'We recognised the place from the newsreels. There was a large desk covered with dust. An ornamental chandelier hung low from the ceiling. From here Hitler had plotted. Here had been Goering, Himmler, Hess, Goebbels, Ribbentrop - Outside were the remains of a bonfire. The wall was smoke-blackened by the burning. We had reached the heart of Hitler's Germany.' John Mercer was called up in June 1944, and after nine months of square-bashing, vehicle training, Morse code and line laying, he became a gunner. He landed in Normandy on 13 June. The next year saw Mercer skirmishing in Belgium and suffering in waterlogged Holland. He would spend hundreds of hours glued to the radio, waiting for a signal to fire. During the assault on Le Havre, he was taken prisoner by Germans. After transferring to the 7th Division, he was one of the first British troops to enter Berlin, and the Reich Chancellery. Mercer's letters to his widowed mother, together with extracts from the official War Diaries, tell his gripping story. Letters from Normandy is about life in wartime: the trauma, the uncertainty, and perhaps above all, the will to return home.
John Mercer served in the Royal Artillery as a signaler from 1942 until 1947. Later, he pursued a career in education, becoming a schoolteacher and then a college lecturer. He lives in Sidcup within the London borough of Bexley.
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