Tuesday, June 10, 2014
It is a relationship on which the clock stopped 70 years ago.
Former EDP photographer Norman Taylor’s Normandy campaign began on June 8.
He landed in France with the First Queen’s Royal Regiment attached to the 7th Armoured Division and fought through to Caen. Mr Taylor took part in the Battle of Villers-Bocage before fighting through France and into Holland, where he was badly injured. He was blown from his position on the floor by a German tank and required intensive surgery to reconstruct his hand and arm with skin and bone grafts and tendon reconstruction. At Tilly sur Suelles war cemetery, Mr Taylor laid crosses for Major Russell Elliott and L/Sgt James Edwards, both of whom died in June 1944. L/Sgt Edwards, who was 25, died at Villers-Bocage when he was hit by a mortar bomb while Maj Elliott, 31, is believed to have been killed by shrapnel. “We come back to remember the mates that are gone, the ones who never came home. It’s important never to forget what happened,” he said.
Sylvia Bacon last saw her older brother, Brian Tuck, before he headed off to take part in the invasion of Normandy.
He never returned – dying, aged just 18, around two months after D-Day, as the Allies pushed their way inland.
But through the intervening seven decades, Mrs Bacon has never forgotten her sibling and the brief memories she has of him.
And when she read that the EDP would be accompanying a group of Normandy veterans back to the area, she got in touch to ask if we would be making a stop at Tilly sur Seulles cemetery, where his remains lie.
Mrs Bacon, who lives in Norwich, hoped we would be able to visit the grave, which she hasn’t seen since she was a 16-year-old in 1946.
So at the weekend, a small group of veterans joined the EDP party as we paid our respects, on behalf of Mrs Bacon, to her much loved and remembered brother.
Before we left Norfolk, Iain Temperton, team manager, casualty reduction, from Norfolk County Council had replied to a Twitter plea to help us bring a small piece of Norfolk to Normandy.
He took his motorcycle to Warham, where Pte Tuck had grown up, and collected a small pot of earth to be placed on the grave.
Veteran Norman Taylor, who had been placing crosses for comrades of his own in the same cemetery and who is a former EDP photographer, placed a cross in front of Pte Tuck’s grave, inscribed with the message: “To Brian, love always from your sister Sylvia” and scattered the Norfolk earth on the Normandy soil.
Mrs Bacon remembers her brother as a gentle giant who enjoyed his work driving lorries in Wells, and who wouldn’t have relished the prospect of conflict.
“He wouldn’t have wanted to fight. It wasn’t in his nature. But he would have done what was expected of him,” she said. “I was quite young and so I didn’t really understand how dangerous it was. I think I was protected from the bad news a little bit and it wasn’t really spoken about.
“My sister said later that the day she found out that Brian had died in France was the worst day of her life. It changed our family.”
Pte Tuck had been attached to the Dorsetshire Regiment, having originally joined the Royal Norfolk Regiment. The Dorsets were specifically chosen to take part in the D-Day landings thanks to their previous experience with amphibious assault landings at Sicily and Porto Venere in 1943. They landed slightly to the east of their objective at Le Hamel on a beach under heavy enemy fire. The regiment made its way inland and, by nightfall, were in and around the village of Ryes.
Pte Tuck was killed on July 30, after weeks of heavy fighting.