Injured in Normandy
On 6 September 1941 Eric joined the Royal Artillery. He was 5 ft 4½ ins tall with hazel eyes and brown hair. He was passed only grade B at his medical, which meant he was unable to go overseas. He was sent for basic training to Scotland with 9th Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Infantry. He was then retained as a Captain Instructor in Ireland. With D-Day, in the offing instructors were put on number one list as substitutes for the first wave and Eric was sent to a camp in Sussex. He was able to send for his future wife, Winifred Hancock, who was spirited in through hole in wire; she was in the Ack-ack near Croydon.
Eric landed in Normandy at a beach next to Arromanche in the second wave, on D-Day plus 12, and joined up with troops who were eager for combat – men from 1st Btn. Royal Hampshire Regiment, who had been in Africa with Montgomery, and from the Durham Light Infantry. From 1 October 1942 he had been a Lieutenant but almost immediately on arrival in France he had to take over the company when its commander, Captain Bradley, was injured. He had been promoted by Major John Littlejohn, who was injured soon after, but the major's superiors had wanted a man from Hampshires to take over. Eric remained acting captain and, briefly, acting major until replaced by a man from the Norfolk Regiment, when he went back to being a lieutenant.
Eric was still in charge of the company as they marched several miles inland and secured and held a position at 'Le Lion Vert'. (map). I believe there was an incident of 'friendly fire' in an air attack that cost the lives of several of his man. Later, he was injured when a mortar exploded nearby sending shell splinters into his raised knee and he was taken to a field hospital, thence to near Bayeux for an operation which took place at nearly midnight on August 1. A hospital ship took him to the south coast of England where he spent a night in a Canadian hospital, before being taken north by train to Liverpool. He recalled in the blackout peaking out at one station and finding he was at Watford Junction, less than a mile from his home.