Archive | November, 2012

Stanley Hollis VC.

24 Nov

Unbelievably, there was only one Victoria Cross awarded on D-Day June 6th 1944. It was won by Company Sergeant Major Stanley Hollis. He was born in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire where he grew up and attended school. In 1929 Stanley Hollis was apprenticed in a shipping Company to learn to be a navigation officer. During the course of this learning he went on a few voyages around the coast of West Africa. Unfortunately for Stanley He took ill and due to this illness he was forced to leave the merchant navy. Returning back to Middlesbrough area, where he had various jobs and later married and had a son and daughter. When, the dark clouds of war threatened Great Britain, Stanley Hollis Joined the local Territorial unit the 4th battalion of the Green Howards. When World War finally broke out he was mobilized and joined the 6th Battalion of the Green Howards. They were eventually sent out to France in 1940 as part of the British Expeditionary Force under Lord Gort. Somebody in high authority must have seen Stanley Hollis had what it takes, because he rose through the ranks very quickly and was a sergeant at the time of the evacuation at Dunkirk.
After Dunkirk, the Green Howards were strengthened and re-equipped and sent out to the Middle East and were part of the British 8th Army that fought and chased back the Afrika Corps from El Alamein to Tunis and the ultimate victory in the North Africa campaign Before the invasion of Sicily in 1943, Stanley Hollis was promoted to Company Sergeant Major. He was later wounded at the battle of Primosole Bridge and spent time in hospital recuperating this did not keep Stanley out of the war. On June 6th 1944 still a company sergeant major with the Green Howards he was in one of the first Assault crafts that hit Gold Beach in Normandy. After the initial resistance the regiment moved in land. The company commander asked Stanley Hollis to go with him to reconnoiter two German pill boxes which had been by-passed by the attacking force. Moving very quickly they rushed the two pillboxes with guns blazing taking all but five occupants as prisoner. They then dealt with the second pillbox taking twenty six prisoners along with clearing out an enemy occupied trench
The adrenalin must have been pumping hard into his veins, because later that day on the 6th June, he led an attack on an enemy position. The position contained a field gun and carefully camouflaged Spandau machine guns. After withdrawing under heavy fire, he learned that two of his men had been left behind. He told his Commanding Officer a Major Lofthouse. Sir, I took them in and I will try to get them out. Taking a grenade from one of his men, Hollis carefully observed the enemy’s pattern of behavior and threw the grenade at the most opportune moment that came. Unfortunately, he had forgotten to prime the grenade, but the enemy did not know this and kept their heads down waiting for it to explode. By the time they realized their mistake Hollis was on top of them and had shot them all. In September 1944 while still in France he was wounded in the leg and was evacuated to England. On October 10th 1944 he was decorated with the Victoria Cross by King George V1
After the war, when back in civilian life he had various jobs he even went back in the Merchant Navy for five years until1955.. Gradually settling down Stanley became a publican and ran the Albion public house in North Ormesby and later became the tenant of the Holywell View public house at Liverton Mines near Loftus for many years. Stanley Hollis a much loved family man died on 8 February 1972 aged 59 and was buried in Acklam Cemetery Middlesbrough. Stanley Hollis’s Victoria Cross now has pride of place in the Green Howards Regimental Museum in Richmond Yorkshire. Obviously you the reader must agree with me, in thinking and saying that indeed Stanley Hollis VC. was a very brave man

