ON THE eve of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, here are eight Gwent heroes of the Normandy campaign.
1. Frank James: Will return to honour dead sergeant
A 95-YEAR-OLD Newport veteran will return to the beach where he fought during the D-Day landings 70 years ago and will be honoured with a medal.
Newport veteran Frank James was transporting ammunition for tanks of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards and his unit came under shellfire before they hit the sand at Ver-sur-Mer on Gold Beach. As they landed his sergeant was shot and killed by a German sniper. He will be back in Normandy tomorrow where he will meet the daughter of that sergeant for the first time, and they will visit his grave and lay wreaths in his memory.
He will then be honoured by the mayor of the Norman town of Creully which was liberated by his regiment. He and other veterans will be presented with the town’s honorary Gold Beach Medal.
2. Eddie Linton: Sailor was one of few survivors
NEWPORT ex-sailor Eddie Linton was one of 20 survivors when his ship was torpedoed off the coast of Normandy.
His frigate HMS Mourne was patrolling off the French coast when it was torpedoed. He said: “We were going in to attack a U-boat but before we got her another one got us and we went down in two minutes.
“The majority of the casualties died in the initial hit and it was one hell of a blast. When it hit us a huge fireball went up in the air. They’d hit us directly in the magazine section and all that went up. The poor devils down below never stood a chance – no chance at all.”
Mr Linton, is due to be in Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the landings.
3. William Gillard Bidder: His diary told of great invasion
THE story of a Newport man's D-Day service with an RAF Barrage Balloon unit was uncovered when his family unearthed his diary.
William Gillard Bidder kept the journal during the year he spent in France, beginning with the build-up to D-Day.
On May 31 he wrote: "Must write those last letters home - wonder will they guess what's coming? Good thing they don't know. Ma would worry herself stiff."
June 1 to 3: "I like the spirit of our chaps - no one seems to be worrying (expect they are but won't show it - that stolid English character is something to marvel at.)"
On June 5, 1944, Mr Bidder boarded a ship and was not told where it was going. He wrote: “Weather still poor and sea rough. Don’t feel so good - no appetite. Stayed on deck quite a bit glad of the fresh air.”
He later wrote of “very near misses” he saw and “a number of dead English and Jerry bodies lying about.”
Some time later, having landed, he told how the enemy were still making life difficult for him and his unit: "With this constant shelling and the din of our own guns, nerves get strung up and tempers frayed. One battery nearby had bad time. Jerry simply plastered it - many casualties and cases of shell shock - general position was that someone was giving away the position."
4. Dave Edwards: Liberator of a grateful Norman village
HERO: Dave Edwards meets children from L’Ecole Edwards-Griffiths in Mondrainville, France
HISTORY MAN: Dave Edwards with head teacher of L’Ecole Edwards-Griffiths, Mondrainville, Caroline de Pechy
A GRATEFUL Normandy village named its school after two Abergavenny soldiers who helped liberate them from the Nazis in the weeks after D-Day.
Dave Edwards and the late Tom Griffiths both served with the 2nd Battalion the Monmouthshire Regiment 53rd (Welsh Infantry Division). They fought to help free the village of Mondrainville just weeks after D-Day in 1944.
A year ago Mr Edwards went back to Mondrainville to meet children from the school that was named in his honour.
He said at the time: “We were just two ordinary infantrymen but it was an absolute honour and a privilege. I like to think we share this honour with all the men of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Monmouthshire Regiment who fought at Mondrainville in June and July 1944, and in particular memory of those many who died for the freedom we share.”
5. Sergeant Henry Arthur Staddon: Set an example of bravery
Sergeant Henry Arthur Staddon of Newport was awarded the Military Medal during the Battle for Normandy in 1944. He was a member of the 2nd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment, part of the 53rd Welsh division and took part in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Normandy Campaign.
After coming undere fire from a German position, he organised a fire plan quickly and chiefly due to his quick reaction, the German platoon surrendered and about 25 prisoners were captured. Shortly afterwards, in the same area a man was hit by shellfire which ignited one of his grenades. Sgt Staddon stripped off the man’s clothing and equipment and extinguished the phosporous which was burning him. The citation in the London Gazette said he "has set an example which could not be improved upon".
6. Fred Lewis: 'Hell of explosion and noise'
Newport railway worker Fred Lewis joined the army in 1940 and landed with the 2nd battalion the South Wales Borderers on Sword Beach on D-Day.
The landing he recalled was "a hell of explosion and noise."
"We scrambled ashore and made defensive positions as best as we could.
"Men were shouting and screaming and trying to regroup. We had been given ration packs with strict instructions not to open them until that evening but like a lot of other things that day, it went by the board.
"In all this confusion the Germans were firing.
After a few days his unit was taken out of the battle and another battalion put in their place. He returned 10 days later to see a beachead well-established and the sea black with ships. But his part in the fighting was soon at an end.
"A shell came whistling over and exploded and blew me up in the air. When I tumbled back to earth I landed on the edge of my entrenching-tool which we all carried as part of our equipment.
"The next thing I was aware of was being in hospital in Basingstoke."
7. Ronald Lyle: Infantryman was wounded in breakout from Normandy
Ronald Lyle of Cwmbran landed at Arromanches on Gold Beach with the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division from 1942, known as the Polar Bears.
He was wounded by shrapnel near Falaise just outside Caen during the Battle for Normandy which followed the landings. He was posted back to France later in 1944. He died in 2013.
8. Stanley Gunter: Marine helped bombard German defences
Stanley Gunter of Cwmbran joined the Royal Marines in 1940 and was stationed at Lympstone, Exmouth.
By 1942, he had joined the battleship HMS Nelson, which he served on as it bombarded the Normandy coast. As its massive 16-inch guns hurled shells each weighing 2,000 lb at German defences. The tables were reversed on 18 June when she hit two sea mines and had to retire to dockyards in Philadelphia, USA, for repairs.