Jack Quinn with medals

The landings on the beaches of D-Day was the biggest seaborne invasion in history.

For Jack Quinn , D-Day began in the early hours when he piloted a boat of specialist Frogmen close to the shore. Later that morning, Don Sheppard and Joe Cattini were in the first waves of troops to land on the beaches.

Jack Quinn Jack Quinn with medals Jack Quinn and family

Lance Corporal Jack Quinn

R.M. Commando, Royal Marines

Sheffield-born Jack was 20 years old and the Coxswain of a landing craft which approached the shore of Gold Beach under cover of darkness in the early hours of 6th June. He was ferrying specialist ‘Frogmen’ who placed explosives on the underwater beach obstacles for the leading waves of infantry. Successfully completing their task before dawn, D-Day was far from over for Jack and his crew.

“And I looked out to sea. I could see this ship on fire... So I set off for this boat. And there were mines out, bobbing up and down, the big ones with the spikes on.

[We] got to the boat, then found out it was a French boat. We got all seven people on board: one had lost his arm; another was in a bad way, been shot at. So, as we shoved [the boat] away, let's get away from this place, because it's on fire and there's petrol tanks on this thing, and it's gonna go! And just as we shoved it away, with boat hooks - that's like six foot - the bloody thing blew up, and it rocked us. I thought we were going over, I did think we were going upside down. Anyway, we didn't. Then I set off for a hospital ship, again.”

Jack passed away in January 2024. He was married to Shirley and was a Veteran Ambassador for the British Normandy Memorial.

Bombardier Joe Cattini

86th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery

Joe Cattini photo
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86th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery

Aged 21, on D-Day Joe drove onto Gold Beach in a three-ton ammunition truck that was loaded with shells and petrol. He was initially involved in action at Ver-sur-Mer, and hence was passionate about building the British Normandy Memorial on this site. In 2019 he was present at its inauguration, having been appointed an Ambassador to the memorial. Joe passed in April 2023, and his D-Day experiences are recalled by his daughter Fran.

Joe Cattini Family
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“Everything was coming at them, and they didn't actually think they would get off the beach. They all thought ‘this was it’. The end. When it came time to disembark, he said a lot of the youngsters were so terrified, they couldn't swim. They just went overboard and some didn't come back up again. Seeing sights like that terrified him and yet he still had to drive his truck, loaded with ammunition, off the boat. The drivers had been warned to keep within the white lines on the beach. Dad said, this [driver] in front of him went beyond the white line trying to overtake somebody... and went up with a mine on the beach.

Joe Cattini family 2
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He always said the heroes were the ones that didn't make it: the ones that gave their lives. Dad was lucky; he was blessed to survive and come through the other side.”

Joe was passionate about educating young people about the war and regularly gave talks to schools. He leaves behind seven grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren.

Don Sheppard Don Sheppard and family Don Sheppard on motorbike

Sapper Don Sheppard

51st Highland Division, Royal Engineers

Don was an experienced soldier by the time of D-Day, having served in North Africa and Sicily. On 6th June he landed in support of the Canadians on Juno Beach. His unit was sent to Pegasus Bridge and ordered to blow it up if the Germans counter attacked. The attack did not materialise, but the heavy fighting continued as he spent three months as a despatch rider and driver in Normandy.

“We arrived in the English Channel near Dover, in a big convoy, but we were getting shelled from the French mainland, the narrow part. They had seen us and the boat behind us got a direct hit and sunk… Then we arrived at a place called ‘Piccadilly Circus’ [assembly area]. That’s where we changed over. Now, none of us had ever learned how to get down a rope ladder and at that time we was being strafed by a couple of German fighters coming over… a lot of the guys were falling in, they’d never been down a rope ladder before, the sea was going up and down. But eventually we got away, but I tell you what, we was 10 miles off of the shore and it was like hell let loose. All our battleships firing over our heads, rockets and all stuff firing, the sea was pretty rough and eventually, as I say, we got to the beach.”

Don was injured in his leg with shrapnel. Decades later a small piece was found to have travelled to his lung. He has been married to Sandra for 56 years and they have three children, six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

D-Day 80

Take a look at how we are commemorating D-Day 80 this year and how you can get involved.
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