Operation Neptune, often referred to as D-Day, took place 80 years ago, on Tuesday, 6 June 1944.  It was preceded by extensive aerial and naval bombardment and marked the start of the Allied invasion of Normandy.  It was the largest seaborne invasion in history and the operation began the liberation of German-occupied France (and later Europe) from Nazi control and laid the foundation for the Allied victory on the Western Front.

For more on Operation Neptune see Operation Neptune

The part played by the Merchant Navy is often forgotten.  Convoys of cargo ships carrying provisions, ammunition and fuel were needed to support the troops involved in the invasion. 

One of these ships was the steam powered cargo ship S.S. Brackenfield (registered in Liverpool) which was en route from the Isle of Wight to Juno Beach on Saturday, 10 June 1944 when it was torpedoed and sunk by a German E-Boat 50 miles south of the Nab Light vessel.

One member of the crew who went down with the ship was 22 year old Ordinary Seaman Geoffrey Neville Brough of Mere Bank, Sandy Lane, Weaverham.  Born in 1922 Geoffrey was the son of Harry and Nina Elizabeth (nee Birtles) Brough and the younger brother of William Michael.  His father, Harry was managing director of a shipping company.  Geoffrey is remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial, London C.W.G.C. Ref: – Panel 18.

Far away from Normandy, in Burma, 19 year old Private George Roberts 14410099 King’s Regiment (Liverpool) died on the same day as Geoffrey, possibly unaware of the Normandy Landings.  Unfortunately, we only have this rather poor quality newspaper photograph of him. The part played by George and others like him in the Second World War at this time is also largely forgotten. 

George was the son of Walter and Lilias (nee Redford) Roberts who lived in Church Street, Weaverham.  George was born on 19th October 1924 and had three older siblings, Louisa, Robert and James.  George never knew his father as he died the year that George was born.  However, his mother remarried when George was 4 and his stepfather, William Jewkes brought up all four of Walter’s children at their new home at 6 Nicholas Road, Weaverham. William and Lilias had two daughters, Margaret and Jean. 

George was the fifth generation of the Roberts family to serve in the army.  His great great grandfather fought through the Peninsular War and was wounded at Waterloo. 

According to George’s obituary in the Northwich Guardian George’s great grandfather ‘was born in the army’.  George’s grandfather served in the Life Guards and his father, the late Walter Roberts fought through the first World War.  George himself had been in the Home Guard before enlisting in the army about 18 months before his death.  He had been abroad for 7 months and was engaged in special operations when he was killed by a sniper.  George is at rest in Taukkyan Cemetery, Myanmar C.W.G.C. Ref: – 7.K. 19. 

One of his brothers, Robert, was a sergeant in the RAF and James, known as Jim, was serving in the Royal navy. 

Both Geoffrey and George are remembered on the Weaverham Memorial at the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin.

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