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War veteran of deadly D-Day raid has died

Sergeant Fred Milward was part of The 9th Parachute Battalion tasked with neutralising the gun battery at Merville before it could decimate British troops landing on Sword Beach, Normandy.

A war veteran who was the last survivor of one of the deadliest raids of D-Day has died aged 93.

Sergeant Fred Milward was part of The 9th Parachute Battalion, attached to the 6th Airborne Division, tasked with neutralising the gun battery at Merville before it could decimate the British troops landing on Sword Beach in Normandy. 

Some flew in gliders which never made it. Nearly 200 were dropped on to flooded marshland and drowned.

This meant instead of over 600 men, just 150 men with no heavy weapons or equipment actually reached the battery and half were killed or captured in the attack on the huge concrete bunkers.

Despite that they still managed to spike the guns during the attack on on June, 6, 1944.

Sergeant Fred Milward was part of The 9th Parachute Battalion, attached to the 6th Airborne Division, tasked with neutralising the gun battery at Merville on June 6 1944

A few weeks later Sergeant Milward was seriously wounded by a shell and never saw frontline action again in the war.

Owing to the horrors he witnessed in the Battle of Normandy it took him 40 years to speak about the war. 

However he later named his house 'Merville' in tribute to the comrades lost in the heroic action.

Two years ago Sgt Milward received the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest honour for gallantry, for his part in liberating the country from the Nazis.

He died from bowel cancer at his home in the village of Westfield, East Sussex, and the current mayor of Merville will attend his funeral as a mark of respect.

His son Richard Milward, 69, said: 'My father hardly spoke about the war and it took him 40 years to do so. It was very painful for him.

'The post D-Day fighting in Normandy was very traumatic. He saw some of his own comrades shot be friendly fire, he saw British Sherman tanks blown up and an officer in a jeep killed when it ran over a mine.

'But in 1984 he returned to Normandy for the 40th anniversary and went back regularly afterwards.

'There used to be two coachloads of veterans from the 9th Parachute Battalion that went back but slowly over the years the number diminished.

'There were eight last year but dad was the only one who took part in the Merville raid, the others joined them after D-Day.'  

Two years ago Sgt Milward received the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest honour for gallantry, for his part in liberating the country from the Nazis

Andy Saunders, a neighbour of Sgt Milward's and the editor of Britain at War Magazine, said: 'Fred Milward was one of a kind; a remarkable and unsung hero.

'He was one of an elite band of men tasked with a vital role on D-Day. Taking out the Merville Battery was a critical and crucial to the operation.

'It was a ferocious action and the losses were horrendous on both sides.

'Although having known Fred for many years he would certainly shy away from the word 'hero' - albeit that he certainly was one.

'With his passing goes the last living and tangible link to one of the epic actions of D-Day. It is to men like Fred that we truly owe our liberties and the freedoms of today.'

After recovering from his injuries suffered in July 1944, Sgt Milward returned to France and was a prisoner of war guard. 

It was during this time he met his wife, Connie, who was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women's branch of the British Army.

They married in 1945 and had two children, Richard and Wendy, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Sgt Milward worked as a car mechanic for the rest of his working life but did join the RAF Volunteer Reserve in the 1950s. Connie died in 2010.

His funeral will be held at Hasting Crematorium on August 18. 

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