D-Day: Middlesbrough's unassuming VC hero Stan Hollis

Sgt Maj Stan Hollis Sgt Maj Stan Hollis 'displayed daring and gallantry'

Related Stories

Countless acts of bravery took place on D-Day, but those of Sgt Maj Stan Hollis have been held up as an "example of how, in the pendulum of battle, one man's actions can really change its course".

That's how retired Brigadier John Powell, of the Green Howards, describes his former comrade - the only soldier among the D-Day invasion to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

The 31-year-old from Middlesbrough - who had already fought at Dunkirk and in North Africa - was commended for two acts of valour.

He cleared a pillbox and trenches north of Ver-sur-Mer, taking a number of prisoners, and later rescued comrades under fire in the village of Crépon.

After the war, the unassuming hero rarely spoke about what he had done.

His granddaughter Mandy Hart said: "I just knew him as my grandfather.

"He was very quiet, but I always remember him with a big smile on his face.

Memorial to the Green Howards in Crépon The Green Howards memorial in Crépon is said to depict Stan Hollis

"The medal wasn't a massive thing in the family, it wasn't really talked about a great deal. As children, we just accepted it was there.

Start Quote

Hollis displayed daring and gallantry... he saved the lives of many of his men”

End Quote From the VC citation of Stan Hollis

"He used to save bottle tops and send them off [to raise money] for the blind, and the medal was just kept there in the drawer, with all these bottle tops."

She added: "My grandmother used to love going to all the ceremonies and things, she'd get a new hat and coat and shoes.

"But he only went because she wanted to go, he wasn't very interested."

On the morning of 6 June 1944, Sgt Maj Hollis landed in Normandy with the Green Howards as part of the massive D-Day invasion.

As the men advanced inland, they were pinned down by machine gun fire from a pillbox and he was described as "charging across the open ground with a Sten gun".

Stan Hollis Sgt Maj Hollis also served in North Africa and at Dunkirk

Sgt Maj Hollis later said: "They fired back at me and missed. I don't know if they were more panic-stricken than me.

"I got on top of [the pillbox] and threw a grenade through the slit and it must have shaken them up a bit. They were quite willing to forget about the war, then."

Brigadier John Powell said: "Stan then continued along a communication trench, and by that stage the Germans had had enough, probably it was the terrifying sight of seeing Stan charging towards them.

"In all there were about 30 prisoners.

"Now this action was immensely successful, not only did he save the lives of many in his company but by his actions he allowed this route up to the beach to be cleared.

"That was important for the success of D-Day."

By the afternoon, British forces had advanced inland to the village of Crépon, where a German field gun had been installed in farmland.

Museum display The museum at Crépon features a display dedicated to Stan Hollis

Sgt Maj Hollis and two Bren gunners crawled through a rhubarb patch to capture it, but were forced to retreat when they were fired upon.

Realising the two other men were not with him, he returned, and, firing from the hip the whole time, got his men to follow him out.

Brigadier John Powell said: "Once again, showing no regard for his own safety, he saved a critical situation."

People in Crépon have not forgotten his actions, and part of the museum in the village is given over to a display of Sgt Major Hollis's story.

His exploits are less well known on Teesside, but this is likely to change when a bronze statue of him is unveiled in Middlesbrough next year.

When Mandy Hart visited Crépon in the run-up to the D-Day anniversary, people would come up to her and thank her personally for everything her grandfather had done for France.

During the trip, she said: "I'm even more proud now of what he's done.

Granddaughter at the rhubarb patch Mandy Hart visited the site of her grandfather's heroic actions

"It's brought it to life for me now, rather than just looking at the pictures and reading the pieces.

"I knew that he'd sort of made the beaches accessible to his company but I hadn't realised how much of a difference it had made, how much of a turning point it was on the day.

"I'm sitting here in what was the rhubarb patch thinking were the guns placed down here, and would he really be aware that the Germans were there.

"And I'm thinking about him landing on the beach in the morning, and how he would have felt by teatime.

"This is something I can tell my children. We want what he has done to be passed down through the generations."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Tees

Weather

Middlesbrough

22 °C 14 °C

BBC Local Live

  1.  
    Police probed by other force 12:29: Northern Echo Newspaper

    Claims that senior officers at Cleveland Police conspired to cover up institutional racism will be investigated by an external police force, it has emerged.

     
  2.  
    Slow traffic near abnormal load 12:12:

    There's very slow traffic on the A1 Western Bypass southbound between Hexham turn off in Gateshead and the A167 Durham Road junction in Lamesley because of an abnormal load.

    More on BBC Travel News for Teesside and Tyne and Wear.

     
  3.  
    News on the hour 11:58:

    The top local headlines at 12:00 include:

     
  4.  
    Bus stop crash man dies 11:45:

    A man who crashed into a bus stop in Flatts Lane in Middlesbrough has died in hospital, Cleveland Police say.

    Stephen Horne, 58, from Middlesbrough, crashed on Sunday morning. An investigation is continuing.

     
  5.  
    Turning brighter this afternoon 11:35:

    It will be rather cloudy, with the chance of seeing the odd light shower before it turns drier and brighter later this afternoon with a fresh breeze picking up.

    Weather forecast

    Maximum temperature: 22C (72F). Check the forecast near you.

     
  6.  
    Sacked staff 'can't get justice' 11:22: The Journal Newspaper

    Sacked workers in the North East are being "priced out of justice", unions have claimed.

