Tameside and D-Day: Remembering the Heroes

June 6, 2024


Operation Overlord, better known as D-Day, stands as one of the most significant and courageous military operations in history. On June 6, 1944, Allied the beaches of Normandy, France, marking the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe. Among the brave souls who participated in this monumental event were numerous service personnel from what is now Tameside. Their stories of bravery, sacrifice, and camaraderie offer a profound connection to the broader narrative of D-Day.


Major Kenneth Harrison: From Borough Librarian to Battlefield Hero

One notable figure from Tameside was Major Kenneth Harrison, who held the unique distinction of being Hyde’s first invasion casualty. Before the war, Major Harrison was the borough librarian for Hyde, appointed in 1938 at the remarkably young age of 23. His journey from librarian to soldier highlights the extraordinary paths taken by ordinary citizens during the war.

Living on Market Street and the son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Harrison of Flowery Field, Major Harrison joined the army as a private in 1940. He served with distinction in North Africa and Sicily with the 50th Northumbrian Division before being commissioned in 1942. During the D-Day invasion, Major Harrison was wounded by a bullet to the foot on one of the beaches. Despite his injury, he vividly described the landing as "a very wet one" and recounted the swift and effective clearing of a fortified village, emphasizing the remarkable performance and resilience of his comrades.


Corporal William Sleigh: Engineering Bravery

Another Tameside hero, Corporal William Sleigh of the Royal Engineers, also played a crucial role in the D-Day landings. Residing at 77 New Bridge Street, Stalybridge, Cpl Sleigh was part of the 1st Assault Brigade, tasked with clearing lanes to establish exits from the beaches. Despite being wounded and evacuated to a hospital, his efforts on June 6 were instrumental in facilitating the movement of troops and equipment inland. His pre-war employment at Evans Builders, Hyde, and his education at Christ Church and West Hill schools in Stalybridge, paint a picture of a dedicated individual whose skills and bravery were vital to the success of the operation.


Private John Chadwick: A Fallen Hero

The cost of D-Day was immense, and among those who paid the ultimate price was Private John Chadwick of the 5th Battalion, Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. A24-year-old from Highfield Street, Dukinfield, Pte Chadwick worked at Park Road Spinning, Dukinfield, and had attended St Mark’s School. His sacrifice, along with countless others, underscores the profound loss and enduring legacy of those who fought in the aftermath of D-Day.


Trooper Wilfrid Jackson: The Tank Destroyer

Heroic acts were not limited to the beaches. Trooper Wilfrid Jackson, aged 21, from Ashton, was a member of a reconnaissance unit detachment that demonstrated remarkable prowess in tank warfare. His unit successfully knocked out five German tanks in a heavily wooded area of Normandy. An eye-witness account details the precision and effectiveness with which Trooper Jackson and his colleagues engaged the enemy, turning a potentially dire situation into a decisive victory.

Trooper GV Williamson: A Personal Account

Adding a personal touch to these accounts is a letter from Trooper GV Williamson of Ashton. His vivid descriptions of the invasion reflect both the horrors and the unexpected moments of humanity that emerged amidst the chaos. From enduring a turbulent Channel crossing to engaging in fierce combat, Trooper Williamson's narrative also highlights the camaraderie and resilience of the Allied forces. His recollection of local French villagers offering wine and gratitude to the soldiers provides a poignant reminder of the impact of liberation on the local population.


Remembering Tameside’s Contribution

The stories of these service personnel during D-Day are a testament to their bravery, sacrifice, and unwavering commitment. These individuals, drawn from various walks of life, demonstrated extraordinary courage in the face of immense danger. Their contributions, whether through direct combat, engineering support, or personal acts of kindness, played a crucial role in the success of Operation Overlord.

As we commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, it is essential to remember and honour the legacy of those who participated in this pivotal moment in history. Their sacrifices continue to inspire and remind us of the enduring spirit of courage and resilience that defines our collective past.