Defense Media Network

D-Day: Horace Flack, Margaret Flack, and the USS Harding

How much longer did you stay on the Harding after the D-Day invasion?  

I got off on July 24, so I was through the invasion until that time. First thing they did was make me third class yeoman. Oh, last duty I had on the Harding before I left, I was log room yeoman for the engineering force, and when I got to Plymouth they gave me the rank. It was the equivalent of a sergeant. When I saw the engineering officer… at the first Harding reunion he said, “One minute you’re with me, then next you’re gone! You left me high and dry, and you left me with my engineering books!” He gave me hell for that. When I got to Plymouth, they made me third class yeoman and they put me in charge of guard mail. I knew where every ship in the ETO [European Theater of Operations] was.  Louis was made lieutenant j.g., and he had command of an LCT, 709. And being in Plymouth, I kept watching [his ship’s position], and it kept saying Utah Beach, Utah Beach….  One day I looked at it and it said Dartmouth. He’d come back from Utah Beach. Dartmouth wasn’t too far from Plymouth, so I got on a bus and went to see him. I went down to the waterfront and said “Where is LCT 709?” They said it was up the Dart River where the Royal Naval academies were. They took me and went aboard but I didn’t see anybody. I got to the kitchen, and the cook was in the mess hall cleaning up. I said “Where is Lt. Hesterly?” He said lieutenant was in the head. So I went around to the head, and there’s old Louis. And he had shaving cream all over his face. I tapped him on the back, and he said, “Hoot? Where in the devil did you come from?” And he gave me a hug and got shaving cream all over me too. We went ashore into Dartmouth and went to one of the hotels and stayed there until they kicked us out. After that Louis would come to Plymouth to see me and we saw a lot of each other, really.

Plymouth was a rough place. Every nationality and ally was represented there and I learned in a hurry to stay out of pubs. There was always a fight going on in the pub, the shore patrol wouldn’t hesitate to crack your noggin.

First time he came to Plymouth, when I was in that ship’s service office, and he said, “Hoot, damned if you don’t beat anything. I’m over on Utah Beach being used as a fender for a British battleship, and here you are in this nice office here living the life of Riley! ‘Old frayed end of the rope Hesterly that’s me.” Needless to say, we had a good time, what times we were able to see each other. Plymouth was a rough place. Every nationality and ally was represented there and I learned in a hurry to stay out of pubs. There was always a fight going on in the pub, the shore patrol wouldn’t hesitate to crack your noggin. After V-E day they had a parade there from one side to another, it was a great feeling, everyone whooping it up.


How did you meet your wife?

In the operations office in Plymouth, they had a map of Britain on the wall. And next to it there was a dart board; we did darts in idle time. And there was a Greek boy from Boston, his name was Harry. We both had two weeks leave, and we decided we’d go somewhere together. We couldn’t decide, so he said; “Throw a dart, and the city it lands near is where we’ll go.” I threw the dart, and it landed near Edinburgh, Scotland.

V-1 Rocket

A V-1 rocket in flight over London, ca. 1944. Horace Flack saw V-1 rocket attacks during his brief visit in London during World War II. National Archives photo

So we go to London for a while. They had buzzbombs going on. And we were fortunate enough to get on the Flying Scot train. It was hard to get a seat in those compartments. We got on there, and I guess it was about midnight. Harry got restless, and this ATS [Auxiliary Territorial Service] girl was standing out there and he was talking to her. So I figured I’d see what was going on. While I was out there, in the compartment before ours, there were some Australians who had been German POW’s. They were passing the gin bottle around, and in so doing – Margaret was in the compartment – they spilled some of that gin on her. She got mad, and came out dragging her duffle bags with her. I think she had the kitchen sink in it – it was heavy. I got to talking to her. We sat down there on the duffle bags and stayed that way. Finally both of us nodded off and fell asleep sitting there. This happened in the vicinity of Newcastle. When we woke up, we were outside Waverly Station in Edinburgh, and we went down Princess St. I went to the YMCA, and she went to the YWCA to get checked in. And every day that we were there in Edinburgh, we’d meet. I still have pictures.

Margaret Flack: I had an invitation to visit the family of my sister’s friend, Judy. Most of her work was doing driving. And she drove ambulances during the bombings. But I didn’t get there. I stayed at the YWCA the whole time in Edinburgh, and he stayed at the YMCA.

Horace: That’s how we met: a throw of a dart and spilling gin. If that’s not fate I don’t know what is. I marvel at it. How our lives were touched, it is really amazing.

Margaret: If I hadn’t been sitting in there… You could hardly a get seat on those trains, and I thought I was lucky to find a seat in that cabin. But I didn’t realize what I was getting into. I sat there very solemn. They were passing their bottle. They were pulling on it, and I got drenched.


How did you two stay in touch during the war?

Horace: Margaret was stationed at Oxford at that time, and I was still in Plymouth. We corresponded, and we’d meet in Redding or Oxford. She got sent off on a dot-dot-dit-dit (Morse code) school while I was in Plymouth. And in the meantime, I’d get up to London. And it was during this time that we really got to seeing each other. I was in England about two years. When Margaret and I decided to get married I took her to see Lt. Harris. He had to give his approval. I took her in there. He quizzed her a bit, and we talked. He okayed our marriage toute suite. When he got through, he asked me if she had any sisters!

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