Memories of D-Day

D-Day, also called the Normandy Invasion, was an important military action that marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War. In order to mark the 80th anniversary of this important event on 6th June 2024 we’d like to share with you some D-Day related objects and documents from the Museum and Archive collections and the stories attached to them. 

Early on the morning of 6th June 1944, a combination of British, Canadian and US troops invaded German-held France. 6,000 vessels including 3,000 landing craft arrived at the Normandy coast. These landing craft were boats that could carry soldiers and tanks and they could land on the beaches, drop off their soldiers and tanks, and then return to the larger ships to bring back more men.

The five beaches chosen as the sites of the landings were spread along a 48-kilometer stretch of coastline. British and Canadian soldiers landed on Sword, Juno, and Gold beaches. American soldiers landed on Omaha and Utah beaches.

On the three British beaches the soldiers made good progress, pushing inland. The Americans faced strong defenses on one of their beaches and took longer than they had planned to move off. By the end of the day, though, all five beaches were in the hands of the Allies. It was the turning point of the Second World War.

The following article features objects and documents from the museum and archive collections with stories linking Warrington people to that very important day …

A letter home …

Educated at Orford School in Warrington, Ronald Cecil Bishop later trained at Warrington Art School before transferring to the Manchester School of Technology and gaining a London City Guilds certificate in 1938. On leaving school he initially worked at Whitecross Company Limited wireworks but soon after his father got him a job in the machine room at Mackie and Company, a local printing company who printed the Warrington Guardian. By all accounts he was a quiet individual who nevertheless loved sports of all kinds and Warrington’s Rugby Football team in particular.

He joined the army early in the Second World War in 1940 and was stationed in various parts of Britain, including Northern Ireland, before taking part in the Normandy landings on D-Day. His brother-in-law was also involved in D-Day – sending up barrage balloons. Ron’s description of the Normandy landings is short and somewhat muted however:  

“We had a pretty decent crossing in the boat, although it was rough in parts. Anyway, I managed to keep free from seasickness.” 

Although this letter doesn’t describe the Normandy landings in a way we might recognise, looking at the back of the letter we can see it is marked “PASSED BY CENSOR”. If Ron had put any military information in his letter, or any details that officers felt might have affected morale his letter would never have been allowed to reach home.

Sadly Ronald was killed in action in France on 28th June 1944, just six days after writing this letter.

A naval uniform …

Born in Warrington on 24th December 1924, Arthur William Mason took a job as a lodge boy at Peter Walker’s brewery at Dallam Lane in Warrington at the age of 14.

War broke out soon after and Arthur joined up with the Navy on 24th March 1943 at the age of 18 years. He served on a landing craft on D-Day taking American soldiers and tanks across the English Channel, landing them at Juno Beach at a town called Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer on the Normandy Coast on D-Day 6th June 1944. 

Arthur survived D-Day and was discharged from the Navy on 29th August 1946 whereupon he returned to work at Walker’s Brewery, later known as Tetley Walkers. He remained working there until his death in 1980. This is part of Arthur’s uniform which he wore on D-Day and which was stored away in a bag for many years. 

A scrapbook …

Eric Parry was born and raised in Liverpool and initially tried to join the army, but at age 14 he was deemed to be too young and so joined the Royal Navy instead. He ended up spending 45 years with the Navy, most of his career working with the ASDIC sonar system which was used to listen out for submarines.

He served upon HMS Scorpion on D-Day where he was in charge of the U-boat detection branch situated in the ASDIC dome space at the bottom of the ship. Unfortunately the relentless shell bursts during the landing played havoc with the delicate ASDIC sonar system, rendering it useless. As dawn broke on 6th June 1944, Eric recalled going topside to see how the landings were progressing. 

“There was smoke and wreckage everywhere and the sky was red with fire and explosions. But I could still see those waves of troops going ashore from the landing crafts and just being mowed down where they stood. What an awful sight, and although we were pounding their positions with everything we had – we even wore the rifling in our barrels out – we still felt helpless.”

Eric survived D-Day and went on to become a submarine detection instructor and prison officer.

Eric Parry was the grandfather of Tim Parry, one of the two children killed in the Warrington bombing on 20th March 1993. Eric had promised to take his grandson Tim to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of D-Day on 6th June 1994, but sadly that never came to be. In 1994 Eric started putting together a scrapbook of D-Day memories instead, which was later passed to the Museum.

An accordion … 

This accordion belonged to Albert H. Rowley of 52 Cliftonville Road, Woolston, Warrington. As a young man Albert worked at a mushroom farm in Gig Lane in Warrington, eventually saving up enough money to buy this accordion so he could join a local band.

Albert volunteered to join the Navy and fight in the Second World War in February 1943. Leaving his treasured accordion with his sister he trained as a stoker, tending the engine on the destroyer HMS Swift which took part in the D-Day landings on 6th June 1944, providing fire support.

Sadly, Albert never made it home to collect his accordion. HMS Swift was sunk off Sword Beach a few days later on 24th June 1944. Albert was lost at sea along with 52 others. He was only 21 years old.

Albert’s sister kept her late brother’s accordion until she died in 2019, a few short weeks before her 100th birthday. Her family then kindly donated it to the Museum.


“At this historic moment surely not one of us is too busy, too young or too old to play a part in a nation-wide, perchance a world-wide vigil of prayer as the great crusade sets forth-“ 

King George VI, speaking during a radio address on June 6, 1944.


See also, our D-Day 80th anniversary display (6 June – 7 July 2024)