Classified British Life-savers in D-Day Landings

Acme 470 clicker used during 1944 D-Day landings as a means of communicating with allied troops
Photo – Evening Standard

In approaching the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, perhaps there is history, unbeknownst to many, on safeguards instilled for British and American paratroopers prior to 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landing at Normandy, June 6, 1944 – along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coast.

This particular defense was secretly crafted and classified by the British and also used by American forces.  “I had my pistol in one hand, my ‘cricket’ in the other… I crept along the hedgerow looking for a gate. Just as I found it, I heard a stir on the other side. I drew my pistol and got all set. Then I heard the click. That was the most pleasant sound I ever heard in the entire war.” ~ General Maxwell D. Taylor, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division.

General Maxwell D. Taylor, commander of the 101st Airborne Division claims he introduced the use of the cricket in 1944.  An order was placed with J Hudson and Co. and the factory increased production to meet the large order, producing the quantity with existing stock. Genuine examples exist in brass and nickel.  Initially, the nickel version was utilized and the remainder were made of brass.  Today the numbers that are emerging indicate that for every seven to ten brass versions found, there is one nickel version.   This most likely indicates that nickel was the minority of the order make up  and the brass version was predominant.

The crickets were used during the night of June 5th / 6th 1944 by the young men of the 101st with the intention that they should be discarded thereafter. Many of the men retained their ‘crickets’ long after the war and they have since become iconic symbols of the U.S. airborne brotherhood and indeed D-Day itself.

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Desperate bid to track down life-saving ‘clickers’ British soldiers used in D-Day landings

The Evening Standard (UK)
Olivia Tobin

Manufacturers from ACME Whistles are attempting to trace the “lost clickers” of the Normandy Landings, a life-saving tool of the invasion, to mark the 75th anniversary.  The small metal device was used by troops abroad to try to determine if among friends or foes in pitch black conditions.  Every paratrooper was issued a clicker and upon being dropped into darkness on the eve of D-Day, were told to utilize if suspecting someone was near. (On the night of the invasion, only approximately 15% of paratroopers landed in the right location.) They were instructed to click once and, if heard two clicks in reply, that meant friend.   No response meant something else, Simon Topman noted.

ACME’s Campaign To Find The Lost D-Day Clickers

British 470 Acme clicker developed to allow British forces to communicate with Allied troops
Photo – Evening Standard

On D-Day – June 6, 1944 – World War Two Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France which was code-named Operation ‘Overlord’.  It marked the beginning of a long campaign to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation.  By the end of the day, the Allies had established a foothold on the Normandy beaches and could begin advancing into France.

The Managing Director at ACME Whistles said the quiet noise created by the clickers was the “original sound of D-Day” and was a hugely important tool for soldiers to find allies in unfamiliar conditions.  The ACME Whistles Birmingham-based factory was given the “top secret” task of making 7,000 clickers, six months prior to D-Day.

Simon Topman, Managing Director, of Acme Whistles
Photo – Evening Standard

Paperwork and instructions regarding the task were provided and the plans swiftly rushed away to London afterward.  Because of the secrecy, the factory could not be left with even one clicker and have not seen any since dispatched to soldiers in WWII.

Mr. Topman called the clickers “vital” for soldiers’ safety.  “No one knew of their existence and no German soldiers had them.  They were to be used only in the first 24 hours of landing to stop Germans from making their own or trying to mimic them.   It was only later we discovered their purpose.”

The importance of the devices was also highlighted when the factory creating them was targeted.  The factory itself was bombed when incendiary bombs were dropped and one found its way down the lift shaft, exploding in the cellar.  Whistles were sent raining out into the streets of Birmingham and a third of the factory was demolished, but so essential were its products that it was rebuilt in just four days.

From the air — US and allied paratroopers parachuted onto the beach and deep into enemy German territory on D-Day and in support of the massive military invasion by land, sea, air. World War II combat photos

During World War II, ACME played a vital role in the war effort.  There was no commercial trade, as production was given over entirely to making whistles for the war effort and,  of course, Clickers.

