Survivor of Sheffield Blitz and D-Day Landings to mark 102nd birthday

D-Day veteran and Blitz survivor Cyril Elliott says he ‘keeps plodding on’ – as he looks forward to celebrating his 102nd birthday on Tuesday.

By errol edwards
Friday, 27th May 2022, 2:03 pm
Updated Friday, 27th May 2022, 2:05 pm

Cyril, who also has a 100-year-old brother Bill, is a true hero and centergenerian.

In 1944 he was a young man whose first trip overseas was as a part of the D Day Normandy Landings.

Born on May 31 1920, son to William and Lilly, he was one of six brothers living on Longfield Road, Crookes.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Cyril Elliott, pictured when he was 23 years old. Picture: NSST-27-11-20-Elliott 9-NMSY

His first job was as a cutlery case maker for GT Spurr on Charles Street.

He moved on to making spectacle frames for Lenton and Rusby at Sheffield Lane Top and then acquired a post at Cooper and Turner who manufactured rivets and tools.

Cyril later started working for Albert Morrisons and Sons on Arundel Lane in a ‘reserved occupation’ meaning he couldn’t be called up for active service.

Cyril recalls the night of December 12 1940: “When the sirens started we sent someone out to listen to where the bombs were dropping, he was keeping an eye out for close calls.

D-Day veteran Cyril Elliott from Shiregreen, Sheffield. Pictured when he was 23 years old

“Then he shouted, ‘Come on they’re dropping ’em’.

“Incendiary bombs were being dropped all around. We went to a shelter on Charles Street. All of a sudden there was a big bang, and the place shook.

“I said to my mates ‘I don’t like this place I’m getting out’.”

Little did Cyril know but a bomb had dropped just across the road.

Cyril Elliott, pictured with his Platoon. Picture: NSST-27-11-20-Elliott 10-NMSY

As he ventured out he saw a car firm called Brooke Shaw that had been flattened.

“Across the road from there they’d dropped a bomb on the corner of Charles Street and Norfolk Street,” he said.

“There was a sweet shop called Hiberts that had completely gone too.”

Cyril carried on towards town, sheltering in the doorway of a hotel that was on fire. He also recalls Tivoli cinema being alight.

Cyril attending Remembrance Barkers Pool Sheffield

He then found himself near the Lyceum, next to the central library, under the library there was a theatre.

Cyril spent the rest of the night in the theatre,where people were entertaining and singing on the stage.

When the all clear sounded early the next morning he recalls seeing C&A Modes ablaze along with John Walshes and Cockayne.

There were also several trams destroyed and when he got to the Wicker Arches he saw a big hole in the bridge where a bomb had gone through.

He recalls walking past Marples Hotel the following morning, and remembers the gap where it once stood.

“It wasn’t till later on that day that I realised all those people had lost their lives,” he said.

French Honorary Consul M.Jean-Claude La Fontaine presents a medal to Cyril Elliot at a medal ceremony presenting Normandy Veterans with the Legion of Honour. Picture: Andrew Roe

The war had been raging for three years before Cyril was called up in 1942, at the age of 22.

On the completion of his training, he chose to be a driver and joined The Royal Army Service Corps. Surprisingly he was posted back to Endcliffe Hall in Sheffield to learn how to drive.

He said: “I spent my time driving round the Peak District learning how to drive.”

After passing his test, he was attached to a company in Bradford to learn about emergency bridge building.

This is where Cyril met his wife Lilian.

John, their only son, said: “He met in Lister Park, he fell in love with her straight away, and they kept in touch.”

After completing his training he was sent to Westgate-on-Sea and from there he went on to Tilbury Docks and was loaded onto an American Liberty ship for his onward journey to take part in the Normandy Landings.

“My first night on board I was put on watch, looking out for mines or any other dangers,” said Cyril. “I was frightened to death."

Cyril vividly remembers the Dakotas and Halifax bombers flying above, towing large gliders carrying airborne troops as they crossed the channel. “We then had to wait off the coast while the Navy bombarded the German battlements.

“When it was time to land on the Normandy shores the landing craft couldn’t get close enough to land safely.

“All the vital vehicle parts on vehicles were waterproofed to protect them from sea water.”

“As they weren't quite close enough they had to plough through the sea the last few metres to get on shore.

“The man in charge shouted, ‘Keep your foot on the accelerator pedal I can’t get closer to the beach’.”

When they got on to land all the protective equipment had to be removed as it would overheat the engines. Eventually they started to advance into France.

“There were lots of soldiers lying dead on the beach,” said Cyril.

Eventually they reached Vernon on the river Seine where the Resistance was rounding up all female Nazi collaborators and shaving their hair.

“Their hands were tied behind their backs, they were screaming and crying.”

His job once on land was to transport pontoon bridges, used to replace bridges damaged or destroyed by the German forces in retreat. This brought Cyril close to the fighting and he had several lucky escapes.

As the war neared its end he ended up driving through Germany to Hamburg. While in Hamburg he was tasked with driving back to Paris to collect some personnel from Paris.

While he was on his way he passed through the city of Lille where he saw people were dancing and singing in the street.

When he drew closer he could hear the people shouting, “Le Borsh Finir, Le Borsh Finir ‘The Germans are Finished’

This is how Cyril found out the war had finished. “I pulled up and had a few drinks with them. I never got to Paris,” he said

He contracted pneumonia and was kept on the continent after the war, returning to the UK in 1947.

He thene went back to his old job at Cooper and Turner for a while, before becoming a postman – a job he did for 31 years until his retirement.

Cyril has been a widow since 1979 when he lost his wife Lillian and lives in Sheffield with John.

He is an active member of the Group of Normandy Veterans that still met regularly in Sheffield, up until Covid restrictions.

He takes great pride in attending any ceremonies in the city, and in wearing his beret and medals, still parading with the rest of the veterans.

Cyril was awarded The Legion D’honneur in 2016 – France’s highest military award recognising the veterans for their efforts on D-Day – from the French Ambassador.

John said: “I'm extremely proud of my father and what he has achieved.”

Pat Davey from Sheffield and District Joint Council of Ex-Service Associations said: “Cyril is a member of a gradually diminishing band of men and women to whom this country and the rest of the world owe our freedom. Without their offer of sacrifice of their own lives then our world would be a far different and worse place than it is.”

She wished Cyril a very happy birthday on behalf of the organisation.

Cyril will have a low key celebration to mark his birthday on Tuesday as he looks back over his life.

Anyone wishing to send a card to Cyril can send it to The Star, The Balance, Pinfold Street, Sheffield S1 2GU

Cyril attending Armed Forces Day
Cyril attending Armed Forces day
Cyril at Armed Forces Day
Repaired Wicker Arches after bomb damage from 1940