Corporal Stanley Evans
Unit : No.14 Platoon, "B" Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Army No. : 5391885
Awards : Croix de Guerre.
The following is a newspaper article printed in the Coventry Evening Telegraph on the 4th June 2004, based on an interview with the late Corporal Evans.
For a celebrated few, The Longest Day spanned what seemed like an eternity.
Stan Evans was among a select group who arrived in occupied France hours before the big push began on D-Day. He was already dug in, close to Pegasus Bridge, when Lord Lovat's commandos, with his personal piper Bill Millin playing a jaunty air, arrived as reinforcements in one of the abiding images of the war. The scene was immortalised in the film The Longest Day. By the time the commandos arrived, Stan Evans, 80, who now lives in Moseley Road, Kenilworth, had already helped to capture the bridge and its famous Cafe Gondrée, the first targets in France to be liberated. He was among just 180 men who were airlifted from an Oxfordshire airfield aboard six Horsa gliders, being towed by Halifax bombers, at 11pm on the night before D-Day. They landed silently just after midnight in Benouville and took the bridge's German defenders by surprise. "Some of them were still in bed when we turned up," said Stan, recalling the capture of the vital bridge across the Orne Canal. It was a daring exploit, and it was pivotal to the allied plans of advancing their tanks into France after the beach landings.
For his part in being among the first liberators, Cpl Stan Evans, of the 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment, who was serving with the 6th Airborne Division, was awarded the Croix de Guerre with bronze star (the French war cross) by General de Gaulle. It is an honour which, even 60 years on, still sits uneasily with Stan. "I don't know who recommended me for it," he says. "But when I was told I could either go to Paris to be presented with this medal or be posted to India, I chose India. You don't join the army to win medals."
Stan prefers not to dwell on his role in the hours leading up to D-Day. But he remembers the pals he lost. "There were 28 of us on our glider," he said. "Only eight of us came back. It was the worst shock of my life going back to the barracks room and seeing all those empty beds."
Army records, signed in December, 1944, by Maj-Gen R N "Windy" Gale, Commander of the Airborne Corps, reveal why Stan was recommended for the Croix de Guerre. The citation says: "Throughout the campaign Corporal Evans has shown great leadership and devotion to duty. He has carried out several patrols and removed an "S" mine from Stickies corner on August 11th. On August 25th, he assumed command of his platoon when the platoon commander was wounded and the platoon under heavy enemy fire near a bridge over the river Morelle, near Manneville la Raoult. He went forward alone to tackle the enemy machine gun post that was holding his platoon down and shot the enemy NCO in charge. The remainder of the enemy surrendered."
Stan will not be returning to France for the 60th anniversary. "When the war ended, I said to my wife the war's finished, now let's forget it. I haven't been to a single reunion in all these years. Only recently, I was told that of the 180 men involved in that mission, there are now only 14 of us left."
Birmingham-born Stan was a 20-year-old corporal on D-Day. He was in the second of three gliders to hit the ground. "I landed up to my waist in mud, but we were only about 50 yards from the bridge and we ran straight across. I remember it was such a beautiful night." As a section commander, his role was to cover the Cafe Gondrée and the area around it. Once the commandos arrived 13 hours into D-Day, the 6th Airborne Division was supposed to pull out, but it was to be eight weeks before they were on the move again.
Stan was one of only two men to win the Croix de Guerre on that mission. The other was his commanding officer, Major John Howard. The retired Warwickshire chauffeur also received a special citation from Field Marshal Montgomery for his "outstanding good service". He shrugs off the honours by saying: "I could have died loads of times, but Him up above was looking after me. It's not a question of bravery. In those circumstances, you just do things that you are trained for."
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