Remembrance Day

13 Nov

Hello Everybody
Having been born just before the War in 1938 Remembrance Day has always been a truly main event in the calendar. Both civilian, ex and present servicemen appreciate the ultimate sacrifice the men and women did in the service of their country in both World Wars. We cannot forget the many conflicts around the world we have been involved in. Also, not to forget the sacrifice the people of our great country who died in the blitz during World War Two?
I watched the parade in Whitehall on the television and every year it brings a tear to my eye. The ex-servicemen still march in step after all those years. The eyes left at the cenotaph was done in unison. I am not alone in saying how proud they all were in paying their respects to their fallen comrades, for some it will be the last time. You all did your country proud both then and now.
I have only been on one Remembrance Day parade. It was on the 11thNovember 1960 while serving in the Cameroons. We formed up that Sunday with the two Companies who were serving at Bamenda. We had about forty ex King’s African rifles who had served in various fields of battle during World War Two including Burma. We marched along the red dusty tack until we came to a large clearing where the service was held. What I can never forget was a bugler from our regiment The King’s Own Royal Border appearing on a cliff edge overlooking the clearing .The bugler played the last post to perfection, with the sound echoing down the valley. A truly memorable day I will never forget.
What I am disillusioned with, is the attitude of an Irish born Sunderland footballer who chose not to wear a poppy on his shirt. It wasn’t a lot to ask for, this to me was total disrespect for the many Irishmen from both sides of the border, who lost their lives during both world Wars. Not forgetting the Sunderland citizens who died in the bombing of Sunderland. He should be taken to the Sunderland cenotaph and shown the names of the men who died so that he can live in a free country and play football. I do not know what the people of Sunderland think of it all, but I have got a good Idea!
Long may Remembrance Day be observed for the brave men and women who have paid the supreme sacrifice in the service of our country?

