According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website, three REME soldiers died in Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944. These were Corporal (Cpl) John Patterson of 24 Beach Recovery Section, Craftsman (Cfn) Alfred Jacobs of 6 Airborne Division Workshop and Cfn George Hunt of 7 Parachute Regiment. There is very little of their story currently in the REME Archives.

Black and white photo of soldiers disembarking landing craft on a beach shore, some have disembarked with bicycles.

Commandos coming ashore on D-Day with bikes. The National Archives, DEFE 2/502, Flickr.

This year I am cycling from the Normandy coast to the Mediterranean Sea, but first I have the opportunity to visit some of the CWGC REME graves and photograph them for the REME Died in Service Database. According to our Database, 30 REME personnel died in June 1944. We don’t know much about any of them, though it is becoming easier to research soldiers with the growth in interest in genealogy and the availability of information online. I also have the benefit of access to our Archives. My ride started on 17 June so I thought I would see what I could find about the three that died that day in 1944.

Sergeant (Sgt) Roy Tarrant, age 21, joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC). He completed parachute training at RAF Ringway and was serving with 9 Parachute Battalion, Army Air Corps (AAC). The Battalion was part of 3 Parachute Brigade, 6th Airborne Division. He joined the Battalion on formation in December 1942.

Extract from a document, typed, recording details of Tarrant, Sjt Roy Thomas.

The CWGC Ledger Entry for Sgt Tarrant.

The AAC was formed in 1942 and, initially, comprised of the Parachute Regiment and the Glider Pilot Regiment.

9 Para Bn’s first task on 6 June was to silence the Merville Battery, which it achieved albeit with a much reduced force. The para drop was a limited success. Only approximately 150 men of the 700 reached the rendezvous for the attack, while much of the equipment was lost and communications failed.  The Battalion was in action until 13 June, when it moved to Le Mesnil where it “spent a quiet morning” but was strafed (low-flying firing) by RAF Typhoons in the afternoon – “no casualties”. The Battalion returned to Ranville on 17 June. 

According to the supporting documentation on the CWGC website, Roy actually died on 16 June and was given a field burial at Le Mesnil along with another member of the Battalion. A transcript of the war diary notes heavy mortaring on 16 but gives no detail of casualties. Both were later reinterred at Ranville Cemetery.

Roy was born in 1922. His father was serving with the 5th Dragoons in York in 1929 and later commissioned into the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1940.

Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Thomas Myerscough and Cfn Hugh Sibbald were both serving with 27 Armoured Brigade Workshop. Both boarded in East London on 4 June for the crossing to France.

Extract from a document, typed, recording details of Myerscough.

Extracts from document, typed, recording details of Sibbald.

CWGC Ledger Entries for SSgt Myerscough and Cfn Sibbald.

 27 Brigade fought with 3 (British) Infantry Division on Sword Beach. The beach was divided into four zones and each was further divided into Red, White and Green Sectors. The Workshop supported 13/18 Hussars, the Staffs Yeomanry and the East Riding Yeomanry. The Brigade was disbanded at the end of July and units reallocated. 27 Armoured Brigade Workshop was then placed under command of 2 Armoured Replacement Group.

Side view of a battledress blouse with 3 chevrons, red, yellow and blue rectangle badge and a seahorse badge on the side of the arm.

The formation badge of 27 Armoured Brigade as seen on REME battledress worn on D-Day. A:2014.7110.14.

SSgt Myerscough was an Artificer Vehicles. He landed on D-Day on Queen Beach with G-Party but was ordered off as the "situation was not yet suitable for [the Drowned Vehicle Party]." Equipped with hand tools, the DVP returned the following day. Sgt Myerscough and his small team of four was allocated to either Red, White or Green sector. They were met by Commander REME 3 (British) Infantry Division and commenced work on drowned A and B vehicles as a separate unit until 8 June, when they became attached to 20 Beach Recovery Section. At this time G-Party were apparently the only group doing actual repair work in the sector. They were under much enemy shelling by day and bombing by night. No records were kept under these conditions, "but a considerable number of A & B vehicles were put back on the road."

Four maps pieced together to form a full map of a shoreline. Blue lines and text denote four different zones along the beach.

Sword Beach, Ouistreham Environs, 1944. Edited and reconstructed, zones labelled in blue. Geographical Section General Staff (GSGS).

The remainder of the Workshop, including Cfn Sibbald, was scheduled to arrive on D-Day or D+1 but the war diary records them landing on D+2, 8 June. The Workshop comprising about 220 soldiers and 60 vehicles assembled at Hermanville-sur-Mer late that night. It opened for business the next day and received a number of Sherman DD Tanks and Flails as well as a range of ‘B’ Vehicles.

The Workshop moved to Plumtot on 10 June and the DVPs re-joined the next day. There was some bombing and light shelling in the days that followed, but morale was generally high. The Workshop moved to La Deliverande on 18 June.

Extract from a document, typed with handwritten additions, listing two names and details. Date shows 17.6.1944.

Casualty List No 1499 (part) referring back to Nos 688 and 689. The National Archives, WO 417/78.

Tracer cards held in the REME Archives record that Tarrant and Sibbald “died of wounds” on 17 June.  The War Diary records the unit taking casualties on 14 June, including two Staff Sergeants and a Craftsman, all of whom were evacuated. Then, during a sharp burst of shelling at 1430 hrs on 17 June, the War Dairy records the death of one Staff Sergeant and one Craftsman. Seven others were wounded. It is unclear as to which event caused the injuries that led to their deaths.

Cfn Sibbald was initially buried at Colleville-sur-Orne and later reburied at La Deliverande. SSgt Mysercough was buried at Hermanville, suggesting the two became casualties at different times.

Three images of headstones, names let to right Tarrant, Sibbald, Myerscough, each engraved with a cross and REME badge.

The headstones of Sgt Tarrant at Ranville, Cfn Sibbald at Douvres La Deliverande and SSgt Myerscough at Hermanville.

Outdoor scene, green grass and blue sky, a single red poppy in the grass, a white stone cross in the background.

Hermanville War Cemetery, Hermanville-sur-Mer.

Both were married men. Myerscough, aged 33, married Ann Norcross in 1937. His daughter, Jeanette, was born in 1939 and son, Thomas G, in late 1944.

Sibbald, also aged 33, worked on aircraft before the war and lived with wife Martha in Woking. They also married in 1937. He moved with his wife to Surrey, where his three daughters were born. Many of the entries on the 1939 Registration page relate to aircraft workers but clearly Hugh was not in a reserved occupation. Hugh is remembered on a war memorial plaque in West Byfleet.

Two photos: left is a soldier in uniform stood with wife and young daughter, right is a close up headshot of a man.(Left) Myerscough with his wife and daughter. (Right) Hugh Sibbald in 1942. Photos subject to copyright, reproduced with thanks to the families.

Martha remarried in 1949. The children went to Australia as part of the child migration scheme.

If you would like to help us to remember REME soldiers and officers who died while serving, please help us to collect photographs of their headstones. See our War Graves Project for more information.

Steve Colling, Corps Historian