MANY men from South Buckinghamshire were involved in the first day of the Normandy offensive on D-Day, June 6, and five paid the ultimate sacrifice. Local men killed in action on that day were two Captains, one Lieutenant, and two Privates.

Captain Joseph Oscar Daniel

Joseph (known as Jo) Oscar Daniel was a Captain in the 76th Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery. The adopted son of Sophia Daniel, Jo was born in 1918 and before the war lived with his wife at a house called Ethelred in Orchard Lane, Amersham-on-the-Hill.

He had been educated at the Cardinal Vaughan School in Kensington, then was awarded the Andrews Classical Scholarship to study at University College, London, graduating with a first class honours degree in classics. Whilst at college he was a member of the university fencing team, and also the London University Officers’ Training Corps. He was President of the university’s College Catholic Society, and his wife-to-be Ellen Elizabeth Clark was Secretary. They married in January 1940 at St Benedict’s Church in Ealing. The couple’s first daughter was born late in 1940, with a second daughter Teresa born in 1943.

Shortly after his marriage, at which time his rank was as Second-Lieutenant, he rejoined his Regiment and went straight into action as a part of the British Expeditionary Force. He was amongst the men evacuated from Dunkirk.

On D-Day, Joseph was killed when his LCP (Landing Craft - Personnel) was sunk at about 07.00 whilst approaching Sword Beach. He is buried in the War Cemetery at Hermanville, Normandy. Memorials with his headstone state that it was said that he would make jokes in ancient Greek and write postcards home in the Esparanto language!

Private Arthur Platt

Arthur was born in 1924, the son of Herbert and Colley Platt, the family living at Hill Cottage, White Lion Road, Amersham Common.

Arthur enlisted in the British Army before the war, first joining the 2nd Battalion, Oxon and Bucks Territorial’s, before being transferred to the 7th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. The Battalion joined the abortive BEF campaign in France and Belgium, advancing and then retreating, eventually reaching Dunkirk on the evening of May30, 1940. A first-hand account of this stating “the final stage was an anti-climax in which the remnants of 7th Worcestershire (out of a strength of 800 men, approx 250 had been killed or wounded, 150 taken prisoner, leaving 400 men to make it out from Dunkirk) on May 31 walked along the sea wall and waited for the first boat to come in. Then with simple formality they stepped aboard and were soon away from the coasts of France.”

However, that was not the end of their ordeal. Out at sea the boat was bombed, set on fire and sank. Arthur was badly burnt before he managed to jump overboard. Fortunately he was a good swimmer, and after about 2 hours in the sea he was rescued and taken back to the beach, put on a stretcher and taken to Dunkirk Hospital. After a couple of days the Germans began shelling the hospital, so the British wounded were taken back to the beach and once more evacuated. This time they made it back to England, arriving in a hospital on June 3. Arthur made a good recovery and was released from hospital in September 1940.

He then joined the 8th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, which underwent. an intensive training programme in Wiltshire for a ‘major offensive’. On the night of June 5 1944, the battalion departed England for France. The men parachuted out of their aircraft at 00.50 on June 6. Their ‘drop-zone’ was about three miles to the south of the main invasion force at the village of Ranville. This was the first village to be liberated in France when the bridge over the Caen Canal was captured intact in the early hours of 6 June. Their primary objective on landing was to destroy several bridges over the river Dives and then take up defensive positions east of Pegasus bridge. These objectives were achieved.

Arthur was killed during that operation and is buried at Ranville War Cemetery.

Private Ralph Gomm

Ralph was born on August 6,1915, the son of Albert and Rose Gomm who lived at Springhall Hill, Buckland Common, near Wendover. He was a keen sportsman, playing football for local teams, and cricket for Buckland Common, where he was the wicket-keeper and a middle-order batsman.

He enlisted in the Regular Army, and was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. In late September 1944 they were sent to France to join the BEF and took up positions on the border with Belgium. They remained there for several months without being involved in any major engagements. This changed on February 5, 1945, when they were sent to the front, and were then involved in the retreat to Dunkirk.

