D-Day Veteran Enthrals Cadets (Heritage)
Cadets taking part in annual Cadet Camps at RAF Benson were treated to a rare opportunity to speak to a D-Day veteran when Sgt (Retd) Bernard ‘Taffy’ Morgan gave them an insight into his time in the RAF.
Edinburgh Academy CCF, Langley School CCF, and the Grammar School of Leeds CCF were taking part in a week long camp at RAF Benson, where they experienced a variety of activities that showcase the work of the RAF. As a special treat, they received an inspirational talk from Sgt Morgan.
Now aged 89, Bernard played an essential but often overlooked role during the Second World War. Having volunteered to join the RAF on his 18th birthday in 1942, Bernard was initially tasked with a job in ‘flying control.’ The cadets gathered were obviously excited by this and the tasks it may entail until Bernard explained that it was his job to simply light the flare path for aircraft returning to the base! It was soon discovered that Bernard could type and so he was transferred to the clerical offices where he would type the Daily Routine Orders. On one occasion he noticed an advert for “Code and Cipher Staff, immediately required.” Intrigued and, in Bernard’s words, “wanting to help the war effort, not just type letters,” he sent off an application form via the Station Warrant Officer and was soon called to interview and sent on a cipher course in Oxford.
The story of Bernard’s experiences of the Second World War, from training to deployment to the announcement of the end of the war, enthralled the cadets and the memorabilia that Bernard brought with him is amongst some of the last in existence. From his ‘webbing’ that is still in use today and has accompanied him for almost 72 years, to his jacket that still fits now, Bernard’s memories filled the room and transported the youngsters back to a time when fear and honour went hand in hand.
But, like many veterans, Bernard largely glossed over the horror that he saw on the beaches that day as he left his landing vessel. As part of the elite cipher team, Bernard spent most of the war five or so miles behind the army, controlling the deployment of aircraft to support them. Having spent what seemed like forever on the landing craft with gunfire all around, waiting for it to be their turn to be shelled or shot next, 20 year old Bernard was forced to wade through the bodies of his comrades as he made his way to Normandy. Not one to dwell on the horrors, Bernard was soon regaling the cadets with tales of visits by King George and Winston Churchill to Normandy.
Like many of his comrades, Bernard takes great pride in his service but is extremely humble about the contribution that he made to the War. Even when explaining to the cadets about his equipment being on display in the Imperial War Museum for a number of years, Bernard admits that he was embarrassed that they had displayed it as he feels “it was the pilots who won the war.” His obvious pride shone through though when cadets were treated to a viewing of his most prized medal, one that was awarded by the French government to all who took part in the battle for Normandy. Smiling he explained, “I’m very proud of that one, I’m always afraid of losing it.”
Bernard kept a daily diary, which was technically against orders and could have resulted in court martial. However, we are eternally grateful for this diary as, through Bernard’s memories, we can be transported back to a time when pie and chips in the NAAFI cost about a shilling and passing out parades were accompanied by a wind-up gramophone instead of a real band. It was a time of great change for the Armed Forces and a time of great sacrifice and we will always remember the debt of gratitude we owe those who have gone before us.