WWII jeep helps bring history to life at Sheffield school on D-Day 80th anniversary

Thomas Ramsden, aged 10, and fellow Mylnhurst pupils aboard the authentic restored Willys Jeep. Photos: Sarah CrabtreeThomas Ramsden, aged 10, and fellow Mylnhurst pupils aboard the authentic restored Willys Jeep. Photos: Sarah Crabtree
Thomas Ramsden, aged 10, and fellow Mylnhurst pupils aboard the authentic restored Willys Jeep. Photos: Sarah Crabtree
History lessons came to life for pupils at a Sheffield school on the 80th anniversary of D-Day - thanks to a classmate with an incredible show-and-tell.

Thomas Ramsden, aged 10, gave friends at Mylnhurst a first-hand insight into the Normandy landings by bringing an authentic restored Willys Jeep to the Ecclesall school.

And, in a special assembly, Thomas told pupils all about the half term holiday he had experienced – driving the jeep on the beaches of northern France, visiting the 4,000 Commonwealth war graves at Bayeux Cemetery, and meeting a 99-year-old veteran of the Normandy campaign.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Thomas’ grandfather John Ramsden – his dad Mark’s father – had been a member of the RAF at the tailend of the WWII, and from a young age Thomas loved hearing stories of the war.

Thomas Ramsden with friends at Mylnhurst and the restored Willys JeepThomas Ramsden with friends at Mylnhurst and the restored Willys Jeep
Thomas Ramsden with friends at Mylnhurst and the restored Willys Jeep

“We thought what a great experience it would be to take Thomas to the Normandy beaches, and show him where D-Day took place,” said mum Niki.

“I suddenly remembered that an old friend of mine, a Lt Commander in the Commando Helicopter Force, owned a Willys Jeep, and we thought it would be the perfect vehicle to take to France.”

Some last-minute tinkering got the vehicle roadworthy, and the jeep was towed over the Channel by trailer on the Spirit of Normandy ferry.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Once ashore, the family drove to Bayeux to pay their respects at the war cemetery, headed to Arromanches to look at the remains of Churchill’s famous Mulberry Harbour – and allowed Thomas the experience of his first ever driving lesson on the sands of Gold beach.

They toured Juno, Sword, Omaha and Utah beaches, visited the memorial at Courseulles-sur-Mer, and drove to St-Mere-Eglise to see the church where US paratrooper John Steele famously snagged the tower with his parachute and was left hanging for hours until captured by the Germans, and later escaped.

On their final day in Normandy, they drove the jeep to Ranville where they bumped into 99-year-old visiting veteran Philip Aucott and drove him over Pegasus Bridge.

Mark, from Stanton in Peak, said: “It was a fabulous experience for Thomas, Niki and myself, and a very busy but memorable trip.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I am extremely grateful that the freedoms fought for then allowed me to return with my 10-year-old son – when so many never came home.”

Mylnhurst headmaster Mike Hibbert said: “We were so lucky to have a member of Prep 5 and his family share their first-hand experiences from their trip, and pause to remember those who made great sacrifices 80 years ago during the D-Day landings.”

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.