Friday, 6 June 2014

Heroes of Normandy: PGS Pupils and Staff

by John Sadden

PGS pupils with D Day veteran, Frank Rosier
The 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord provides an opportunity to reflect on the significant role of OPs in the D-Day campaign, and to commemorate those who did not return from the great invasion for the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6th June, and a similar number were landed on the Normandy beaches within the first five days. By the end of August it is estimated that more than three million allied troops were in France.

Lieutenant Richard Harris
The vital role played by Portsmouth, Gosport and the surrounding area in the preparation and execution of D-Day is widely recognised. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, visited PGS on the 40th anniversary in 1984 to commemorate the importance of the area, and met pupils and Normandy veterans. She was greeted by the Headmaster, Tony Evans, and Chairman of the governors, the Very Rev. Michael Nott.

Reginald Tarrant, Parachute Regiment
As a schoolboy, John Walker (1941-51), witnessed military preparations over the skies of Bournemouth, where PGS had been relocated. He recalled, on the 5th June, “…the skies above, the sight of the fleet of bombers and paratrooper-carrying aircraft crossing the coast, followed later by the hundreds of aircraft-towing troop-carrying Horsa and Hamilcar gliders that took off from airfields in Hampshire and Dorset. Then suddenly looking out to sea to witness the never-to-be-forgotten sight of ships and landing craft of all shapes and sizes gathering in Poole Bay to await General Eisenhower’s signal to sail for Normandy. The next day, on returning to the clifftop, we were amazed to find the bay virtually empty of any craft.”

Private Elliot Pease
The planning of the Allied invasion had taken four years. At least three OPs are reported to have participated in the planning of Operation Overlord or have taken a vital role in leading operations. Air Marshal Sir Edward Chilton (1915-24) played a key role at Coastal Command in aerial anti-submarine warfare, contributing significantly to the RAF’s part in frustrating U-boat attempts to disrupt the landings. Following service in Persia, Iraq and Burma, Brigadier G.O.M. Jameson (1915-23) played a part in planning the British army invasion. Sir Harry Broadhurst (1915-22), commanded several stations during the Battle of Britain and become the youngest Air Vice-Marshal. He helped in the planning for air support, and set up base in Normandy four days after D-day and his squadrons of ground-attack fighters, equipped with the formidable rocket-firing Typhoons, played a crucial role in supporting the Second Army's advance. He was appointed a C.B. following the operation and was made a K.B.E. at the end of hostilities.

Lieutenant Ronald Eades
PGS teachers who took part included Peter Barclay (1950-87), who landed in Normandy at Arromanches on 11th June and fought with the 21st Army Group in the “big push” westwards across France, Belgium, Holland and into Germany.

Flight Sergeant Keith Burroughs
Old Portmuthians who served and died in the campaign include Ronald Eades (1917-22), who was a Lieutenant with the RNVR, serving with the American Rangers near Omaha Beach. He was killed six days after D-Day. Reginald Tarrant (1926-31) volunteered for the Parachute Regiment and landed in Normandy on D-Day with the 6th Airborne Division. For his actions he was awarded the Military Cross, but he was mortally wounded in an attack on an enemy position. Richard Harris (1932-1940) was a Lieutenant in the Essex Regiment who landed at Gold Beach on D-Day, but was killed a month later. Elliot Pease (1929-32) was a Private serving in the Hampshire Regiment which became part of the 43rd Wessex Division. Landing soon after D-Day, the division took a major part in the Arnhem landings. Pease was killed in October 1944. Keith Burroughs (1936-41) was a Flight Sergeant in the RAF and was killed a month after D-Day during Operation Goodwood. Kenneth Lorimer (1937-43) was a naval Lieutenant who served as part of Force D off Sword Beach and survived, but was later killed in a flying accident.

Lieutenant Keith Lorimer
Many other OPs took part, directly and indirectly, in Operation Overlord. In 1940, the Battle of Britain was won by the “few”. In 1944, the liberation of Europe was achieved by the many.

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