‘People Are Dying There’: D-Day Switchboard Operator Remembers Normandy Landings
A 92-year-old Second World War veteran has been recalling her memories of operating switchboards for the D-Day landings in Normandy. Marie Scott, who has been awarded France’s highest honour, the Legion d’Honneur for her service during the Second World War. She was just 17 on D-Day and had the job of passing on coded messages to troops landing on the beaches.
Ms Scott is one of 19 Royal Navy veterans who visited Southwick House in Hampshire ahead of D-Day’s 75th anniversary. The mansion was the forward headquarters for the invasion of Normandy. Ten London black cabbies drove the veterans to the event organised by the Taxi Charity For Military Veterans.
Ms Scott will be officially presented with her Legion d’Honneur medal at a ceremony at Pegasus Museum in June. “We had a very new piece of equipment, it was called a VHF radio which at the time was very new,” she says. “It was a simple system as far as I can remember. “You could only send messages one way – which we did by lifting a lever, and then they would respond. “But when they lifted their lever, you could hear all the ambient sounds from where they were, which was on the beaches. “And so consequently you could hear guns, cannon, the general noise of war, and you suddenly realised – people are dying there.”
Ms Scott was asked if, as a 17-year-old at the time, it was a shocking experience for her.
“Yes, yes, I think maybe I grew up that day, I don’t know, it’s a bit of a blur.”
When asked about how it felt to be back in the same place, almost 75 years later, Ms Scott responded:
“Evocative! It is bringing back memories.
“I think in the tunnels, there was a whole army of people. Teleprinters, plotters, switchboard operators of which I was one – but on D-Day I was on radio rather than on the board, but a whole army of people just trying to make the operation go smoothly.” Despite people planning, and executing plans from there, Ms Scott said she had no sense of what they were doing: “No, because we were all in totally different parts of the tunnels, so you had no idea what other people were doing. “We were all self-contained, doing our own little bit.”
Ms Scott spoke of her delight at being awarded the Legion d’Honneur:
“Deeply, deeply honoured, amazed and extremely humbled. It’s incredible, I can’t believe it.”