THE incredible story of a Haverfordwest veteran's survival on D-Day has been told for the first time thanks to the dedication a fellow veteran from the other side of the world.
Royal Marine Lieutenant Colonel Graham Perkins from Western Australia came across the incredible story of Corporal Hayden Morgan, Haverfordwest, while visiting Pembrokeshire.
The late Cpl Hayden Morgan was the recipient of a Croix de Guerre and a British Mention in Despatches for services at Normandy on D-Day for his outstanding devotion to duty.
It was while visiting the cemetery in 1991 that Lt Col Perkins met Cpl Morgan and the two men spoke of their experiences of the D-Day landings 70 years ago.
The support squadrons assigned to each landing beach included two other specialised crafts – the landing craft flak crafts and landing craft support large, which lay smoke screens to shield and protect assaulting infantry as well as carrying a Vickers.5 heavy machine gun.
It was this weapon that Cpl Morgan manned, stationed on the extreme right flank of GOLD beach, west of the small seaside town of Arromaches.
Here Lt Col Perkins recounts Cpl Morgan’s story: “He described the pre-dawn bombardment, the overhead screams from the shells coupled with the thump of the air bombardment on the foreshore, sounds which were augmented by the unmistakeable sound of the feared German 88s and heavy machine gun fire from enemy defences.
“He had to judge his bursts of fire on the rise and fall of the heavy swell and with a tracer bullet in every five he was able to test his accuracy and riddle the pill box through its slits. He then turned his attention to his house target and saw its windows smashed and clouds of dust emitted from the building. Meanwhile spray was coming inboard from enemy shells and small arms fire.
“LCS (L) 252 closed on a disabled and almost submerged tank which was being riddled with fire from a shore position. The tank’s occupants were in the water clinging to the rear of the tank to avoid the bullets.
“To allow the soldiers to reach his craft Hayden stretched himself across the gap between his craft and the tank giving the survivors a bridge to board his craft. He paid little attention to the incident and immediately returned to his turret and his gun.
“A marine standing two paces from Hayden Morgan was struck down and killed instantly by a piece of shrapnel. At the same time Hayden was struck by another piece of shrapnel which sliced his arm but he was still able to remain in action.
“He realised that he was badly wounded and bleeding considerably.
“He realised he had head wounds and admits he had also contravened orders by not wearing his steel helmet in action but if had done this he would have been able to elevate his gun properly.
“Hayden was a strong swimmer but he was weakening and he now had the decision of his life to make.
“He thinks he was in the water about two hours when he was picked up by a small landing craft returning from the beaches to its parent ship. By this time he was very weak and hardly conscious.
“On reaching the hospital ship he was placed amongst the dead. This was not surprising as he had two holes in the back of his head and the rest of his body was covered in blood. However, Hayden’s luck held yet again and a passing medical orderly saw a slight movement amongst the bodies and investigated.
“When stripped of his clothes it was found that he had shrapnel wounds to both of his arms, one shoulder and a foot. More shrapnel was discovered in his body. He spent the next year in hospital and despite seven operations some shrapnel remained in his body until his death.”
Cpl Morgan did not receive his French medal until close friend, Joffre Swales, of Haverfordwest, persuaded him to contact the powers that be and he was invited to the French Embassy in London to be presented with his medal by the Naval Attaché.
His son Viv Morgan said his father, who later became a driving instructor, was a modest man but the family were extremely proud of what he had done in the war. Viv’s grandfather, HS Morgan, was also a recipient of military medals and both father and son had been granted the freedom of the borough.