Medal honour for Chinley D-Day paratrooper

Bob Stoodley, one of the first men to land by parachute during the D Day invasion of Normandy
Bob Stoodley, one of the first men to land by parachute during the D Day invasion of Normandy

Former Chinley pathfinder Bob Stoodley will be honoured with a medal for his involvement in the D-Day landings during a ceremony in Normandy today (Friday).

The 90-year-old, who was one of the first soldiers to land on the French coast on June 6, 1944, will be presented with the Legion of Honour, the highest decoration in France.

The war veteran and his wife, Joyce, will be attending a memorial at the site of the landings to mark the 70th anniversary, as well as visiting the museum and meeting the prime minister and Prince of Wales.

On that fateful night, Bob, who represented the 22nd Independent Pathfinder Company of the 6th British Airborne Division, was tasked with parachuting in to set up beacons to guide in the aircraft transporting the paratroopers.

He said: “That night our radar brought in a third of the parachute landings, 2,000 soldiers. Altogether 6,000 landed that night and 2,000 the following day.”

Together with his friend Paddy O’Sullivan, he was among the first Allied soldiers to land.

“We ran into trouble almost straight away,” recalled Bob, of Maynestone Road. “I was wounded and I was a prisoner in a German hospital.”

Until the end of the war Bob remained at the Stalag 4B medical unit before he was eventually liberated by Russian forces and returned to England.

He regularly returns to Normandy to remember and pay his respects at the graves of his comrades, including Paddy who was killed in the village of Touffreville not far from the company’s landing zone.

“He was a good mate,” said Bob. “Out of the 60 of us we lost 11 on that night.”

After the war, he became a mechanical engineer and a successful businessman.

Bob also found time to be involved in two expeditions to Everest in 1973 and 1975.