Spalding’s last man of Arnhem – the devastating Second World War battle that cost so many lives – has died, aged 94.
Gordon (Curly) Harding was a member of a select band: of the 12,000 or so men who went out to fight in 1944, just 2,000 returned.
Of those, there were only six or seven members of the 3rd Parachute Regiment still alive in the world three years ago.
Cheryl Arnold, assistant Poppy Appeal organiser for the Spalding branch of the RBL said: “He shouldn’t be forgotten. Right from being young I knew that the Arnhem men were special.”
Major David Allmond, chairman of the Spalding Parachute Regimental Association, of which Curly was a member, added: “It’s a tremendously sad loss. Curly was our last 3rd Battalion man who came to Spalding in December 1943, so it is more of a loss than people can describe. He’s our last link with the 1940s really.”
In latter years Curly lived with his step daughter Trudy Croft, her partner Tony and grandchildren Charlotte and Joseph.
His funeral is next Friday at St Mary & St Nicolas Parish Church, Spalding (11am).
Gordon (Curly) Harding was one of around 250 men of the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment who arrived in Spalding in December 1943.
They lived in accommodation huts on the Grammar School field, the Odeon Cinema and elsewhere and, after nine months spent training, they went off to one of the most famous engagements of the Second World War, the Battle of Arnhem, as part of the British Airborne Division.
Major David Allmond, chairman of the Spalding branch of the Parachute Regimental Association, has previously described the battle as “devastating”, as it resulted in so much loss of life.
Curly Harding was one of the few to survive, and he returned to Spalding and, in 1976, married his third wife Elsie. After Elsie died, Curly went to live with his step daughter Trudy and her family. Trudy says Curly is one of nine, and she believes he has two surviving sisters.
She said: “His death has left a big hole because he’s been here all that time and he’s been part of the family.”
Spalding has lost two veterans in recent weeks: as well as Curly Harding, Trevor Rose has died, aged 78. Trevor was in the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment and served in the Malayian conflict from 1956-1968.
He leaves a wife, Margaret, children Mark and Vanessa and four grandchildren.
Trevor’s funeral is to be held at the parish church next Thursday, December 22 at 1pm.