Memories of the battlefield on TV

Robert Coupe, a veteran of the 5th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment, who served in the Second World War.

Robert Coupe, a veteran of the 5th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment, who served in the Second World War.

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A veteran soldier’s remarkable story of courage and survival - from the beaches of Normandy to the surrender of Hitler’s army - will be re-told in a film leading up to Remembrance Sunday.

Thousands of young men who fought in the Second World War between 1939 and 1945 have stories to tell, but few can claim to have been involved in as much as Robert Coupe, 89, of Ringway, Cleveleys.

As an 18-year-old in 1944 and serving in the 5th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment, Robert was part of a 160,000 strong allied force tasked with invading Normandy, France, on D-Day.

From wading ashore to secure Sword Beach on the morning of June 6 and capturing the town of Caen, to working as a policeman close to the liberated Belsen Bergen concentration camp, the young corporal lost many of his friends and was injured himself.

Mr Coupe’s story will be told on Monday during the BBC1 documentary series ‘Remembrance Week’ at 9.15am, which shows him returning to old battlefields after he received funding from the Big Lottery Fund.

Recalling his efforts on D-Day, Mr Coupe said: “We were all so seasick.

“I didn’t care whether I got shot or not. I just wanted to get off that landing craft and get my feet on the ground. The Navy boys brought us as close to the beach as they could and then we waded to shore with water up to our armpits.”

Once on dry land the troops made a dash for nearby fields and small villages, many of which had been demolished by allied bombardment.

And when a beachhead had been established Mr Coupe and comrades were given the order to march on Caen as part of Operation Charnwood after it was bombarded by 500 Lancaster Bombers.

Mr Coupe added: “The barrage thundered steadily on through the night and around 0500 hours we began to advance through cornfields and orchards towards Caen. The fields were mined.

“As we crossed into no man’s land the hidden German guns opened up with ferocity. In the waist high cornfield when a soldier fell wounded he disappeared from view and many lads bled to death because medics couldn’t find them.”

After Caen was captured, the troops moved past the town and into the Falaise Gap where they took more ground.

It was here that Robert was hit by a bullet which slammed into his helmet knocking him unconscious for three days before waking up in a Bayeux hospital.

He recalls: “I really needed time to recover.

“I had terrible nose bleeds. Every time I tried to do anything it started to bleed, gushing blood all over my uniform.”

After his injury Mr Coupe saw action in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in Holland as the allies moved on to Arnhem and from there up the River Rhine and finally into the German heartland.

Towards the end of the war Robert was assigned duties as a policeman at an allied intelligence centre in Hanover, near Bergen Belsen concentration camp, and stayed there until he was demobbed in 1947 to return home.

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