Never forgetting those who fought to end Hitler’s reign of terror

Blogger: GemSen Sometimes when you hear personal accounts of war you can be left feeling astounded at just how utterly harrowing these events must have been to experience, and how brave those who fought actually were. The astonishment is always made greater still by the gallant and humble way war heroes tell their stories… Just the other day I read a story in the Daily Record about a D-Day Veteran who lost six friends during the push to liberate Nazi-occupied France in Mauny, Upper Normandy. Former 5th Black Watch corporal, Dr Tom Renoulf is currently seeking the relatives of his fallen comrades so that they can be at the unveiling of a monument to their bravery, due to be unveiled in Mauny this June 1st. Dr Renoulf, 88, is searching for the relatives of Major Donald Mirrielees, Colonel R Riddle, Corporal Harry Chapman, Corporal James O’Keefe, Private Harry Billington, and Private George Hildred, who died in action on August 28 and 29 1944. Are you related to any of Tom's brave WWII comrades? “I’m not doing this for recognition. I’m doing it for my comrades. We were brothers - I still think of them as brothers – and I feel incredibly proud to have fought with them,” said Dr Renouf. Remembering the battle, he went on to talk to the Daily Record about the terrifying events he encountered during the 12 weeks of ferocious fighting on the Normandy bridgehead. “We’d endured day after day of violent shelling and there’d been a continuous stream of casualties. The battalion was so badly decimated. It was horrific – some of them were only boys. “We were on our way into the village to capture Mauny when the Germans attacked. They created a roadblock and machine fire opened up. Shells and mortars rained from the sky and bullets were fizzing past my ears. It was an extremely brutal attack.” Dr Renouf was wounded in the bloody battle after a bullet struck his back, narrowly missing his spine. Amazingly, the war hero said in the interview that he felt no pain when the bullet hit and only realised he had been hit after a fellow soldier pointed to a big patch of blood on the back of his tunic. As the enemy forces retreated, Dr Renouf walked a mile to the regimental aid post where he was put into the same ambulance as his injured comrade and close friend, Corporal Chapman, who had suffered a fatal bullet wound to his head. Dr Renouf witnessed him pass away, which is a moment he says that he will never forget.
“I overheard one of the doctors say, ‘He’s had it.’ I felt my stomach turn upside down. “They should have been doing everything possible to keep him alive. I exploded, nearly fainted. I was losing blood and overcome with sadness, adrenaline pumping.
“Chapman was a real father figure to me. He really looked after us. I felt indebted to him. I would have died for him.” Dr Renouf said he felt fortunate to have survived and spent three weeks in hospital after the attack. “The bullet went into my back and flew straight out again,” he said. “I was lucky. Apparently it missed my spine by half an inch. “Being in hospital was probably the best part. I hadn’t seen a woman in weeks and there I was, lying in a bed with crisp white sheets being looked after by these beautiful angels –that was a real bonus.” The veteran who was awarded a military medal for gallantry in Normandy, will soon travel to Mauny with his wife on June 1, where he will unveil the memorial. So far he has managed to trace some of Private Hildred’s relatives but is hoping to track down more of his comrade’s families.
“This memorial is an opportunity to remember, with gratitude and respect, the day we liberated the village from the terror and suffering of occupation. And I feel it is my duty to track down the relatives of all six soldiers who died fighting for their country.”
Dr Renoulf’s story struck me because it needs to be heard - we should never forget what our soldiers were fighting for, and what they went through to achieve it. Source: Daily Record D-Day is fast approaching on 6th June - how will you remember those who fought during the war? Are you trying to trace someone in your family who fought during WWII? Search the records or have a look through our historic documents library relating to WWII via the Forces War Records website.
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