Who were Charles and Elliot Dalton?
Welcome to Season 3 of Unknown History: D-Day Stories. I’m your host, Giles Milton, and today we’re talking about an extraordinary true story that took place on Juno Beach.
For those Unknown History listeners who’ve seen Steven Spielberg’s film, Saving Private Ryan, you’ll know that the plot turns on the story of three brothers killed in action while serving in the US army, with a fourth about to head to Normandy for the D-Day landings.
Spielberg’s story is fiction, but it could have been fact. There were many brothers serving on D-Day, creating huge anxiety for the worried families at home.
Among the more remarkable stories is that of Charles and Elliot Dalton, two Canadian brothers, who shared the misfortune of having to land in the first wave on Juno Beach. They were due to land together, shortly before 8 a.m. on the morning of D-Day. And as with everything on D-Day, their landings would not go as planned.
Charles and Elliot were extremely close. Charles was 33-years-old and more than half a decade older than his sibling, but the age gap had done nothing to dampen the deep affection they had for one another—two grinning brothers with rugged faces and swept-back hair. Charles had flashing teeth and a winning smile. “The archetypal dashing young officer,” said one under his command. “He really had a lot of style.”
Elliot was more earnest and more youthful. He had followed in his brother’s footsteps by joining the same regiment in 1931. They were known by their men as Mark I and Mark II: each was held in equal regard.
The brothers were so close to each other, as they were to their mother, that Charles had begged his commanding officer to spare Elliot the initial assault. “Don’t send Elliot on the first wave,” he said. “You know what it will do to our mother if we both die.” But there was nothing the commanding officer could do. It had already been decided that both brothers would be among the first to storm the beach.
To learn more about Charles and Elliot Dalton, and to read all the episodes about the morning of D-Day, check out the Unknown History channel on Quick and Dirty Tips. You can listen to this entire episode with the player below.