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D-Day 75: Spalding pride of the Paras Tony (93) returns to Normandy

The pride of the Paras - D-Day veteran Tony Blackman - has returned to Normandy

It's 75 years since Tony, then aged18, landed on Sword Beach on June 6, 1944.

Two years ago, the member of Spalding Parachute Regimental Association became one of a handful of South Holland heroes awarded the Legion d'Honneur - France's highest honour - for his part in liberating France during the Second World War.

D-Day veteran Tony Blackman and wife Rita.
D-Day veteran Tony Blackman and wife Rita.

Tony and wife Rita, from Weston, set off on Sunday to take part in the commemorations of D-Day and The Battle of Normandy.

Spalding Parachute Regimental Association secretary Pat Elwick said Tony has some mementoes - including scrolls - to place at key points that have a personal meaning to him.

Pat said it will be a tiring trip for the couple.

But, despite Tony's advancing years, Pat says: "He's still got some bounce in him. He's a lovely man."

Tony was a member of the 12th Battalion (Airborne) Devonshire Regiment and their objective was to relieve Caen.

Tony fought in actions in the area of La Bas de Ranville and took part in the assault on Branville. On June 25 Tony was wounded, sent back to the UK and spent several months in hospital.

Sadly another of Spalding's D-Day heroes - Edwin "Ted" West - died in May.

Ted West (centre, front) on the day he was presented with his Legion d'Honneur.
Ted West (centre, front) on the day he was presented with his Legion d'Honneur.

Ted's funeral service is due to take place at midday tomorrow (Friday) at Surfleet Crematorium when it is expected there will be a Royal British Legion standard present to honour his outstanding wartime service.

Ted (93) had been invited to join the D-Day heroes aboard a cruise ship chartered by the Legion to go to Normandy this week.

He was awarded the Legion d'Honneur in January, 2018 and the Royal Navy veteran had a remarkable story to tell because he survived eight perilous trips to the Normandy beaches.

Hazards on those cross-Channel journeys included aerial attacks, floating and magnetic mines and e-boats with torpedoes.

His daughter Beverley West said: "He was very proud of what he had achieved."

With the help of the Legion, Ted returned to Normandy in 2017 but it was an emotional time as it triggered flashbacks and horrific memories - and talking about the war did the same.

Despite those flashbacks, Ted had been looking forward to the 75th anniversary.

Fellow heroes awarded theLegion d'Honneur who passed away last year were Spalding Royal Naval Association member Bernard Hale and Spalding branch of the Lincolns member Tom Fowler.

Previously ...

Spalding D-Day veteran receives France’s top honour

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