Supported by The Royal British Legion and intended to meaningfully mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, ACME Whistles is now appealing to people to try to trace the historical tools.

“It would be absolutely lovely to be able to put one in our showroom maybe, even for a few weeks, and be able to say it’s here.  It’s the original sound of D-Day and the sound of history. We would love to find as many of the original Clickers as possible.”

“Perhaps your great Grandfather was a D-Day veteran and has a box of war medals where it could lie unknown?  Maybe an elderly neighbor is a widow of a D-Day veteran who doesn’t realize the significance of the unassuming Clicker?   We ask that people start seeking them out, to see if they can unearth a lost piece of sound history.”

If you believe you’re in possession of an original ACME Clicker please contact: Ben McFarlane, Ben.McFarlane@ACMEwhistles.co.uk, 0121 554 2124 or feel free to message on Instagram: @ACME_whistles.

————————

Perhaps this bit of British history will again mark its valued contribution

by Allies in honoring the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

                                                                  ————————–

 

 

 

About Karen Evans

Advocate For Honoring Military Service
This entry was posted in American History, Veterans and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Classified British Life-savers in D-Day Landings

  1. GP Cox says:

    A very simple tool that has a long and glorious history. Thank you for running with this story, Karen.

    • Karen Evans says:

      Thanks, GP. I was uninformed of this device and always appreciate new awareness of WWII history! I must say the entire scope of D-Day was phenomenal and can only imagine the Godsend it was to those impacted by the German forces.

    • Karen Evans says:

      GP, I heard from a man in the UK who is helping ACME whistles with their campaign to find some of the British clickers prior to D-Day. He came across my post and asked if I would include a link to the ACME website which shows a short video of the device being used in battle. It also includes a very short piece on Joining the Search and Why Lost at http://www.acmewhistlesnhttps://.co.uk/. I wondered if you would consider also posting the link, even at the bottom of one of your posts to join the effort? It would be nice to have bloggers sharing the campaign!

      • GP Cox says:

        I would be happy to, Karen! You can count on it! (Wish I had one of the old ones, but all I’m seeing on-line lately are the replicas.)

  2. Karen Evans says:

    Great! With your audience numbers, I thought it would certainly help the odds of finding any. If you will let me know when you post, I’ll pass it along. All I’ve seen are replicas, too. My contact indicated they are checking some leads they have for a potential authentic clicker and will let me know if successful. I certainly hope at least one is found for the D-Day anniversary! Thanks, GP.

  3. GP Cox says:

    Reblogged this on Pacific Paratrooper and commented:
    From a woman who always advocates for our military… an insight into those clickers you see and hear in the movies!!

    • Karen Evans says:

      Thanks, GP, for spreading the word. Some have re-blogged, as well. I’ll let you know of any results from the UK.

      • GP Cox says:

        You are more than welcome, Karen.
        Thank you for keeping me in mind for an update!

      • GP Cox says:

        When you get a chance, you might want to read the comments on my site. The readers love your article.

      • Karen Evans says:

        I will – thanks for letting me know. Jeff Groves mentioned American paratroopers used the ‘crickets,’as well. I then found these interesting bits online: “I had my pistol in one hand, my ‘cricket’ in the other… I crept along the hedgerow looking for a gate. Just as I found it, I heard a stir on the other side. I drew my pistol and got all set. Then I heard the click. That was the most pleasant sound I ever heard in the entire war.” ~ General Maxwell D. Taylor, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division. The crickets were used during the night of June 5th / 6th 1944 by the young men of the 101st with the intention that they should be discarded thereafter. Many of the men retained their ‘crickets’ long after the war and they have since become iconic symbols of the U.S. airborne brotherhood and indeed D-Day itself. (Perhaps some will come forth from the 101st).

