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  • Claire Jordan

“Anyone would have done what I did.”

The only Victoria Cross to be won on D-Day, 6th June 1944, belongs to this lovely man, Stan Hollis, from Middlesbrough.

He wasn’t even a career soldier, joining the 6th Green Howards at the start of the conflict, and coming out wounded at Dunkirk in 1940 after a courageous stint as a dispatch rider as France fell around him.

He fought on in the Western Desert, taking out a Tiger tank single-handedly by slapping a sticky bomb to the flank from a speeding Bren-gun carrier.

Stan was good at being a soldier.

He was physically brave, he was smart, and he genuinely cared about his men.

By the 1943 invasion of Sicily, he was a CSM, and was put in for a Distinguished Conduct Medal (which was somehow not awarded) after the murderous fighting at the Primosole Bridge.

And then came 1944.

Stan and his Green Howards were part of the first wave to assault Gold Beach on D-Day.

His job that day was to get his men ashore and keep them moving up and off the beach as quickly as possible.

But as the casualties mounted and his boys fell in front of him, he realised they were all hopelessly pinned down by two hidden German pillboxes which had already been passed, and which were now picking off anything that moved.

Stan wasn’t having it.

He abandoned his cover, instantly drawing enemy fire, and sprinted for the nearest pill box, somehow reaching it, shoving the muzzle of a Sten gun through the slit and pulling the trigger.

He then climbed up the pill box and threw in a hand grenade.

Sensibly, those who weren’t killed surrendered to him.

He then moved on to the second strong-point, still all alone, and repeated the action, taking 25 prisoners this time... enemy soldiers who had witnessed what he’d just done to the last pill box, and didn’t rate their chances of surviving the whirlwind that was now Stan Hollis.

Stan’s men were able to move forward again without facing almost certain death thanks solely to their protective CSM.

Hearing then that two of his boys had been left pinned down in a house, he told his Commanding Officer: “I took them in; I’ll try to get them out.”

He sprang out into the open, Bren gun blazing, drawing all the enemy’s vicious fire long enough to enable his two lost boys to get away.

It was at this point that bullets lodged in the bones of Stan's feet, of which he was apparently unaware until after the War.

Without Stan’s towering courage and his innate belief that the lives of his men were far more valuable than his own, so many more British soldiers would have died on Gold Beach that day.

Finally, after a fifth serious wounding, he was sent back to England to recover in September 1944, and was awarded his VC by the King the following month.

“Anyone would have done what I did,” he insisted.

It may be 78 years ago now, but what Stan and all those brave men did that day, D-Day, means every bit as much now as it did then, and We Will Remember Them.

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