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Commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day

29 May 2019 by Karen O'Rourke

On 6 June, we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day, Normandy Landings. This was the start of the Allied forces operation to liberate Europe, which would eventually lead to the end of the Second World War. In recognition of the part played by men from the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, we are staging a small display on the first floor of the Museum of Liverpool from Saturday 25 May to Wednesday 17 July.

Two battalions from the Regiment took part. Both were allocated the role of Beach Group, which involved securing the Beach, providing cover and directing the landed troops and equipment once ashore. It also involved gathering up the dead and wounded whenever there was a lull in the German bombardment. Anyone who has seen the first few minutes of the film Saving Private Ryan will understand that being part of a Beach Group was no easy task. For our two local battalions, the 5th based at Sword Beach and the 8th based at Juno Beach, that task lasted six weeks. After this, the 8th Battalion were disbanded, while the 5th Battalion moved inland with the advancing Allied troops. For more information on the part the Regiment played in the Second World War, at D-Day, in Italy and in Burma, you can visit our City Soldiers gallery.

Our new D-Day display will focus on the story of one man; Sergeant Cyril Askew was already serving with the King’s in India when War broke out. He was still in India, training for the first Chindit Expedition that went into Burma in 1943 when he was told he would be returning to England. His seven years service was up. He returned home and was soon back serving with the King’s. In the spring of 1944 he was transferred to the Lincolnshire Regiment to begin training for the secret invasion. Placed in the 3rd Division, he landed on Sword Beach alongside the 5th battalion of the Liverpool regiment.

His stories tell of the horror and chaos of the Normandy Landings; being trapped on the first day under the constant fire from German Machine gunners and Mortar Crews; The confusion of not knowing the whereabouts of the rest of his unit; Gathering his group together one-by-one; The search for food and supplies, and ‘grabbing a bite’ when possible and the push inland through a terrain dominated by tanks and bomb damaged buildings. As a seasoned soldier he was in the thick of it leading his section in the attacks, his memories of the action crystal clear.
Finally he was sent home to recuperate, too exhausted to fight any more, arriving back in England less than two months after he had deployed. Although his D-Day experience was with the Lincolnshire Regiment, Cyril was a Kingo at heart and he wore his King’s cap badge with Pride for the rest of his life.

In later years he returned to the Normandy region several times with fellow D-Day Veterans. In 2017 surviving Veterans were awarded the Legion of Honour by the French Government. Cyril received his at Bootle Town Hall, with his family and fellow Kings present.

Cyril passed away in October 2018 aged 101. Kings Regiment Standard Bearers paraded at his funeral.

There will be a ceremony at St John’s Memorial gardens at 11am on 6 June to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. The same evening, there will be a ‘turning of the leaves’ ceremony at the Anglican Cathedral at 5pm.

Find out more about the long and fascinating history of the King’s Regiment in the City Soldiers gallery.

  1. Michael Collins says:

    My grandad was originally posted to the 13th Battalion and was due to go to Burma, however, apparently he swapped postings with a friend to be closer to my nan as she was pregnant. He ended up in the 5th Battalion and landed on D-Day and went on to be a member of T-Force after recovering from being wounded at the battle of Falaise.

    I am unsure if his friend he swapped with survived the war, given the Chindit casualty rate in Burma, it is unlikely.

    • Karen O'Rourke says:

      Hi Michael, thank you for your comment. i didn’t realise that men could swap postings, but in this job we are always learning new things!
      It was a big shock for the 5th Battalion when, after six weeks of Beach Group duty and expecting to join the fighting force, they were instead told that they were being disbanded. It was only the intervention of the C.O. Lieutenant Colonel Wreford Brown, who made the argument that they were a first line Territorial Battalion, that saved them. they were reduced down to cadre strength and only brought back up to full strength once the had been selected for T-Force duty. if you want to find out a little more about what your grandad was doing, there is a really good book about T-Force by the Second World War historian Sean Longden.
      If you know the name of your grandad’s friend, you can check if he is listed on the Commonwealth War Graves database (https://www.cwgc.org/). It is still very difficult to research Second World War Service Personnel, as their information is covered by data protection regulations, but CWGC does have the names of over 580,000 people who were killed in the Second World War.

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