1000: Stanley Hollis wins only D-Day VC

Overhead aerial of the gun battery at Mont Fleury,

Overhead aerial of the gun battery at Mont Fleury, behind ‘King Red’ Beach GOLD Area, after air bombardment, showing four medium casemates under construction. Note also the anti-tank ditch, (right), and minefields, (centre top). The battery consisted of four 12.2 cm Polish guns (one in a completed casemate) manned by elements of the German 1260th GHQ Coastal Artillery Battalion, and was captured on 6 June 1944 by 6th Battalion, The Green Howards.

Royal Engineers serving with a 50th Division Beach Group share cocoa with a French boy in the village of Ver-sur-Mer, Gold area, 6 June 1944.

Royal Engineers serving with a 50th Division Beach Group share cocoa with a French boy in the village of Ver-sur-Mer, Gold area, 6 June 1944.

Stanley Hollis VC

Stanley Hollis VC

It was some time after the Green Howards had landed that Company Sergeant Major Stanley Hollis was involved in the actions that were recognised with the award of the Victoria Cross. As the citation makes clear, this was really recognition for his actions throughout the day:

Company Sergeant Major 4390973 (Warrant Officer Class II) Stanley Hollis

In Normandy, France, on 6th June 1944, during the assault on the beaches and the Mont Fleury battery, C.S.M. Hollis’s Company Commander noticed that two of the pillboxes had been by-passed and went with CSM Hollis to see that they were clear.

When they were 20 yards from the pillbox, a machine-gun opened fire from the slit and CSM Hollis instantly rushed straight at the pillbox, firing his Sten gun. He jumped on top of the pillbox, recharged his magazine, threw a grenade in through the door and fired his Sten gun into it killing two Germans and making the remainder prisoner.

He then cleared several Germans from a neighbouring trench. By his action he undoubtedly saved his Company from being fired on heavily from the rear and enabled them to open the main beach exit.

Later the same day in the village of Crepon, the Company encountered a field gun and crew armed with Spandaus at 100 yards range. CSM Hollis was put in command of a party to cover an attack on the gun, but the movement was held up.

Seeing this, CSM Hollis pushed right forward to engage the gun with a PIAT from a house at 50 yards range. He was observed by a sniper who fired and grazed his right cheek and at the same moment the gun swung round and fired at point blank range into the house. To avoid the falling masonry CSM Hollis moved his party to an alternative position. Two of the enemy gun crew had by this time been killed and the gun was destroyed shortly afterwards.

He later found that two of his men had stayed behind in the house and immediately volunteered to get them out. In full view of the enemy who were continually firing at him, he went forward alone using a Bren gun to distract their attention from the other men. Under cover of his diversion, the two men were able to get back.

Wherever the fighting was heaviest CSM Hollis appeared and, in the course of a magnificent day’s work, he displayed the utmost gallantry and on two separate occasions his courage and initiative prevented the enemy from holdng up the advance at critical stages.

It was largely through his heroism and resource that the Company’s objectives were gained and casualties were not heavier and by his own bravery he saved the lives of many of his men.

London Gazette, 17 August 1944

Sherman tanks of 'A' Squadron, Nottinghamshire Yeomanry (Sherwood Rangers), 8th Armoured Brigade, come ashore from a landing craft (LCT 1076) on Jig beach, Gold area, 6 June 1944. On the right, a bulldozer helps clear a path off the beach.

Sherman tanks of ‘A’ Squadron, Nottinghamshire Yeomanry (Sherwood Rangers), 8th Armoured Brigade, come ashore from a landing craft (LCT 1076) on Jig beach, Gold area, 6 June 1944. On the right, a bulldozer helps clear a path off the beach.

German POWs disembarking from LCI(L)-500 on one of the Gold area beaches, 6 June 1944.

German POWs disembarking from LCI(L)-500 on one of the Gold area beaches, 6 June 1944.

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