Mar 8, 2015

Secret underwater mission ahead of the D-Day

Underwater endurance: Former commando Jim Booth, 90, holds a map showing how he spearheaded Normandy landings.

 Navy Lieutenant: Mr Booth when he first joined the forces

A crack team of ten commandos who lead a secret underwater mission ahead of the D-Day invasions are to be honoured for the first time.

The ten elite troops spent five days underwater in tiny crafts as they lay in wait on the seabed ahead before the invasion of Normandy in 1944.

Their task was to spy from their 'X-crafts' on Nazi troops before guiding Allied forces across the treacherous rocky shoreline.

Despite cramped conditions and a lack of oxygen, the ten commandos shone beacons across the sea to complete one of the most pivotal invasions of the Second World War.

The troops from the Combined Operations Pilotage and Reconnaissance Parties will now be honoured with a granite memorial donated by Prince Charles on Hayling Island, Hampshire, where they were based.

One of the last surviving troops, Jim Booth, 90, helped to guide Allied landing crafts to Sword beach instead of drifting onto jagged rocks.

'When we were under way beneath the water, I was either on the steering wheel or the periscope,' Jim, from Taunton, Somerset, told the Daily Mirror.

'In those days there was no satnav and we had to do navigation the old-fashioned way to find our destination. We took charts, pictures, anything we could lay our hands on. When we arrived we went up the beach a couple of times to take bearings.'

Brave: A commando from the x-craft stands up to survey the shore as it surfaces to lead Allied troops in the D-Day invasion

The Normandy Landings on June 6 1944, also known as D-Day, saw 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French troops begin an airborne assault shortly after midnight.

This was followed by the war's biggest ever amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions at 6:30 AM with 160,000 troops.
The secret mission of the two five-man crews submerged in their tiny crafts had remained virtually unknown until now.

The men could not stand in the tiny submarines, which relied on battery-power when under the water.