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A hero returns

6 June 2014
Captain David Render 1944

Captain David Render 1944

Captain David Render 89, graduated from Sandhurst at the age of 18. He is probably one of Sherwood Rangers’ last surviving officers and is one of the thousands of veterans who’ve travelled to the places where they saw action using a Big Lottery Fund Heroes Return grant.

After completing my officer training in February 1942 I was assigned to a holding camp in Cumberland. In June 1944, now a Second Lieutenant I was ordered to travel to Portsmouth, but was given no inkling of the purpose of my trip. It was all a mystery.

When I arrived Pompey was awash with frantic loading of equipment, men and food onto ships. I was given orders to oversee the loading of 16 Cromwell tanks on to a landing craft. So I did as I was ordered but the next thing I knew the ship was at sea! This was the start of my war. The landing craft arrived on Gold Beach on D-day plus four in the early light and the front of the loading platform was lowered.

The first tank drove off and just disappeared. It sank and all the crew were drowned. It was a terrible thing to see. I had just been talking to the chaps minutes before. The ships commander hadn’t realised that a series of deep trenches existed below the sea line so they had to move the ship to another location on the beach. Thankfully, all the other tanks were safely disembarked.

Captain David Render 2014

Captain David Render 2014

I was then given orders to join the Sherwood Rangers on D–day plus six and went into battle as troop leader on the following day. We came up against the SS Herman Goering division. Nasty pieces of work, they set fire to a church with all the villagers locked inside. How can anyone do that?

I remember going into a small church in Normandy that the Sherwood’s had liberated and there were flowers and crosses and candles that the Germans had lit. I thought it strange that we and them were praying to the same god for victory and safety.

Normandy I remained as a troop leader to the end of the war and apart from having two tanks blown from under me and a few bruises and nicks I came out the war physically unscathed. A rare achievement given that the Sherwood’s lost 59 officers from June ‘44 to May ‘45.

To go back to the cemeteries in France to see our lads is really heart-rending. We were the lucky ones – make no bones about it.

And we are lucky that we have got an organisation like the Big Lottery Fund who cares for our old soldiers, who are still very interested in keeping alive their memories and passing them on to the younger generation, who we sincerely hope will not do it again.

 

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