50s Lifestyle

Took on Hitler and lived to tell

IT was 75 years ago earlier this month, when gunner Edward Sankey, just 18, learnt that his ship, HMS Bulolo was about an hour from Normandy, France, and would be part of Operation Overlord or D-Day in an effort to push the Nazis further east and out of France.

Edward part of WW2 force that conquered on D-Day

Known as the Normandy Invasion, this Allied invasion of western Europe was launched on June 6, 1944 (the most celebrated day of the war), with the simultaneous landing of U.S., British and Canadian forces on five separate beachfronts in Normandy.
And they achieved their mission, with the Germany army fleeing just five weeks later.
Now a Revesby resident of 54 years after living in Panania for eight years, Edward miraculously escaped when his ship was bombed and later a mutiny on the second ship, HMS Lothian, that he was stationed on doing mopping up engagements on Manus Island and New Guinea.
Some of the crewmen staged the mutiny, of which Edward was not a part, over the ‘dreadful’ dehydrated food being served to them while the officers ate fresh produce from the islands.
“It was very exciting when we were being readied for Normandy as King George V1, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, French President Charles de Gaulle and General Montgomery all came aboard at different times to give us a pep talk,” Edward explained.
“There were 6,000 vessels – war ships, troop ships, commando vessels like ours and smaller vessels all lined up in the English Channel ready to pounce on Normandy.”
After HMS Lothian was sent for repairs in Brisbane and later Sydney, Edward was on 72 hours’ shore leave where he was billeted out with three other young men to a family in Mosman to be shown around Sydney; it was this family’s niece, Enid Bice, who was to become Edward’s wife and mother of his six children.

Settling in Australia, Edward worked at Australia’s oldest hardware company, W S Friend & Co, for 12 years, Coca Cola for 21 years and even had a fish and chip shop in Panania for eight years.
“I’ve been back to England a couple of times and am very proud of my children. My youngest when he turned seven, said he wanted to play rugby league which thrilled me no end coming from Liverpool in England.
“Greg (Sankey) went on to play first grade for the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs.
“I though I’d get in touch about the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landing coming up as I didn’t think there’d be too many of us left.”
At 94, Edward is still very independent, looking after himself and his home after his wife passed away in 2011.
“One of my sons mows the lawn for me, that’s all.”