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Issue:- 14 November 2014


The oldest surviving D-Day brothers, Johnny & Ernest Dale, waving from the deck of HMS Cavalier at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.

This black and white photo shows the size of the bunker and what a strategic success it was to take this huge German defensive building out of action on D-Day. After sailing through a considerable nautical minefield, Johnny and Ernest Dale can vividly remember the harrowing moments. The vessel was fired upon by about 60 shells, but none scored a direct hit. Johnny, who now lives in Orpington, said:- "I was with my brother and we were there first to engage. We had lots of firing to do and came under heavy fire. Then we were told to ‘stay quiet’ as our boys went ashore."

The 2 seamen even ended up going ashore themselves, at 1 stage onto Juno Beach after remarkably hearing from their cousin, Lenny Bruce. Lenny saw that the Frobisher was off the Normandy coast and, knowing both family members were on board, somehow managed to send a message back to the ship on a cigarette packet that he was ashore on Juno Beach. Johnny and Ernest then persuaded the ships baker to bake fresh loaves of bread, which they took ashore on a passing amphibious ‘Duck’ to Charlie. Johnny recalled:- "He was stuck on the beach. It was pandemonium with everyone rushing about. We managed to get him something fresh to eat and see that he was ok. It was scary looking back, but we were too young to be truly afraid." Ernest recalled:- "We took about 12 fresh loaves ashore, and we were popular. By the time we found Lenny, we only had 2 left!"

The oldest surviving D-Day brother, Johnny Dale. In the centre is his brother Ernest Dale. Presenting the award is Nick Mottershead, representing the Lest We Forget Charity Association and The Bradford Exchange.

Johnny’s son, Colin, said his father was 'overwhelmed' by the gratitude and kindness shown to his father and uncle and when they visited the D-Day beaches earlier this year. At every opportunity local people said:- "thank you" for their significant efforts and the wider major contributions and sacrifices made by their fellow servicemen liberating mainland Europe.

The oldest surviving D-Day brothers, Johnny and Ernest Dale, waving from the deck of HMS Cavalier at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.

Ernest joined Johnny in Mombasa, Kenya on HMS Resolution in 1942, after being called up for military service at the age of 18. The elder brother had been in the Royal Navy since war broke out in 1939. They were placed on HMS Frobisher, then part of the Eastern Fleet, and served for a year off the coast of Africa before being called back to fight for D-Day. Prior to that, the Frobisher helped saved the badly listing French Destroyer, Le Triomphant, after it had been badly damaged in a storm. The ship's crew pumped out 000’s of gallons of seawater and stabilised the ship before towing it 1200 miles to safety at Diego Suarez.

Describing how close the men came to death, Ernest said:- "There were coloured buoys in the water which the Germans put there as range finders. If you found yourself near any of these you could expect to be fired upon or hit. It took a full 5 minutes to turn the ship around once the sailors realised they were sitting targets." Ernest said:- "The vessel was fired upon repeatedly but thankfully none of the 60 shells that were fired at us scored a direct hit that day. 2 crew members standing together watching the action lost arms during the attack after being hit by shrapnel. Whilst off the coast of Normandy HMS Frobisher suffered a direct hit from a German bomb and the ship lost 9 crew members. However it was a German e-boat torpedo that ended their tour, creating a hole the size of 2 double decker London buses in the ship's hull, forcing HMS Frobisher to limp to The Historic Dockyard Chatham for a major repair." Thankfully the brothers safely returned on board.

After the war was over, Ernest returned to his profession as a carpenter and started a family. He has 3 children, Karen, 60, Dennis, 59, and John, 62, 6 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. His brother Johnny, married to his wife Brenda, has 2 sons, Colin, 56, and Martin, 52 and went on to become an executive at BT, before retiring in 1984.

Nick Mottershead, representing the 'Lest We Forget Charity Association' and the nation's favourite commemorative company, The Bradford Exchange, said:- "Honouring these incredible brothers and the momentous sacrifices their fellow servicemen made, is vital not just for the individuals involved, but for maintaining awareness of the sacrifice and support given by UK servicemen, whether over the past 100 years or in the current day. 2014 is a milestone year to honour the momentous contribution and sacrifices made by all serving UK military personnel throughout the past century and this award commemorates and honours the selfless sacrifices made by so many during the momentous D-Day landings that led to the liberation of war torn Europe." As Churchill said:- "Never give in, never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. This major award today honours this and the sacrifices made by all British service personnel over the past century."

For information about The Lest We Forget Charity Association please see:- For wider details about the Bradford Exchange please visit:-, also for further information about The Historic Dockyard Chatham please visit:-

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