sent for our Doc. to examine them before leaving. He came about 7.30 & saw them all – [?] but one likely to die before reaching U.K. – Got lots off to [?] by US craft.

Bed about 1.30 dead beat – fell asleep beside M15 Indescribably filthy – discovered my patient waterproof bag full of water – 40 casualties to date.

Further Reading

Leslie Skinner’s diary is held at the Imperial War Museum, who have this particular page digitised on their website. It is that image, also seen above, that I’ve attempted to transcribe for the past couple of hours. I apologise for the gaps, but there were some parts I just could not work out.

There is a published edition of his diary, which I have not had a chance to read, titled The Man Who Worked On Sundays. Copies can be found here.

And should you wish to learn more about the Sherwood Rangers tank regiment, grab a copy of James Holland’s bestselling book, Brothers in Arms: One Legendary Tank Regiment’s Bloody War from D-Day to VE-Day.

Read Reverend Skinner’s obituary in the Guardian in 2001.

One response to “Chaos ashore”

  1. Nguyen Cong Kien Avatar
    Nguyen Cong Kien

    Looking at the diary page made me even mỏe appreciative of you Shaun, Thank you so much for this project.

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