Biography: Jack Allshire [fr]
On 13 November, on the occasion of the inauguration of the France-Ireland Memorial, the French Secretay of State to Veterans and Collective Memory, Jean Marc Todeschini, will award the Légion d’Honneur to Jack Allshire, veteran from the Second World War.
Born on 8 July 1925 in Cork, Jack Allshire was the son of a military in the British army.
In 1941, at age 16, his older brother Thomas and he decided to follow their father’s footsteps and enlisted in the British army.
As he arrived in Newry, in county Down, he learnt the basics of military discipline, including how to use a Lee Enfield rifle. He was a member of the D-Company, Second Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles. His unit was sent in training to the United Kingdom. He participated to various exercises at Inverary in Scotland, as well as in the camp of Hawick and in Moray Firth in Scotland on the occasion of a joint exercise with the Royal Navy.
On 4 June 1944, Jack and his unit boarded in Portsmouth but did not have any information with regards to their mission. Yet, the visit of King George VI and of General Bernard Montgomery was the confirmation that an action was coming up. Each man had one rifle Lee Enfield, one bag containing more than 60kg of materials, and one bike. They left the port two days later with the goal to ensure the security of a landing zone on Sword Beach and to progress into the land in the direction of Caen.
The English Channel was calm at first, but it unleashed as Jack and his comrades discovered the horror of the Normandy landing. At 10am, the Royal Navy was still bombing the German forces who were firing at their comrades who had landed at 7.25am. Jumping out of the ship, some of Jack’s comrades faced strong difficulties to bring all the materials and the bikes in to the beach. Many of these were left behind and left the war in the deep water.
On the same day at 8pm, the Germans sparked their one and only counter-offensive on Sword Beach. This effort was broken due the tenacity of the British tanks and infantry.
The D-Compagnie progressed in direction of Cambes but Jack was stopped by German fire which hurt him in the left leg. Due to the impossibility of getting evacuated, he was patched up and sent back to combat. From the end of the war, he remembers running to the corpses of the artilleryman to make sure that his brother Thomas, member of the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers, was not one of them.
“I finally found him in Germany but we didn’t have the chance to talk. He waved at me on the battlefield. It was important for me.”
Jack Allshire went to France for the 60th anniversary of the landing.
Unfortunately, he passed away before the Légion d’Honneur was awarded to him. His wife, Mrs Barbara Allshire, will represent him.