D-Day, 1944. Tens of thousands of Allied soldiers swarmed onto the Normandy beaches in the biggest invasion ever mounted in history. Many would die, and one of them, Private Clarence Whitfield, a black man, died in a way he perhaps least anticipated.

A few days after the landings Whitfield and some of his companions began chatting up two Polish sisters who were working in Normandy as farmhands. The girls walked away when the men got fresh, but one of the soldiers fired a shot. After that one of the girls was forced to submit to sex with Whitfield, while the other ran off to fetch some American officers.

Rape was a capital offence in the US forces and Whitfield had the unpleasant distinction of being the first man charged with the crime after the D-Day landings. He was found guilty and, smoking a big cigar, went to meet the hangman on Monday, August 14th, 1944, in the grounds of Canisy Castle.

Forty-nine US servicemen were executed in France after D-Day, and

80 per cent of them were black.