      • GP Cox says:

        The replicas are a dime a dozen, but jeez it would be terrific to have one of the originals!!

      • Karen Evans says:

        It would indeed. Hope at least one original is found!

  4. Stephen C says:

    Reblogged this on In the footsteps of war and commented:
    Desperate bid to track down life-saving ‘clickers’ British soldiers used in D-Day landings

  5. Have seen these in a movie. Good to read the history behind the legend. Nice work.

  6. Reblogged this on Truths, Half-truths, and Sea Stories and commented:
    Imagine finding something in your grandfather or great-grandfathers dusty box of WWII memories! Fascinating. I remember these being featured in the movie, “The Longest Day”.

    • Karen Evans says:

      Thank you, Eric, for spreading the word. It could be an interesting treasure hunt for someone. A UK contact has indicated they may have a few leads.

  7. bookdiva says:

    What an amazing story. Thank you.

  8. Jeff Groves says:

    These were issued to American paratroopers as well, the troops called them “crickets”.

    • Karen Evans says:

      I found this history of use by the Americans. “I had my pistol in one hand, my cricket in the other… I crept along the hedgerow looking for a gate. Just as I found it, I heard a stir on the other side. I drew my pistol and got all set. Then I heard the click. That was the most pleasant sound I ever heard in the entire war.” ~ General Maxwell D. Taylor, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division

  9. Karen Evans says:

    Thanks, Jeff, for that information. I wondered if we had them, as well, but hadn’t seen confirmation. They do sound like ‘crickets’ as portrayed in the ACME film.

  10. The Emu says:

    Great historical story and background on such an insignificant but valuable tool.
    Wonder if any Australians would have been in possession of a Clicker.

    • Karen Evans says:

      Indeed, a unique creation for a vital need and another interesting story of WWII. Based on this comment online, I assume the Australians did not utilize the clicker and do not see any evidence to the contrary: Australia did not have a draft during World War II; the militia was made up of volunteers and enlistees. The militia could not be sent overseas, but they could be used for Australia’s defense.

  11. I wonder who came up with the idea in the first place.

  12. Karen Evans says:

    I discovered this same problem earlier this morning and reported it to my UK contact who’s working with ACME on the campaign. I would assume it won’t even be addressed until Monday. Please try the link again later, as the interesting video shows it’s use at D-Day and provides some historical context. Hopefully the crashing is a result of the site being overwhelmed with interest which will produce results!

  13. Karen Evans says:

    My UK contact has passed the link issue to the dev team to make operational again. If not today, it should be up tomorrow promptly, as this is an important campaign to them.

  14. Karen Evans says:

    The link to ‘ACME’s Campaign To Find The Lost D-Day Clickers’ is operational again.

  15. Reblogged this on The Tactical Hermit and commented:
    In Rememberance of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day Approaching, I am going to start posting articles like this. Amazing stuff!

  16. I wasn’t aware of this but seem to remember having played with a “clicker” when I was a kid. It may have been an original or just a toy modeled on the real thing.

    • Karen Evans says:

      Dennis, I had a couple of bloggers who remembered playing with clickers as a child but remembered them associated with toys. Unless you had a family member with the 101st during WWII at Normandy, that’s likely what they were.

  17. Reblogging this on my website. Thanks for the article.

  18. Reblogged this on Kelly Guymon Photography and commented:
    Love this article. With the 75th anniversary of D-Day coming up next week, I thought it would be appropriate to share this article. Thanks to the original author of this.

  19. Reblogging on my website. Thanks for posting this article.

  20. Pamela C. Morrell says:

    I remember playing with one as a little girl in England (maybe it was a replicate), but it was fun.

    • Karen Evans says:

      Pamela, I’ve heard from individuals in the U.S. who remember playing with clickers, as well. Chances are, unless you had a British WWII paratrooper in your family, it was a toy or replica. Thanks for visiting and I certainly hope ACME is able to find an original in time for D-Day’s 75th Anniversary!

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