‘We didn’t realise what we were getting into.’
Second World War veteran Ted Rutland sits at home wearing his full assortment of military decorations.
The 92-year-old of King Edward Avenue, Mansfield was awarded the French Legion D’Honneur, handed to the heroes who took part in the Normandy invasion and liberation of France. But the war wasn’t what our boys expected, he told.
“I was called up and I wanted to join because it was just a change from working on a construction site.”
After training Ted was given his orders with the 148 Royal Artillery Corps as a gunner driver and on March 12, 1944 his regiment crossed the channel for Gold Beach in Normandy. “We didn’t realise what we were getting into,” he said. We were put on the American landing ships and sailed form Portsmouth.
“The Germans were further along the coast close to Caen, so when we arrived we were deployed along the front line, as close to the Germans as we could get to keep them wondering where we were going to break through.”
They broke the lines at Falaise and the unit was hit on one tragic day by friendly fire.
“There was about 100 American aircraft flying over, and we were sat on the Sherman tank watching them. They went over the lines, across to the Germans and then came back and dropped their bombs on us. When the leader aircraft bombs the rest have to as well, so it was the leader who got it wrong and all the other planes followed.”
The result was a mess to say the least. “We lost the best part of two squadrons. A lot of good men died that day, I lost a few friends. “
The rest of the war was somewhat more relaxed for him.
“It wasn’t as scary as it was for others. It was a good life out there,” he said. “It were great, being with your pals, we used to do anything we liked for fun. We went around the French pubs – we were all rough ends.
The army taught you to look after yourself and we looked out for each other.”
Later he was posted with the 5th Royal Tank Regiment at Limbrick in the Netherlands.
“We used to go in reccy vehicles to try and find out where the Germans were, and after that we crossed the Rhine and into Germany.
And when his troop was disbanded Ted thinks it to do with keeping horror stories quiet.
“They wanted to get rid of us because they didn’t want us telling the young recruits what we’d seen. It would have scared them,” he added.
And he said even though he was bombed by the Americans it didn’t cause a rift between the forces.
“We used to try to get close to them because they had more food than us, so the Americans were the ones to get in with.”
After leaving the army Ted kept up his support for the military with the Royal British Legion, and as a Mansfield poppy appeal organiser he’s raised an amazing £330,000 in 20 years.