Capt. Lyle Louwrens Archibald McKay, was part of South African forces attached to the Royal Marines on D Day, 6 June 1944. He showed remarkable courage on this most significant day in history – as this insert attests.
“Captain McKay showed qualities of initiative, energy and courage in a high degree by spotting and engaging enemy strong points, machine gun positions and anti-tank guns from the beach throughout D-Day.
In the course of the day he was wounded by a direct hit from a 75 millimetre shell which put the main armament of his Sherman tank out of action, but he nevertheless continued to engage the enemy with his .300 Browning machine gun until he finally moved inland from the beach with only one of four Centaur tanks, the remaining three still being out of action through damage to tracks on landing.”
This image shows his unit in action during the landings, here a Canadian M10 Wolverine 3-inch self-propelled gun supports an attack by 48 Royal Marines Commando on the German strongpoint WN 26 at Langrune-sur-Mer, circa 11:30 hrs, the next day on 7 June 1944. A Centaur tank of No. 4 Battery, 2nd Armoured Support Regiment, Royal Marines Armoured Support Group, disabled by a mine, can be seen in the background. The officer in the foreground is Lieutenant-Colonel R Moulton, commanding 48 Royal Marines Commando.
The below image shows a Sherman tank of the Royal Marines Armoured Support Group, to which Capt. Mckay would have been attached, seen here during D Day operations – 13 June 1944, near Tilly-sur-Seulles.
Of interest is this Captain’s rank epaulet this is the insignia of a South African Union Defence Force Captain’s rank insignia for one attached to the Royal Marines, note the ‘red band’ or ‘rooi lussie’ which signified a South African who had volunteered to fight in World War 2 and go overseas (i.e. outside the country), to do so they had to repeat a ‘red oath’ which enabled them to leave the union of South Africa under law.
All South Africans in World War Two fighting overseas were volunteers, those in the Union Armed Forces who disagreed with Smuts’ decision to go to war on the side of Britain had the option of staying behind and not wearing the red band (not many did). Note the letters ‘RM’ this signifies ‘Royal Marines’ – a very unique and different World War 2 artefact. As a Captain, Lyle McKays’ insignia would have been similar.
Related Links and work on South Africans during D-Day
Tommy Thomas South African D Day Hero: Lt. D.C. “Tommy” Thomas MC
Cecil Bircher South African D Day Hero: Lt. Cecil Bircher MC
Anthony Large South African D Day hero: Anthony Large BEM
Posted by Peter Dickens. Reference: SOUTH AFRICA’S D-DAY VETERANS Cdr w.M. Bisset – SA Naval Museum, Simon’s Town. Image Imperial War Museum. Image of epaulet artefact with much thanks to Alan Crayon Coleman.