     
  7.  
    Bike for Bobby interview 11:10: Chris Conway BBC Newcastle

    I've got the padded cycling shorts on and I'm off to meet Phil Gray, the organiser of the Bike for Bobby charity event. Hear him on BBC Newcastle on Friday.

    Chris Conway in padded shorts
     
  8.  
    News on the hour 11:00:

    The top local headlines at 11:00 include:

     
  9.  
    Silver 'meant a lot' 10:50:

    After winning another silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Middlesbrough's Aimee Willmott tweets: Thanks for all the lovely messages of good luck and congratulations! That silver medal tonight meant a lot to me tonight!

     
  10.  
    Not moving out 10:36: Jonathan Miles BBC Newcastle

    Nearly two million working young adults aged between 20 and 34 are still living with their mother and father. Either they've not left or have come back.

    Is this the sign of a serious cost of living problem? Call me at BBC Newcastle on 0191 232 6565 before 12:00.

     
  11.  
    Hunt for woman after phone theft 10:24:

    This selfie was taken on a phone after it was stolen in Newcastle.

    Selfie

    A handbag containing the phone was stolen inside Powerhouse nightclub in Westmorland Street in the early hours of Saturday 12 July.

    The picture was taken and then uploaded to the cloud. Police now want to speak to the woman, who has taken a number of photos since.

     
  12.  
    Second silver for Willmott 10:12:

    Middlesbrough's Aimee Willmott - who was runner-up in the 400m medley earlier this week - picked up her second silver of the Games last night, being narrowly beaten to the touch by Canada's Audrey la Croix in the women's 200m Butterfly.

    Aimee Willmott

    Meanwhile, on the track, Teessider sprinter Richard Kilty finished sixth in the last of the evening's 100m semi-finals and failed to make the final. Keep up with our live coverage.

     
  13.  
    News on the hour 10:00:
  14.  
    Kilty dedicates season to David 09:50: The Gazette Newspaper

    Richard Kilty exits the Commonwealth Games 100m but dedicates his season to his late friend David Zikhali

     
  15.  
    'Offensive and rude' 09:37: BBC Newcastle

    We've had a lot of reaction to a photo of a sign that was put up outside a pub in Sunderland which said "No pushchairs or wheelchairs today. Thank you".

    Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson told BBC Newcastle: "I find it offensive and rude. I hope it was an unfortunate mistake and that someone wasn't thinking.

    "Disabled people do have money to spend, we're not just an inconvenience and my chair doesn't take up any more space than a normal chair. It sends out a really poor message about inclusion in society."

     
  16.  
    Top headlines
     
  17.  
    Train cash cuts to fund improvements? 09:22: BBC Tees

    Should there be cuts to trains serving some of our smaller stations so more money can be spent on bigger improvements? Tweet us @BBCTees.

     
  18.  
    'No wheelchairs today' 09:11:

    This sign saying "No pushchairs or wheelchairs today. Thank you" was put up at the side of the entrance of The Promenade pub in Sunderland during the airshow this weekend.

    Promenade sign

    Disability campaigner David Burdus, director of Burdus Access Management, said: "I'd have been incandescent... I'd have boycotted and sat there and turned people away."

    BBC Newcastle rang the pub several times yesterday but nobody was willing to talk to us to explain why the sign was put up.

     
  19.  
    News on the hour 08:58:
  20.  
    Custody suites 'need improvements' 08:47:

    Improvements are needed to custody facilities across Northumbria Police, government inspectors say.

    Monitors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary made unannounced visits to 13 sites in February.

    They praised the overall treatment of detainees, but expressed concern about facilities for the disabled and the cleanliness of some medical facilities. Chief Constable Sue Sim pledged to act on the report's recommendations.

     
  21.  
    Barry Sweeney to meet PM 08:36:

    David Cameron is due to meet the British families of the people killed in the crash of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

    Barry Sweeney's son, Liam, was one of the 10 British passengers who died and was on his way to New Zealand to watch Newcastle United play.

    Liam Sweeney

    Barry told BBC Radio 5Live: "I will meet with David Cameron today. It will be a privilege to be honest with you. He'll ask me questions, I'll ask him, and all I'll say to Mr Cameron, if I can, I try to say everything from the heart, and say 'help' and get them all back."

     
  22.  
    North Sea fisherman rescued 08:25:

    Two fishermen were rescued after spending nine hours adrift on a life-raft when their boat sank in the North Sea.

    They had been fishing 12 miles (19km) off the coast of Sunderland when their vessel hit a submerged object and quickly sank, Humber Coastguard said.

    The pair were picked up by a Dutch yacht at about 16:40 on Monday. The crew of the yacht contacted the coastguard, who arranged for the pair to be transferred to a lifeboat.

     
  23.  
    Roads are fairly clear 08:13:

    All is looking fairly clear on the roads this morning. However, keep an eye on the latest on BBC Travel News for Teesside and Tyne and Wear.

     
  24.  
    Cloud will thicken later 08:06:

    Dry and bright initially with some sunshine, mainly near eastern parts. Cloud will thicken late morning, with a chance of the odd light shower early afternoon.

    Weather map

    Sunny spells will return in the late afternoon with a fresh breeze picking up. Maximum temperature: 22C (72F). Check the forecast near you.

     
  25.  
    Good morning 08:00: Lloyd Watson BBC News

    Welcome to BBC Local Live, I'll be bringing you news, sport, weather and travel updates from across the North East.

    If you'd like us to feature your comments or pictures, send them to us by email, tweet us @BBCNewsNE or join our Facebook page.

     

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.