Michael Calvert. A True Hero and Warrior

8 Nov

Hello Everybody,
Ever since I was very young, I have always been interested in the War in Burma. This came about; because of a young man in our street named Jackie Williams was killed in action there. There are three names that always crop up, when one reads about the Burma campaign. They are Slim, Wingate and Calvert. It is the latter that most intrigues me, Michael Calvert D.S.O. He was born in Rohtak, Delhi India where his father was a District Commissioner. He was educated at Bradfield College at eighteen years of age he went onto the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. Although he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers, Michael Calvert went onto Cambridge and studied mechanical science where he obtained an honours degree. He re-joined the Royal Engineers and was sent to Hong Kong then on to Shanghai. The Japanese- China was in full swing and while in Shanghai Michael Calvert went with Chinese forces has a hidden observer and saw first-hand how accomplished in warfare were the Japanese.
Just before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 Calvert returned home to England and was sent on to a Special Forces School where he was taught ambushes, setting explosive etc. with Michael Calvert being a good boxer the hand to hand fighting taught was just down his alley. He was sent onto Norway which was a bit of a disaster for the British Forces and we had to evacuate or being captured by the Germans. While on the retreat in Norway Calvert became very accomplished at setting booby traps, before he was eventually evacuated back to England.
When Japan entered the War he was sent out to Burma as chief instructor at the Bush Warfare School in Maymio. Here he taught British and Australian officers and NCOs Guerrilla fighting. Always trying to get into the fray he eventually got his wish and was involved in many skirmishes in the British retreat through Burma. Back in India he met Orde Wingate. Calvert was totally inspired by with what Wingate had to say. The rest is history the Chindit expeditionary forces into enemy held territories were formed.
The first Chindit expedition into enemy country consisting of 3000 men was Operation Longcloth was in February 1943 Michael Calvert led one of the three Chindit expeditions. These expeditions proved the British Forces could match the Japanese at jungle fighting, providing they were trained properly for jungle warfare. By the end of April, after the mission of three months, the majority of the surviving Chindits had crossed the Chindwin River, having marched between 750–1000 miles Of the 3,000 men that had begun the operation, a third (818 men) had been killed, taken prisoner or died of disease, and of the 2,182 men who returned, about 600 were too weak from their wounds or disease for them to return to active service. Of the remaining men, Wingate practically handpicked those few he would retain, while the rest were put back to their old army units. One very notable skirmish happened on March 17th Calvert noticed that a company of South Staffordshire’s under his command was taking heavy fire from the Japanese forces who were dug in on the high ground surrounding a Pagoda. Making his way over to the South Staffordshire’s he decided something had to be done about the situation very quickly!
He then shouted to everyone that they were going to charge the Pagoda Hill. There were reinforcements on our left flank who would charge as well. So, standing up, Calvert shouted out ‘Charge’ and ran down the hill towards the Japanese. Half of the South Staffordshire’s joined in. Then looking back he found a lot had not. So shouting out through the top of his voice he told them to bloody well ‘Charge, what the hell you think you’re doing.’ So they charged. Everyone charged including the machine-gunners, mortar teams and all officers. The fighting quickly degenerated into a free-for-all. Calvert later said the action was an “extraordinary melee. Everyone got involved in the shooting, bayoneting, and kicking at their enemies. After a slight pause in the fighting a final charge by Calvert won the day. After the battle, the hill was a horrid sight, littered with Jap dead, and already the ones who had been killed there earlier in the day were black with flies. Stretcher-bearers were removing our wounded and our mercifully very few dead.. Lieutenant George Cairns although dying of his wounds was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. He had killed several Japanese after one of his arms had been severed with a sword. There were twenty British troops killed in the battle with over 50 Japanese. Michael Calvert was awarded the DSO for his actions. He was known to men under his command has Mad Mike Calvert. There was no doubt he was a brave leader of men. The end of April, after the mission of three months, the majority of the surviving Chindits had crossed the Chindwin River, having marched between 750–1000 miles. Of the 3,000 men that had begun the operation, a third (818 men) had been killed, taken prisoner or died of disease, and of the 2,182 men who returned, about 600 were too week from their wounds or disease to return to active service. Of the remaining fit men, Wingate handpicked those few he would retain, while the rest were put back under the normal army command structure as part of their original battalions.
Michael Calvert suffered along with the rest of the expedition with malaria, dysentery and many jungle ailments. After a few months of recuperation he returned to active service and the planning of the second Chindit Operation named Thursday. This operation commenced on March 5th 1944, with 20,000 allied troop taking part. This time 10,000 of the Chindits were going in by gliders to designated areas. Michael Calvert was promoted to temporary Brigadier and again commanded one of the large patrols going by glider. The actions, by men of the Chindit patrols, have been written many times by men who fought in those patrols. All the men of different nationalities, who took part, were brave men indeed. When, one talks about heroes you need no further to look than the men who were part of the Chindit expeditions. By July 1944 it was clear that the Chindits were exhausted by continuous marching and fighting under heavy monsoon rains, and were withdrawn. By the end of the campaign the Chindits had lost 1,396 killed and 2,434 wounded. Over half the remaining men had to be hospitalized with a special diet afterwards. During Operation Thursday Orde Wingate was killed in a plane crash while visiting his troops. All troops serving in the 14th Army under Field Marshal Slim were trained to Chindit standards in the defeat of the Japanese in Burma.
Michael Calvert was returned to England with a foot injury while playing rugby in India. When, this was cleared up between his many bouts of malaria. He successfully commanded a Polish regiment in the European war which by then was drawing to a conclusion. At the end of the Second World War he taught at special operation schools both at home and abroad, especially In the Malayan Campaign. It was here that his expertise was gratefully received and executed.
He was court-martialed for an alleged act of indecency and dismissed from the army in 1952 while serving in Germany. Until the day Michael Calvert died, he denied the allegations against him. For such a brave man as Calvert, this should have been sorted out and not just been shoved under the table and forgotten. He later wrote three books about his career in the forces. He travelled a lot but, suffered terribly with his health from the actions in the Far East. Michael Calvert DSO and Bar died on the 26th November at Richmond-upon- Thames in 1998, aged 85. Personaly I have always had total respect for the brave men who fought and still fight for our country. To me the Chindits were something special and to be led by such a man as Michael Calvert. He was indeed a leader of very brave men, a leader who no doubt was a hero and warrior.

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