A war veteran, who was awarded France’s highest honour for his role in the Normandy landings, has died.
Fred Milward, of Churchfield, Westfield, received the Legion d’Honneur in November 2015.
He took part in the attack on the German battery at Merville in June 1944. The battery threatened to disrupt the Allied landings on Sword Beach.
The paratrooper was from the 9th Parachute Battalion, part of the 3rd Parachute Brigade and attached to the 6th Airborne division.
Allied intelligence believed the Merville Gun Battery was heavily armed and could threaten the British landings at Sword Beach eight miles away.
When Fred’s battalion arrived over Normandy, their parachute descent was spread out over a large area.
More than 600 troops were supposed to land at the battalion assembly point. Instead only 150 did with no heavy weapons nor equipment.
Fred and other troops helped set up the explosive before running out to avoid the blast. The brave soldiers and succeeded in capturing the battery from the Nazi forces. Only 75 men survived during the mission as they tried to disable the guns.
However, once the paratroopers had withdrawn, two of the guns were put back into action by the Germans.
The battery remained under German control until August 17, 1944, when Nazi troops started to withdraw as Allied forces advanced through France.
Fred’s party became involved in heavy fighting between Allied forces and the Nazis at Chateau St Come on the Breville ridge. He was hit in the face.
His and his fellow troops’ mission is chronicled in Stuart Tootal’s book, The Manner of Men: 9 PARA’s Heroic D-Day Mission and Fred received a signed copy of the book from the author when it was released.
As reported in the Daily Telegraph, Fred left school at 14 and later joined the Home Guard. He then joined the Royal Sussex Regiment before volunteering for the Parachute Regiment.
He was severely wounded after rescuing a Spitfire pilot who had crashed in the Bois de Bavent in July 1944.
After the war ended, Fred worked as a mechanic until his retirement.
Fred, survived by his son and daughter, died on July 23, aged 93.
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