With two other battalions, they were given the task of keeping open the main supply route to Dunkirk, so they took up defensive positions around the town of Wormhoudt. On May 28, about 70 British soldiers from these three battalions, and about 20 French men, were surrounded by German SS troops and captured. They were then stripped, herded into a milking shed, and the Germans started firing and throwing stick-grenades into the shed. Around half the men were killed. The survivors of the massacre were captured by regular German troops a few days later. The perpetrators of the massacre were never brought to justice.

The men of the battalion who survived the retreat to Dunkirk were evacuated back to England on June 1. They were then moved to Somerset in order to be able to counter a German invasion should it take place. In December 1940 the Battalion was moved again, this time as part of a Force to defend London.

After the threat of an invasion had receded, the Battalion began training for offensive operations. Their next action was on D-Day, when they were amongst the first troops to land on Queen Beach, a sub-division of Sword, in the early hours of the morning of June 6. During the action on that day four men were killed and thirty-five were wounded. Private Ralph Gomm was one of those killed and is commemorated at the War Cemetery at Bayeux, Normandy.

Lieutenant Michael F Burness

Michael was born in 1918, the son of Frederick and Winifred Burness. At that time the family lived at house called ‘Halings’ in Denham, where his father ran a coal merchant’s business and his mother Winifred was treasurer of the woman’s section of the local Conservative Association. During the war, they moved to ‘Five Diamonds’ in Little Chalfont and Mrs Burness was appointed a Justice of the Peace.

Michael enlisted in the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry and was posted to the 1st Battalion. On the outbreak of war they were in Barracks at Colchester, receiving orders to mobilize on Sept 1. They set sail from Southampton under cover of darkness on October 1, arriving in Cherbourg next morning. The next few months were spent advancing to the front, then withdrawing in the face of the German ‘Blitzkrieg’. They were evacuated from Dunkirk on June 1.

The Battalion then remained in Britain until on June 6, 1944 they set sail as part of the ‘second-tide convoy’ at 07.00, reaching a position about one mile off the Normandy coast at 19.00 hrs. As the LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry) approached the coast, the beach appeared all but deserted and was not under fire from the heavy guns based at Le Havre.

There were still some snipers lurking in nearby buildings, and German aircraft sometimes flew overhead dropping bombs. During this time Lieutenant Burness was reported missing believed killed, which was relayed back to his family. A few days later it was confirmed by the chaplain who had buried his body, that he had been killed in action. The chaplain himself was subsequently killed.

Lieutenant Burness was later re-buried at the War Cemetery in Hermanville.

Captain James Helier White

James H White, a Captain in the 1st Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment, was killed on the Normandy beaches. He was 35 years old.

He was the younger son of Dr Robert Prosser-White and his wife Clarise who lived at Grove Cottage in Grove Road, Beaconsfield. His father was a distinguished specialist in diseases of the skin, particularly those which occurred through exposure in industrial situations.

James graduated from University College, Oxford, with an M.A., then obtained a Doctorate in Economics from Bonn University, after which he joined the staff of the League of Nations in Geneva as an economics expert. He volunteered for military service before the war.

The 1st Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment , were sent to France in 1939 shortly after the start of the war to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), which after advancing into Belgium, were soon forced to withdraw. The Battalion then took up a defensive position to help cover the withdrawal of the BEF to Dunkirk and were among the last British troops to be evacuated on the night of June 2/3.

After Dunkirk, Britain was in imminent danger of invasion by German forces and the Lancashire’s were amongst those Battalions tasked with the defence of our coastline. When that threat receded, they began training for offensive operations.

The 1st South Lancashire’s were one of the leading assault Battalions in the Normandy offensive. They landed on Queen White Beach (part of the sector codenamed Sword Beach) at 07.20 on June 6 and soon lost their Commanding Officer and well over one hundred other casualties, including Captain White. Despite these losses they made good progress through the well-prepared German beach defences and pressed ahead to capture the village of Hermanville by 09.00. Over the next few days they continued to advance, eventually securing the famous ‘Pegasus bridge’ across the river Orne.

Captain White is buried in the War Cemetery at Bayeux, Normandy.