Significance of Operation Bodyguard and D Day to New Zealanders

This information about James Hargest comes from:

At his own suggestion, Hargest was appointed New Zealand's observer with the Allied armies preparing to invade France. He was attached to the British 50th Division, which landed in Normandy on D-Day. Hargest spent a great deal of time near the front line and wrote perceptive reports on the campaign. Wounded in June, Hargest was killed by shell fire on 12 August 1944. He was survived by his wife and three children. One son had been killed in action earlier in the year. He is commemorated in James Hargest High School in Invercargill.

James Hargest was a popular figure with a 'frank and friendly' manner whose death was regarded as a serious loss to the nation. He 'presented himself as a blunt, no-nonsense farmer' and had a farmer's love of the land. In combat Hargest usually displayed a cold assurance and as a soldier he valued steadiness and endurance above strategic flair. However, he lacked insight into his own strengths and weaknesses, and it seems this failing drove him to use his personal contacts to get command of a brigade in 1940 – a post for which he was unfit. Hargest's experiences in prison and during his escape seem to have given him more insight. Shortly before D-Day he wrote to his wife that when the war was over she would 'I hope find me a better husband than before. I seem to have learned so much and I truly have never been embittered by any experience. Life is still very wonderful to contemplate'.

According to the Southland Times Jun 5th 2014

according to reports, historians and the internet, no New Zealanders set foot on Normandy shores on D-Day.
A Ministry for Culture and Heritage history website says, "no New Zealand ground forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, but New Zealanders like Jack Ingham were on the ships and planes that carried troops to France on 6 June - D-Day - and in the months that followed".
One Invercargill man disputes that and has the evidence to prove it.


James Hargest College teacher and playwright Jonathan Tucker has been fascinated by Southland Brigadier James Hargest's life for decades and even wrote a play about him.
The Mandeville farmer served in both World War I and World War II.
"I am just immensely proud that he went back to war and he was a Southlander," Tucker said.
But the more Tucker delved into Hargest's life, the more he found out, including the fact the farmer wrote in his diary that he did indeed reach the shores of Normandy on D-Day, despite what historians say.
"This is what spurred me on, the fact that I heard it on television and the radio that there was no one who landed on the shores of Normandy."
Tucker sourced Hargest's diary from the public records after it was brought back to New Zealand by a fellow soldier and found later by Major General Sir Howard Kippenberger.
"He was a copious diarist."
But in the midst of the pages are the words that have got Tucker fizzing.
Hargest describes in his diary being aboard HMS Bulolo, approaching the shores of Normandy and his general officer commanding, Major General Douglas Alexander Graham of the British 50th Division, ordering the two reserve brigades ashore to Gold Beach.
"At the same time he left Bulolo and made towards shore by motorlaunch ... which negotiated the obstacles and landed him at H+5 [five hours after D-Day began] hrs."
But the words that follow are the ones that make all the difference.
"I accompanied him."
Ministry of Culture and Heritage historian David Green said he was pleased to hear the information had come to light.
"If he says in his diary that he did, there's a fair chance. A lot of what we normally do is look at published stories and put together an agreed story."
However, the ministry was always happy to make corrections if new information surfaced, he said.
Professor of war studies Glyn Harper, of Massey University, said more than 10,000 New Zealanders were involved in D-Day but until now, no one had been recorded as landing on the beaches.
However, he did not doubt that Hargest was capable of it.
"Knowing Hargest, it could be quite likely that he did."
But it was likely Hargest was not there as a front-line soldier but in an observer role, he said.
"It was probably something he has done off his own bat."
Hargest's grandson, Jim Hargest, said there had never been any mention within the family of the brigadier reaching the shores on D-Day, but Tucker knew more about his grandfather's war efforts than him, he said.
"There's always been a little bit of conjecture about it."
But Jim Hargest said he had confidence in what Tucker was saying and believed his evidence would be true.
He was proud to hear of his grandfather's endeavours on D-Day, he said.
His grandfather was killed in Normandy on August 12, 1944.
Tucker said he understood some people did not care if New Zealanders landed in Normandy, but thought it was important that Hargest's efforts on that bloody day were acknowledged in New Zealand's records.

The Southland Times

According to 'D-Day and the battle for Europe', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 7-Jun-2017

While no New Zealand military units landed on the beaches of Normandy, individual New Zealanders did. Brigadier James Hargest, New Zealand’s official observer with the Allied forces, went ashore with the British 50th Division on D-Day, and radar specialist Ned Hitchcock landed amidst the carnage on Omaha Beach the following day. Other New Zealanders like Jack Ingham were on the ships and planes that carried troops to France on 6 June – D-Day – and in the months that followed. These young men served with the Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Navy (RN) or Merchant Navy. Some were in charge of landing craft, vessels that carried troops and tanks to the invasion. Others were seamen or officers on battleships, destroyers or hospital ships.

New Zealanders in the RAF were among the crews of Dakotas and gliders, which carried airborne troops. Other New Zealanders flew in fighters and bombers, sent out on operations in support of the landings. Far from home, these men were witnesses to one of the decisive events in the Second World War.

There were no Royal New Zealand Navy ships at the Normandy landings, but the Monowai and Aorangi, both from the New Zealand Merchant Navy, took their place in the D-Day armada. The Monowai was fitted out as a troopship, and after the invasion it continued transporting reinforcements to France. Aorangi was a depot ship for the dozens of tugs that towed the artificial Mulberry harbours across the Channel, and it later helped to get casualties back to England.

In the month after the landings 10 young New Zealanders were killed when their destroyer, HMS Isis, was sunk by a mine while on an anti-submarine patrol off Normandy.

Setting the date

The timing of the invasion was critical. Tides had to be suitable for landing craft to beach safely, and the airborne troops needed a full moon. The day chosen, when the required conditions coincided, was 5 June. Bad weather forced Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower to postpone the landing.
Among the six meteorologists advising him was New Zealander Lawrence Hogben, who was serving with the Royal Navy. On the advice of the weather forecasters, Eisenhower eventually decided that the day of the invasion, D-Day, would be 6 June.

Article image
Article image

COLIN AND BABY GORDON, sons of Mre. C. W. McPhee, of the King Country, who arrived aboard the Akaroa to-day. Their father, a Scotsman and a member of the R.A.F., was killed in action on D day.AUCKLAND STAR, VOLUME LXXVI, ISSUE 220, 17 SEPTEMBER 1945