‘Those marines stuck to it and got blown to bits” – East Ham veteran retraces his war steps
- Credit: Archant
Richard Blyth is retracing his steps this week from 70 years ago when he was under fire during the Allied invasion of Holland.
He took a wreath of poppies with him when he left his home in Flanders Road, East Ham, at 4am on Friday. It’s his ninth trip in memory of the comrades he lost during the Combined Operation at the Scheldt Estuary to open the port of Antwerp to Allied supplies.
The former soldier, now 88, still fights back tears when remembering his comrades who didn’t make it in the final push against Hitler’s Nazi regime 70 years ago.
“I survived and got married six years after war ended,” said Richard, who was blown out of his Canning Town home during the Blitz. “I have a son and daughter, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“But many I served with didn’t make it. They didn’t have children and grandchildren like me because they made that final sacrifice.”
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Richard said the Royal Marines were never recognised for their vital role because of an earlier failure to capture Arnham in the push towards the Rhine.
“They took on the heavy German armaments that were way beyond our capabilities. But those marines stuck to it and got blown to bits.”
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Richard said he has devoted his life to the memory of his comrades who fell at Walcheren in 1944. “The Dutch people shake our hands, even those who weren’t born then. Their gratitude continues, 70 years on—they still appreciate what we did.”
The Walcheren landings were costly, but strategically speeded up Germany’s eventual collapse.
“That definitely shortened the war,” Richard insists. “The 300-mile supply line from Normandy was reduced after we destroyed the German batteries. It was a costly exercise, but necessary.”
The combined Army-Navy operation punched a big hole in Hitler’s heavily-garrisoned Atlantic Wall defences, followed by three weeks of mine-clearing in the Scheldt Estuary that opened up the port of Antwerp in November, 1944, to Allied military supplies for the final drive to the Rhine.
That operation led to the collapse of Nazi Germany just five months later and the end of the Second World War in Europe.