Scottish War Blinded Member Returns to Normandy for 70th Commemorations

Posted: 04/07/2014 | Scottish War Blinded

Scottish War Blinded member Hugh Maguire attended the recent 70th anniversary commemorations in Normandy including a return to Sword Beach, visits to war cemeteries and attend the remembrance service at Arromanches.

Hugh was a 24 year old Lance Corporal who landed on Sword Beach with the 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles on D-Day.

Hugh describes his experiences of D-Day:

Scottish War Blinded Member Hugh Maguire Returns to Normandy“We were transported via the landing craft towards the beach, the water was very cold and it was very difficult wading through the water. I was relieved to make it onto the actual beach. We were supposed to move forwards towards Caen but we didn’t get very far the first day. But we persevered and persevered slowly moving towards the objective.”

On 9 June 1944 (D-Day +3) The Royal Ulster Rifles were ordered to attack the area of Cambes Wood supported by the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. They were met with fierce resistance from SS units inflicting considerable casualties on the regiments.

Hugh continues:

“We eventually got to a place called Cambes Woods. D Company went in first believing only a few units of Germans remained but they were quickly surrounded and many were killed. We reinforced the attack and were surrounded by dead bodies, many of them mates of ours. We eventually took the Cambes Wood.

“We moved on to Hill 60 and it wasn’t long before the German artillery opened up on us. A good mate of mine took a direct hit and was blown to pieces, I was blown 12 feet in the air and had shrapnel in my back, neck and shoulders.

 “A corporal tried to send me to first aid but I told him that I’d never refused an order in my life and asked permission to take down the machine gun position that had peppered us that morning. He looked at me and said that I wasn’t to blame him if I got shot, I said that was ok as I wouldn’t be there to worry about it.

“I crawled my way up to side of the machine gun post and shouted at them to surrender. I shot two of them as they turned their guns towards me, everything happened very quickly. The other two surrendered, one of them an SS Officer, who I marched back to headquarters.

“I arrived back at our lines and realised it was the Kings Own Scottish Borderers sector who wanted to take the prisoners. I said no…they are prisoners of the Royal Ulster Rifles. I found our part of the line and handed the prisoners in. The corporal who had tried to send me to the first aid post earlier spotted me and escorted me to have my wounds looked at.”

Hugh returned to the UK to undergo extensive surgery to remove the shrapnel. Following six weeks of recovery, he returned to his regiment who had reached the banks of the Rhine. Hugh was awarded the Gallantry Medal for bravery and has been nominated for the Legion d’Honneur.

Hugh reflects on his recent trip back to Normandy:

“This was the first time I had been back to Normandy. I was interviewed by the BBC and was warmly welcomed everywhere I went, I even signed some autographs. My daughter flew back from Australia to accompany me on the trip. I showed her where I landed, received the Normandy Medal and visited some of the war cemeteries, it was very emotional.”