Sheffield D-Day hero guest of honour as statue unveiled to comrade dubbed ‘the man they couldn’t kill’

Charlie Hill by the Stan Hollis memorial in Middlesbrough
Charlie Hill by the Stan Hollis memorial in Middlesbrough
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A 90-year-old Sheffield World War II hero was the guest of honour as memorial was unveiled to a comrade he fought alongside who was dubbed ‘the man they couldn’t kill’.

Charlie Hill, from Gleadless, is the last surviving member of the Green Howards battalion which included Stanley Hollis, the only soldier to win the Victoria Cross on D-Day.

War hero Stanley Hollis

War hero Stanley Hollis

A campaign by the Stanley E. Hollis VC Memorial Fund to have a statute in his honour erected in his home town of Middlesbrough raised £150,000.

The finished tribute was officially unveiled at a special ceremony last week - with Mr Hill as one of the guests of honour.

Hollis was 31 and a sergeant major when he took part in the D-Day landings, capturing several gun positions, taking dozens of prisoners and rescuing two colleagues.

His citation said: “Wherever the fighting was heaviest, he appeared, displaying the utmost gallantry.

D Day soldier Charlie Hill from Gleadless

D Day soldier Charlie Hill from Gleadless

“It was largely through his heroism and resource that the company’s objectives were gained and casualties were not heavier. He saved the lives of many of his men.”

Prior to D-Day, he had played a part in several key actions in the war, including the Dunkirk evacuation, the North Africa campaign and the invasion of Sicily.

The former steelworker and lorry driver was wounded so many times in action he became known as ‘the man they couldn’t kill’.

After working as a publican in the post-war years, he eventually passed away in 1972.

D Day soldier Charlie Hill from Gleadless

D Day soldier Charlie Hill from Gleadless

The statue in his memory was unveiled by Vice Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire Major Peter Scrope, while members of Mr Hollis’ family were joined by representatives of The Yorkshire Regiment.

The sculpture was designed and created by Brian Alabaster from Suffolk.

Also present at the ceremony were guests from the French village of Crepon that the Green Howards fought in during their D-Day advance.

Mr Hill was just 19 years old when he took part in the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944.

The Stan Hollis memorial

The Stan Hollis memorial

Now 90-years-old and a great-grandfather, Mr Hill said it had been a pleasure to take part in the ceremony, which brought back memories of the D-Day landings and the heroism of Mr Hollis.

He said: “He was a fantastic bloke. I joined when they came back from Sicily to make up the numbers ready for the D-Day landings.

“The lads all told me how brave he was and how they looked up to him.

“He was a very brave man.”

He said both Mr Hollis and himself had a fortunate escape during their advance when a grenade was thrown at them.

“A German threw a grenade and it hit me in the chest and Stanley Hollis was at the side of me. But luckily it never went off.”

Mr Hill said despite being sergeant major, Mr Hollis had been a generous leader who played cards with his men before their set off for D-Day.

“He used to come round the trenches and ask if you were alright for cigarettes and if not, he would throw you a tin of 50,” he said.

He said he was pleased to have had the opportunity to speak to Mr Hollis’ family about his memories of him after not seeing him after the sergeant major was injured in action in September 1944 and evacuated back to England.

Mr Hill said he will never forget his experiences of D-Day alongside Mr Hollis and their other comrades.

“I first thought I were playing Cowboys and Indians. But I grew up after one day - we all did.”