D-Day Stories – Edward ‘Ned’ Hitchcock

Ned Hitchcock was one of over 10,000 New Zealanders on active duty with the (RAF) and Royal Navy during the D-Day landings at Normandy, France, on 6 June 1944.

Portrait of Edward Hitchcock while under training as a radar specialist, c 1941. Image 2015/256

Serving as an electrical engineer officer in the RAF, he never expected to be part of D-Day: 

‘I remember thinking …. just ahead of them they’ve got this fantastic operation in which they will be launched on the French coast against enemy forces. And I dismissed that from my mind, it wasn’t in my territory at all.’ 

Hitchcock was born in Christchurch and was one of 28 New Zealanders recruited by the RNZAF to work on coastal radar in Britain. Armed with an honours degree in electrical engineering, he arrived in Liverpool in 1941 and was given a commission and an engineering role specialising in radar.

He was seconded to a radar unit allotted to the Americans, scheduled to land on Omaha Beach. His landing craft stood offshore on D-Day, the men watching the fires burn on shore while the navy fired shots overhead. This followed a failed first attempt to land, stalled by the fact the beach had not yet been captured. It was during this first approach that Hitchcock first witnessed what he later called ‘this realism of war’: 

‘There was an explosion and a man’s figure went up in the air. You know, you read the term ‘blown up’- this is right in front of our eyes.’ 

Twelve men from Hitchcock’s party were killed and 40 more wounded during their landing. They sheltered with the few surviving American troops on the beach until it was finally cleared late in the day.

US Army photograph showing the aftermath of the Omaha beach landings. The two wrecked trucks in the middle belonged to Edward Hitchcock’s RAF radar unit. Image 2015/256

 Hitchcock worked as a consulting engineer until his retirement, and revisited Normandy as a veteran several times. He passed away in 2006. 

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