6 – Family discovered RNR officer from Whitehead illegally kept his D Day orders for Operation Neptune
After a house fire, his family discovered Lieutenant Alexander North Hardy (Left) had retained his copy of the orders for D Day
Lieutenant Alexander Hardy was in HMS Valena, a minesweeper, used to sweep French beaches on 05/06/1944 in heavy weather prior to D Day.
In 2013 it was reported in the Daily Telegraph that his family had found an inch-thick document – which should have been destroyed at the end of the Normandy invasion – gives a detailed account of the navy’s role in the landings.
The orders were issued to Royal Navy officers who were involved in Operation Neptune – the code-name for the initial phase of the D-Day mission.
Hardy, who died in 1978 at the age of 70, held on to them after the war and they ended up in a chest of old family documents in the loft of one of his daughter’s home.
They were only discovered after the property caught fire and the box was recovered and its contents checked for damage. The family then agreed to release some pages of the documents, to mark the 69th anniversary of D-Day.
His son-in-law, said: “The front page says it should be ‘destroyed by fire on completion of the operation’. But it seems my father in law didn’t have a fire available at the time.”
As well as charts of the routes across the channel that the Allied fleet was to take, it contains around 50 photographs, presumably taken from a submarine lying off the coast, of the enemy shoreline onto which the invasion force was to land.
The images were not to be used as navigational aides, but to help sailors to identify different areas of the beaches.
The document also instructed ships as to what their particular role was to be. For minesweepers like HMS Valena, they were to clear designated areas of any mines, and then act in a “communication” role.
The book also contains details of what the fleet should do, if German patrol boats, submarines or heavy battleships were to arrive on the scene and disrupt the landings – and also what to do in the event of the invasion failing and the Allied forces needing to withdraw.
“They were basically, to go back the way they came,” Hardy’s son-in-law said.
“There is also lots of technical stuff in there, instructions about call signs and how to verify and authenticate things.
“But there are also some beautifully drawn charts and, amid all the military detail, what I think is a magnificently concise description of what D-Day was all about: ‘The object of Operation Neptune is to carry out a joint Anglo-American operation from the United Kingdom to secure a lodgement on the Continent from which further offensive operations can be developed’.”
Hardy was the father of Ann Willis, a SAFFA activist in NI. She said that, as a child, she had played with the documents, not knowing what they were.
Hardy, from Whitehead, had worked for a shipping company in Birmingham before the war.
Earlier in the conflict, he had served on escort duty during the Battle of the Atlantic.
At the end of the war, he and the crew of HMS Valena found themselves in the Low Countries, where he took part in a VE-Day parade with Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.
The ship itself was a converted private yacht, rather than a purpose-built warship and had on board, among other luxuries, a four poster bed and a Royal Doulton bath.
HMS Valena – Anti-submarine Yacht – FY.028
Launched by Fleming & Ferguson Paisley, Yard No 373, on 5/3/1908 as the steel Schooner Rigged Steam Yacht, Dolaura, for James Dunsmuir, London & Victoria BC.
September 1939 requisitioned by the Admiralty for use as an anti-submarine yacht. She was attached to the 89th Anti-Submarine Group based at Portland
January 1941 84th Anti-submarine Group at Campbeltown
January 1942 84th Anti-submarine Group at Ardrossan
1945 returned to owners.