Tributes paid to 'Inspirational' Sheffield paratrooper who was one of first to land on D-Day

Bert Marsh was a regular attendee of memorial events (Serge Loslever)

Bert Marsh was a regular attendee of memorial events (Serge Loslever)

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A D-Day veteran from Sheffield has died just months before he was due to relive his wartime heroics by parachuting into Normandy aged 92.

Bert Marsh, of Crystal Peaks, was one of the first paratroopers to land on the French coast during the Allied invasion of June 6, 1944, which would mark the beginning of the end of the Second World War.

Bert Marsh was one of the first paratroopers to land on French soil on D-Day

Bert Marsh was one of the first paratroopers to land on French soil on D-Day

Having survived the war, and then overcoming a triple heart bypass in his 80s, the plucky pensioner had planned to make a tandem parachute jump this June in Normandy with members of the Red Devils display team.

Bert was born on October 24, 1924, the fifth of eight children, and left school aged 14 to work in the local woollen mill and later as an engineer in Sheffield.

He contracted meningitis aged 17, which he feared would dash his hopes of joining the Army, but he made a full recovery and aged 18 he volunteered and joined the 10th Battalion The Green Howards.

He later trained as a paratrooper and became a member of the 12th Yorkshire Battalion of the Parachute Regiment.

Ex-paratroopers Bert Marsh (left) and Bill Carline unveil a memorial plaque in Frecheville (Malcolm Billingham)

Ex-paratroopers Bert Marsh (left) and Bill Carline unveil a memorial plaque in Frecheville (Malcolm Billingham)

He jumped into Normandy just after midnight on D-Day, tasked with supporting airborne troops who had landed by glider and captured the Pegasus Bridge.

Bert was badly wounded in Normandy, where he fought in the Battle of Bréville, when shrapnel became embedded in his abdomen.

But he was patched up and soon returned to action, parachuting into Germany to aid the Allied march to victory in Europe and then joining the battle in Japan.

He was last June awarded France's highest honour, the Order of the Légion d'Honneur, for his wartime valour.

Bert took part in a sponsored Santa Dash jog to raise money for the British Heart Foundation

Bert took part in a sponsored Santa Dash jog to raise money for the British Heart Foundation

Bert worked as an engineer after the war and would face another battle in 2009, when he underwent a triple heart bypass.

He made a full recovery and showed his gratitude for his new lease of life by raising thousands of pounds for the British Heart Foundation through events ranging from a kissathon to the Santa Dash sponsored run.

Tributes have poured in to Bert, who has been praised on social media as a 'legend', an 'inspiration' and a 'wonderful, funny and loveable man'.

Graham Askham, secretary of the Normandy Veterans Sheffield, described Bert as a 'lovely man who will be missed'.

Bert Marsh relives his wartime days (Terry Lowe)

Bert Marsh relives his wartime days (Terry Lowe)

"Bert was always happy to talk about his wartime experiences and always spoke with compassion and humour," he added.

"He was a proud member of the Sheffield Parachute Veterans Association and was held in high regard by all who met him."

The Parachute Regimental Association hailed Bert as 'a true hero, loved by everyone who met him and a fantastic ambassador' for the regiment.

Lee Green, vice chairman of the association's Sheffield branch, said Bert always had time for everyone.

He recalled how at a recent event in Normandy Bert heard a son asking his dad what had happened there and subsequently spent 15 minutes recounting his daring deeds to the rapt youngster.

Lee told how Bert still spent most days at the gym and could down Jägerbombs with the best of them even in his 90s.

Bert Marsh (far left, standing) during the Second World War

Bert Marsh (far left, standing) during the Second World War

He also recounted how Bert and his comrades had survived in Normandy by drinking Calvados rather than touching the 'dodgy' local water supply. From then on he said Bert would always carry a dram of the the fiery apple brandy with him as a good luck charm.

His son-in-law Ray Allen described Bert as the 'most genuine chap you could ever hope to meet'.

Despite his heroics, he said Bert had been a humble man and only really opened up about his wartime exploits after the death of his second wife Dinah 12 years ago.

Lauren Mallinson, partnership manager at the British Heart Foundation, praised Bert as a 'fantastic' fundraiser for the charity who would be sorely missed.

Bert had one daughter, two stepchildren, seven grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson.

He died on Tuesday, March 28, and his funeral will take place at City Road Crematorium, in Sheffield, on Thursday, April 27, at 1pm.

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