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CSM Stanley Hollis VC: D-Day hero


Middlesbrough-born Stanley Hollis, the only man to win a Victoria Cross (VC) on D-Day, should have been the most famous soldier of World War II – but his natural modesty got in the way! The superb soldier and leader of men, who was uniquely recommended twice for the VC in blistering actions at Gold Beach, Normandy, on D-Day 6 June 1944, had top writers of the day knocking on his door desperate to tell his story to the world.

But tough guy Stan sent them all packing, saying ‘anyone would have done what I did’. So, until now Stan’s stupendous courage and selfless acts which saved so many lives of his close Green Howards comrades on that momentous day in history became largely forgotten on the national stage for many years.

With the Green Howards

At the outbreak of World War II he joined the 6th Battalion, Green Howards and was sent with many pals to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 as a dispatch rider. Wounded for the first of five times in the war, he survived a hair raising evacuation from Dunkirk. Later, he fought in the Western desert with the famed Eighth Army in the key North African Campaign, once taking out a Tiger tank single handed in a speedy bren gun carrier by slapping a sticky bomb on it.

Killing more than 100 enemy soldiers during the war, Hollis rose to Company Sergeant Major just before the invasion of Sicily in 1943 where he was recommended for, but did not receive, a Distinguished Conduct Medal at the fierce battle of Primosole Bridge. But it was his actions at Gold beach, the Mont Fleury battery and Crepon on D-Day when he really came into his own.

Company Sergeant-Major (CSM) Hollis and the battle hardened Green Howards, were hand-picked by Monty to be one of the first assault battalions to set foot on the bloody Normandy sands. As his Company took many casualties moving inland from the beaches, Hollis suddenly saw two hidden German pill boxes which had been by-passed. Without hesitating for an instant, Stan rushed forward to the first pill-box, poking his Sten gun through the slit. He climbed on top and put a hand grenade inside. killing most of the enemy within and taking other occupants prisoner. Spotting a second strong point, he attacked that too, taking 25 prisoners. Hearing that two of his men had been left behind trapped in a house he bravely told Major Lofthouse, his commanding officer (CO), ‘I took them in. I’ll try to get them out.’ Hollis sprang out into the open blazing away with his Bren with bullets spattering the ground all round him, enabling the trapped men to get away. He even got bullets lodged in bones of his feet, which he didn't know about until after the war!

Evacuation and after the war

In September 1944 he was wounded for the fifth time in the conflict and evacuated to England where he was decorated with the VC by King George VI in October 1944. Returning to North Ormesby, Middlesbrough, he got a job as a lorry driver and married Alice Clixby with whom he had a son Brian, who now lives at Linthorpe and a daughter Pauline, of Redcar. Both burst with pride when talking of their heroic dad. And many a person stopped the family in the street after the war and said ‘My husband’s come home alive because of what your father did on D-Day.’ After the war, he was also a Teesside steelworker and partner in a local motor repair business before training as a publican and ran the North Ormesby Green Howard pub and later the Holywell View pub at Liverton Mines near Loftus.

Hollis died in February 1972. His funeral at Acklam Cemetery, Middlesbrough, was attended by two other VC winners, family and many Green Howards and VIPs. In November 2015 a £150,000 memorial, built in his honour by the Stanley E Hollis Memorial Fund with permission from Middlesbrough Council at Linthorpe, was unveiled, just yards from Middlesbrough’s Cenotaph to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

There can be no greater tribute to a man regarded by military experts as one of the three finest Victoria Cross winners of all time.

By Mike Morgan

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