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Man saves life five days after D-Day

Year 1944

Read by John Grandy – Chairman, Royal Humane Society

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Day, Henry James, Warrant Officer II, Royal Engineers.

On the evening of the 11th June, 1944, (5 days after D-Day) orders were given to send 3 gangs of men to unload the M.T. Ship No. 19 then laying at anchor off Arromanches, Normandy. Owing to the gale, rough seas and heavy swell, the officer in charge decided that it was not safe to send the whole party off in one trip in the launch provided, and consequently only two gangs consisting of 2 officers and 45 other ranks embarked at 5 p.m. The bulk of the party were able to find accommodation between decks, but 10 persons had to remain on deck, and found considerable difficulty in holding on, due to the heavy rolling of the launch in the big swell then running. When about one mile off shore, the launch nearly capsized due to an extra large wave and a Lance-Corporal (a non- swimmer) lost his hold and fell overboard. A lifebuoy was thrown from the launch in his direction, but failed to reach him and was swept away by the wind and sea.

Lt.-Col. A.C. Lusty, R.A.O.C. and W.O. Day, seeing the Lance-Corporal in difficulties, had immediately dived overboard fully clothed and held him up while the launch endeavoured to put about to pick them up. Seeing the time it would take for the launch to turn round in the heavy swell, W.O. Day swam after the lifebuoy and with great difficulty managed to tow it back against the wind and sea to where Lt.-Col. Lusty was still supporting the semi-conscious Lance-Corporal.

The U.S.A. Launch which had been hailed then turned and picked up the three men and had great difficulty in getting them on board due to the state of the sea. W.O. Day was the last to be picked up.

His action in collecting the lifebuoy undoubtedly ensured the safety of his officer and saved the life of the Lance-Corporal. The rescue took place about one mile off shore in deep water. The weather conditions were bad, viz. rough sea, heavy swell, wind – gale force 7-8 – and with the ever present possibility of an enemy air attack.

W.O.II Henry James Day, R.E, was awarded the Silver Medal of the Society and Lieut.-Col. Alan Charles Lusty, R.A.O.C., the Bronze Medal.

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