No: 41 R.M. Commando, Royal Marines.
Killed in action 6th June, 1944, aged 22.
Ron Poultney was one of nine children raised in Smithfield Cottages, Ashbourne Road, Leek, close to the White Lion pub. As a youth, he was strong and athletic, excelling at football. The war found him serving in the Royal Marines, in the same unit that the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown, was to serve with after the war. Ron’s unit was selected to be part of the initial striking force landing on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, June 6th, 1944. Under the code-name ‘Overlord’, Allied forces launched their invasion and eventual liberation of the European mainland.
During the days leading up to D-Day, 41 R.M. Commando were encamped near Southampton ready for their embarkation. Ron Poultney was in B Troop, led by Captain HF Morris. On the evening of 5th June, Ron Poultney and his fellow commandoes took their place in five landing craft which would carry them to Normandy and the enemy. The crossing was uneventful but the choppy seas did nothing for the men’s stomachs and nerves. Shortly before 9am, the marines landed on Sword Beach, at the coastal town of Lion sur Mer. Shells were bursting around them and the beach was littered with the dead and wounded. Ron and his unit rushed forward to clear the beach but came up against rolls of thick barbed wire. As they blew a hole through the wire and crawled through it, German guns ranged upon the marines and caused casualties. One of the injured was Captain Morris and amongst the dead was Ronald Poultney. On that historic day, 41 R.M. Commando lost a total of 26 dead and almost 100 wounded or taken prisoner.
On D-Day itself, the Allies landed some 150,000 troops along a 50 mile front. The landing beaches were code-named Utah and Omaha (American sector) and Gold, Juno and Sword (British and Canadian sector). Many thousands more were to land over the following days. In the days and weeks following D-day, a number of Leek soldiers were killed in the battles to take the city of Caen and other German-held strongpoints. As the Supreme Commander of the invasion forces, General Eisenhower had told the troops before they embarked on their difficult and dangerous task: “You are about to embark upon the great crusade towards which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave allies and brothers-in-arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world”.
Ronald is buried at Hermanville War Cemetery, Normandy.