This story and photos are shared by the Trust with kind permission from Helen Waller, daughter of William Boardman
William (Bill) Boardman was the son of William Henry and Martha Ann Boardman. They lived at 10 Port Street, Middleport, Staffordshire along with Bill's two sisters.
Before joining the forces Bill worked as a butcher at Simcocks, Newcastle Street, Middleport. He enjoyed cycling and he was also a member of the St John's Ambulance Brigade and would attend local football matches in a first aid capacity.
Bill married Nina in St Paul's Church, Burslem on Christmas Day 1939. The story goes Bill had often spied a lovely red head walking past his shop on her way to work in the Potteries and had sometimes seen her out walking as he rode past with his cycling team. On one of those occasions he stopped for to chat.
Nina and Bill: L-R 1937, Blackpool, and in 1938 and 1939
Telegram Bill sent a few days after Helen's birth
Nina and Helen, 1943
Bill joined up in 1941 and served with 48 Royal Marine Commando. He had only recently returned from serving in Sicily before landing in Normandy on 6th June 1944. They landed on Juno Beach, tasked to take the enemy strong point at Langrune-sur-Mer. But as they approached the beaches some of the vessels struck the underwater obstacles whilst others were hit by shells from the German shore batteries. Bill was killed as a result of a shell making a direct hit on their landing craft just as it approached the beach.
Marine F Fildes wrote to Nina shortly after Bill's death to tell her what happened. He was a good friend of Bill's who had met him whilst serving together. He is often mentioned in a small diary Bill kept where he mentions they shared a few happy times together, going to the pictures or football matches.
"I'm afraid there isn't much to tell, you see he died instantly on board the landing craft; time would be about 8am on the morning of the invasion. I myself was only four or five feet away from him when it happened. We were all ready to make the landing when suddenly there was a terrific explosion. What happened was a coastal gun of the Germans had scored a direct hit which dropped right alongside Bill. He didn't even cry out so you can see how quickly he died. One thing I would like to say is that if anything could have been done for him it most certainly would have been done; there were two medical orderlies at work within seconds of it happening. But it was all in vain. When you think of him in days to come, be proud of one of the finest men I have had the pleasure and privilege to call my friend, who gave his life so that those who are left behind might live a life of freedom from the terrible yoke of Nazism..."
Nina and her daughter Helen emigrated to Australia in 1949 when Nina remarried.
Helen recalls this about her father:
"Although I was only very young I can remember how tall my dad was (to me anyway) and I called him 'Daddy Long Legs'! While he was away from home he would write beautiful letters to my mum and me. He would often say how we could have a house of our own when he came back from the war. He was a real family man. Over the years we have kept his memory alive and still miss him very much. I wish he could have known his grand children and great-grandchildren. Bill's first great great grandchild was born last year. He would have been devoted to them."
Bill's last letter to Helen, 1944
Royal Navy • MARINE
48 (Royal Marine) Commando
DIED 06 June 1944
SERVICE NO. PO/X102664