One of the first things Company Sergeant Major Stan Hollis recalled seeing on D-Day as he dashed onto Gold Beach on the Normandy coast was three tiny birds sitting on a roll of barbed wire.
The soldier next to him, looking up at the smoky, propeller-filled sky above, made a joke. ‘No bloody wonder they are there Sergeant Major, there’s no room in the air for them!’.
A few minutes later that same man was torn apart by an exploding mine. He was gone – the birds remained.
It is difficult to know what makes a hero. But the stark violence inflicted on an innocent man must have lit Stan’s touch paper and moments after that sight, Stan Hollis became one.
His heroic actions that day made him the only man among D Day’s 150,000-strong invasion to be awarded the Victoria Cross – the highest military medal given for valour in the face of enemy fire.
Twice he charged at the enemy single-handed, dodging bullets to save his men in what looked liked certain death missions.
06 June 2014
The full story of Teesside D-Day hero Stan Hollis - Gazette Live