Veteran Pays His Respects
to Fallen Comrades
was certainly and Honour for me to speak to this veteran of the
D-Day landings, Mr Tom Pitson, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, who is
one of only a few remaining soldiers that are left who fought on
that cold, stormy day on 6th June 1944, in “Operation
Tom, who is now 92 years of age still remembers that day as vividly
as if it was yesterday, with all the sad memories of friends that
did not make it.
He will be at the Tunbridge Wells Memorial on Saturday 6th June,
2009 to lay a wreath in remembrance of those whom he fought with
and to those who died alongside him on that terrible and frightening
day in 1944.
Tom Pitson recalled his time with the British Army when he fought
in the Western desert in 1941/1942 when he was just a private with
Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery's 8th Army, he was
in charge of a 3” mortar squad at that time and due to his
own Bravery he was made up to a full Corporal, which pleased him
It was only such a short time before this, that many tens of thousands
of English soldiers, like Tom and my Father Ron Bridle (who was
also in the 8th Army) were re-called from the conflict in Sicily
and Italy, and ordered to make their way by steamship to prepare
for the battle soon to commence, the second front, that they new
nothing about as it was top-secret.
All too soon the time had come for the thousands of troops to head
for the embarkation points all along the South Coast of England,
there to cross the stormy English Channel and head inland for the
beaches of France.
As soldiers in war, as with the many of thousands of allied troops
that day, they firmly believed and hoped that this “Great
Crusade that they were a part of, would finally bring to an end
the evil Nazi regime that had decimated and destroyed most of Europe
and its people, during five long terrible years of tyranny and suffering.
There they were expected to fight to the last man and succeed in
winning this battle, the one that would eventually determine the
final outcome of Europe.
On 6th June, 1944, in “Operation Overlord, many
tens of thousands took part as did Corporal Tom Pitson, heading
in landing craft for the beaches.
Tom with his fellow soldiers of the Durham Light Infantry jumped
from their landing craft onto Gold Beach on that early morning of
the 6th June 1944, there to face a merciless hail
of machine-gun, mortar and tank fire that cascaded all around them,
many of his mates were killed within the first few minutes of landing
on French soil. He described it as a time of “Bloody Hell
Once on the beach they fought their way up managing to find some
refuge from the hail of the killing fire that surrounded them and
continued pushing forward breaking the enemy stronghold. Mr Pitson
remembered those of his mates and comrades who were killed on that
day so long ago, as they fought on the beach.
The Germans threw everything at the allied forces who were clumsily
but bravely fighting their way up the beaches to find shelter from
the fire that was aimed at destroying them, which killed so many.
Their success and Bravery on that day heralded them all as Heroes
who gave their very best to win the Freedom for the French Nation
and for Europe itself.
The Allied Armies went on to fight their way up through France,
Belgium, Holland and into Germany, suffering terrible casualties
and losses, all determined to conquer Hitler's Third Reich, whatever
the cost, the price, the sacrifice...!!!
Tom was blown up twice by enemy fire when he finally crossed the
Rhine into the Fatherland ”Germany itself, when he was delivering
despatches by motorcycle.
From the injuries he received he was immediately ordered back to
England as he was very ill, collapsing in the snow during that very
cold winter of 1944, but due to his own battle experience he was
asked to stay and lead the few men left into battle, as he was the
most experienced battle hardened man in the company. But Tom, once
he was well enough, like the thousands of other Allied soldiers
fulfilled their duty and carried on through to the heart of the
Reich. Finally to see it totally destroyed and no longer a threat
In all the fighting that Tom had participated in during his time
in WW2 with the British army. Tom Pitson was awarded 10 medals for
gallantry and also received a letter of commendation from the King.
Today Tom is a relaxed man, but with memories of that day still
firmly in his mind and those of his friends he left behind, he remembers
them well with affection and sadness, that day on 6th
of D-Day at Tunbridge Wells Memorial.
morning of June 6th 2009, was cloudy with the odd spot
of rain, but the sun broke through the clouds brightening this special
event, as the men who fought on D-Day 1944, 65 years ago, stood
in deep remembrance of those fallen comrades before the towns memorial.
There to Honour those of their friends and mates and all the Allied
forces who fought during “The Great Crusade for the Freedom
of France and Europe, and for the “boys”....who never
The veterans well in to their 80's and 90's were met by councillors
of the town, friends, the Royal British Legion, and many well wishers
who lined the pavement to watch this moving event, in their own
way paying their respects by saying “Thankyou”to the
men who now stood next to them.
Tunbridge Wells Mayor Leonard Price was there to greet them with
warmth and respect as he chatted to the veterans about their experiences
on that horrific day.
The eldest soldier there was Mr Tom Pitson, with the medals proudly
displayed on his chest, awarded to him for his service and
Bravery, not only on D-Day, but during his time in the armed forces.
Tom fought on many Allied fronts, El Alamein, Sicily, and Italy
before being re-called to fight on another front...in the biggest
battle that the world had ever seen.
He fought all the way from the beaches of Normandy, France, up through
Belgium, Holland, and into the heart of Germany.
Bitter fighting was encountered all the way with very heavy losses
to the Allied soldiers, with brutal resistance from the German Werhmacht,
more so the fanatical Waffen S.S. who gave no quarter to any
Allied soldiers, but were determined to fight and die to the very
last man in defending their Fatherland and the “Third Reich”
At 92 years of age, Tom stood erect before the memorial and recited
“At the going down of the sun, and in the morning...We will
Tom stepped forward laid his wreath of poppies at the base of the
memorial, stepped back and saluted, a gesture of his own respect
for those he remembered so fondly, so well, and to those no longer
It was a day to remember the great sacrifice that these men had
given, not only in Tunbridge Wells, but all across the country.
Today in Normandy, this 65th Anniversary will be remembered
with sincere affection and gratitude by the French, as many thousands
of veterans of that day, D-Day, are assembled here from across the
world, to remember with great pride and sadness, the day they came
here as “boys” and left as Men, to Liberate this country
with such tremendous losses.
This will possibly be the very last time they will congregate and
meet together, their time in history has nearly passed...”But
on that day 6th June 1944, so too on this day 6th
the Going Down of the Sun and in the Morning
Will Remember Them.