In the final week of his life, British Army Sgt. W. Norman Clague shot footage of the biggest story of the war.
Clague was one of 10 photographers and cameramen from the No. 5 Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU) selected to accompany the troops on D-Day. The film he shot on June 6, 1944 and the next few days is a critical part of the historical record of Operation Overlord, evocative black-and-white footage taking viewers from the Channel crossing onto the beaches of Normandy.
The 26-year-old from the Isle of Man went ashore in the Queen Red sector of Sword Beach around 8:40 a.m with Lt. Col. Derek Mills-Roberts and No. 6 Commando. By that point, British troops had cleared much of the beach, allowing the Commandos to proceed with their mission: linking up with British 6th Airborne troops who had landed during the night.
Clague and the troops he accompanied didn’t venture far inland, setting up shop near Saint-Aubin-d’Arquenay at Le Plein. The handwritten war diary kept by Mills-Roberts notes repeated exchanges of mortar and artillery fire with German troops on the east side of the Orne River over the next few days.
Late on June 12, No. 6 Commando pulled back from their positions so the 12th Paratroop Battalion could move up and attack Breville. British troops laid the groundwork for the assault with a heavy artillery barrage, which the German defenders answered.
Clague and others were sheltering in the unit’s cookhouse during the barrage when the building took a direct hit from a mortar shell, killing the 26-year-old cameraman.
He was buried in a temporary grave and later reinterred at the Ranville War Cemetery.