A real hero's tale

THE citation for the Victoria Cross for Company Sergeant Major Stan Hollis leaves no doubt as to the D-Day soldier’s heroic stature.

“Wherever the fighting was heaviest throughout the day, Hollis displayed daring and gallantry,” it reads.

"He prevented the enemy from holding up the advance of The Green Howards at critical stages...By his own bravery he saved the lives of many of his men."

In fact CSM Hollis, a father-of-two from Middlesbrough - and the only man to win a VC that day - could have won the medal twice over on what was arguably the most important battle of the 20th Century.

One of 160,000 allied troops invading the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the Green Howard was part of the British assault on Gold Beach.

After the landing, CSM Hollis and his company commander decided to investigate two German pillboxes. He rushed the first pill-box alone, talking all but five of the Germans inside prisoner. He then ran at the second, again alone, taking a further 26 prisoners before clearing a neighbouring trench.

Later that day he led an attack on a party of German soldiers hidden in a French farm who were trying to resist the British advance.

He had withdrawn his men, but when he learnt two of his comrades had been left behind he told his commanding officer, “I took them in, I will try to get them out.”

Taking a grenade he threw it at the Germans, who were hiding in a rhubarb patch, but had forgot to prime it.

Taking advantage of the fact that the enemy were unaware of that fact and were keeping their heads down, CSM Hollis charged and shot them.

His two comrades were saved. He also earned the eternal gratitude of a frightened French farm boy who CSM Hollis ordered back to the farmhouse and safety.

The soldier, who had grown up in both Middlesbrough and Robin Hood’s Bay, had already served at Dunkirk, El Alamein and Sicily: an extremely tough war for a quiet man.

After he was invalided home after being wounded in the leg in September, 1944, the former lorry driver, who was married to Alice Clixby, worked in a number of jobs, including as a partner in a motor repair business in Darlington, before running pubs in North Ormesby and Liverton Mines, before dying a much-loved father and grandfather in 1972.

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