Last weekend I made a 8 1/2 hour round trip to Pembroke Dock and had the utter privilege of meeting and photographing an incredibly special person; Ted Owens.
Ted is a D-Day and Battle of the Bulge Veteran having been a Royal Marine Commando, part of 41 Commando during World War 2 and the time I spent with him at our first meeting I’ll never forget.
I’m actually struggling how to put into words how much of an impact meeting Ted has had on me. Hearing his stories and listening to his experiences you can’t help but be in awe but there he is going about his life with most people around having no idea of the sacrifice, the pain, the suffering he and his brothers endured. We all owe so much to Ted and many others like him who selflessly fought for our freedom.
I am honoured to have taken his portrait and I look forward to more times with Ted recording his memoirs.
“We didn’t have a clue where we were going or what we were doing. The only thing we had, we had French money, and we thought, “Well its got to be France”. And that’s the only news we had. Anyway, when we was going in, onto the beach, on a Landing craft, which was carrying two tanks as well, on the RT, the big radio, very very loud, it says, “Right-o boys!”; who said it I don’t know, I think it was Lord Lovat, himself, I don’t know for sure, he said, “Take your tin hats off, throw them over the side and wear your green berets with pride.”.
I think it was a crazy thing to say, but we all done it. Every man in the unit, we landed there with our green berets on. We wore them all through the war. Not once did we wear a tin hat. And that’s something to be very, very proud of.”
“When I landed on the beach, there was obviously a couple of dead men there and wounded. And so then we realised it was the real thing. Right in front of us, at the top of beach, there was a huge hotel. The Germans fortified it to look like a big bunker. All the windows were all blocked up, bricked up, and just left apertures for them to fire through. On the lower deck they had two heavy guns. The second floor they had all machine guns and on top, and up on the roof was all riflemen. So it was like a coconut gallery to them, and we were under very, very heavy fire.
Alongside of us was a tank which had been knocked out. The one that was in front of me was a flail tank. It had a big chain in the front and he run up and down the beach to make sure there was no mines for us to step on. We all collected behind the tank and the tank would take us up the beach. You could still hear the tannoy shouting orders. And the order was, “Concentrate your fire on the hotel.”. So what I said was, “I can’t see from there.” So I run over to where this tank had been knocked out, laid me rifle over the back end of the tank, and when I looked through my sights I could see right through into the aperture. It was only about 100-150 yards. I couldn’t miss.
I fired about five, six rounds into the aperture at figures I could see moving. And next thing, over comes a shell, hits the top of the tank and all the metal came down on top of me. All on my left shoulder, my chest, and me back. And I don’t know today how many pieces they took out of my shoulder, but I’ve still got 14 pieces of metal in my left shoulder now. Two of them are actually embedded in the shoulder bone.”
Ted with his Buddy, Dai O’Toole
The short interview I recorded with Ted about his experience during the Normandy D-Day Landings on the 6th June 1944, will be available to listen to over on our HE SHOOTS, HE DRAWS podcast in an episode released around Christmas time so be sure to keep an eye out for it.
Thanks for looking in.
Catch you next time,