Jack Robertson's Service Summary
1365501 Leading Aircraftman John (Jack) Robertson
Jack Robertson enlisted in the Royal Air Force on 28th September 1940 as an Aircraft Hand/Wireless Operator. After completing his Basic Training and specialist training, he was eventually posted to No. 18 Squadron on 28th September 1941.
This squadron was based at RAF Luqa on the island of Malta during the period of heavy attacks by German Forces, which were so valiantly resisted by those on the island, and in such a gallant manner that Malta was awarded the George Cross by King George VI.
He remained with No. 18 Squadron until early in 1944 when he was posted back to England to RAF Chigwell. It is assumed that, while at Chigwell, he underwent training specific to the forthcoming invasion of Normandy, and he was posted, as a member of Mobile Signals Unit, (MSU) 5276D, to No. 85 (Base) Group.
This move of MSU 5276D was recorded on 10th May 1944 in the Operations Record Book (ORB) of No. 21 Base Defence Wing, (shortly afterwards re-designated as No. 21. Base Defence Sector). No more information is known until the ORB shows Jack Robertson to have ‘embarked’, (no date given) and then disembarked on 6th June 1944, D-Day. We can be certain that Jack disembarked on Omaha Beach as the Operations Record Book for HQ, 85 (Base) Group – Air Staff Policy, gives a list of Units which landed during the Assault Phase on D-Day, underlining those which landed in the American Sector. Included in this underlined list was MSU 5276D.
Jack, himself, gave little information about his landing other than to say that he was with the Americans on Omaha, and the American in command of his Landing Craft was a “cigar-smoking American”. He went on to say that his vehicle, a small one, contained all of his Unit’s equipment, spare gear and arms, and was unable to cope with the depth of water beyond the sandbank on which the landing craft had beached and dropped its ramp, and consequently it “drowned”. Although their Landrover had been waterproofed prior to embarking, it was inoperable and all they could get ashore were their backpacks containing rations and key items of equipment, which they carried above their heads as they waded ashore.
He then stated that, as the sand made their uniforms look grey, it made them resemble the field grey used by the Germans, and as the Americans did not realise that there was a small unit of Royal Air Force personnel landing with them, they mistook them for the enemy and started to shoot at them! Once they got to the beach, they scrambled up the dunes and began digging foxholes in the sand. He stated that they dug up a mine first but quickly covered it up again. As far as the events on Omaha beach are concerned, Jack’s account mentions nothing more.
He did say, though, that the Americans held a Liberation Parade in Paris and that as a result, his Unit was pushed into a side road in order to make way for them. Interestingly, he stated that they had already been in Paris for three days prior to this.
This accords with information that there were two Liberation Parades, one by the Free French, led by Generals De Gaulle and LeClerc, on 26th August 1944, the day after the official surrender of the Germans to the French on 25th August 1944, and one by the Americans on the 29th August 1944.