The Day Cranleigh Flooded

While much has been written about the secrecy that surrounded the D-Day landings, the boys at D dayCranleigh were among the first in the country to know the invasion had started on June 6, 1944.

The first indication that something was about to happen came when Dunsfold aerodrome, which was built in 1942 as a base for the Canadian air force, was put out of bounds.

Up to then, it had been common for boys to cycle there , cadging sweets and chocolate and, on occasions, ammunition to explode at a later date. It had also been one of the responsibilities of the Cranleigh Home Guard to provide sentries for the aerodrome.

In the days before the invasion the Lowers was put out of bounds and used as a base for hundreds of Canadian military vehicles. On June 5th they all disappeared.

On the evening of June 5th after a quiet day, the skies suddenly filled with planes. “Leaning out of the windows of our House Room, we started counting them,” recalled Michael Reynolds. “We soon had to give up. There were simply too many. There were Lancasters, Liberators and Stirlings. We knew the invasion was about to begin.”

Throughout the night the planes poured over. Few at the School slept but few wanted to. In the morning boys crowded round radios, which were only allowed to the few who had their own studies, for any news. The few daily papers that arrived were grabbed in seconds.

“There was great excitement in the School,” recalled the Cranleighan. “Chasing down corridors, every scrap of fresh news was passed from mouth to mouth.”

The most senior boys were taken out of lessons. “We were all put on standby to help offload the wounded from the hospital trains as they were brought back,” one said. “In fact this never happened because fortunately the casualties were nowhere near as bad as had been expected.”

  • On June 6, 1944, William Phillip Sargent, who had left Cranleigh in 1938, was killed in Normandy. Serving with the Royal Army Medical Corp; he had parachuted in with 224 Parachute Field Ambulance but many landed a long way off target behind enemy lines. Reported missing on the day, his death was confirmed in September. He was 24.