In My Father's Footsteps (ePub)
With the 53rd Welsh Division from Normandy to Hamburg
In 1944-45, Capt. G.H. Davies served with the hard-fighting 53rd Welsh Division. He was an artillery officer in command of a battery of 25-pdr field guns and saw action from Normandy to the final surrender of Nazi Germany. Capt. Davies was present at the Normandy battles, the fierce fighting for s'Hertogenbosch and the Battle of Arnhem.
During the course of the war, Capt. Davies kept a diary and also snatched a few photographs on his treasured camera. When the opportunity arose Capt. Davies liberated a camera from a fallen SS officer and, after the war, had the film developed. The film contained graphic images of the war from the German side of the line.
Seventy years on from the events, the wartime diary, the photographs of the guns and the photographs taken by the dead SS officer were the inspiration for the son of Capt. Davies, television producer and writer Gwilym Davies, to undertake an emotional return to the battlefields, which his father had described in his diary.
The result of that pilgrimage is an important new book which builds upon the wartime diary and the photographs to produce a powerful record of one man's war service with the guns of the 53rd Welsh Division. The book also contrasts the experience of Capt. Davies with those of the Germans on the other side of the line. Gwilym Davies is himself an accomplished photographer and his photographs of the 70th anniversary celebrations and the memorials provide a poignant counterpoint to the events of 1944.
As featured on ARRSE.ARRSE
The minute I started reading I immediately got drawn into the book, as the author includes parts of his father’s dairy which are written in his own words. His (Capt. G.H. Davies) writing is filled with ‘typical’ military humour, his feelings and random excerpts of what a cadet/ soldier goes through in his military career. The way he tells his story and what he – at that moment – went through, gives you plenty of room to imagine how it was back then. This is incredibly hard, if not impossible, for a person – who didn’t live through that time of period – to tell this to its readers and let the readers know what went on back then or how they lived through that. Since the author uses many parts of his father’s dairy, you now can finally place yourself (at a certain height) in that time.Argunners Magazine
This books gives you a great insight in what horrible fighting's the 53rd Welsh Division went through but more specifically it tells you the story of an officer from the artillery, one of the most forgotten branches of the army. The author, Gwilym Davies, even put great effort into making a film of his personal journey to follow his father’s footsteps. I didn’t see it but I feel like I should after reading the book. Gwilym Davies did a great job into tracing his father’s footsteps and what he had been through, making this book an absolute recommendation.
One of the great successes of the British campaign was with artillery and at a divisional level, the bonds between gunners and infantrymen was often very strong. Admiration for the gunners was generally high, especially for the batteries of 25 Pounders pouring fire in support of the advancing infantry. This book by Gwilym Davies goes a long way to explain how it all worked in this very readable account of the war experienced by his father serving with 497 Battery of the 133rd Field Regiment Royal Artillery from Normandy to the Elbe.War History Online
The book is made up of sections transcribed from Captain GH Davies’ diary entwined with a history of the campaign of the 53rd Welsh Division. There is a good amount of detail and interesting anecdotes and the image this builds is very strong. The reader will certainly not come away with a false impression of gunners living comfortably miles behind the advancing troops. For 25 Pounder batteries the war was always up close and personal.
I really enjoyed this book and took a great deal from it. There were times when I would like to have heard more from Captain Davies and there were moments when the book felt a bit like one of those solid divisional histories from the war published in the 1950s. But do not let this detract from a satisfying read that will add much to your knowledge of how 21st Army operated on the continent.