The names of the dozen Wigan men who fell on D-Day and their fellow soldiers who gave their lives in Normandy are being remembered.
Keen historian the Rev David Long has compiled a list of the 12 people from the borough who made the ultimate sacrifice 75 years ago tomorrow on the first day of the landings.
He has also meticulously identified the 219 men from Wigan and its surrounding areas who were killed in the war following the beginning of operations in northern France.
Rev Long was returning from a break through some of the areas where the fighting took place three quarters of a century ago and his thoughts turned to whether all the casualties from the borough in the effort to push back the Nazi war machine had ever been recorded.
Fortunately he tracked down Lower Ince historian Dr Eric McPherson’s book Second World War Roll of Honour and then used other sources too to compile a list which is as definitive as possible.
Having widely worked on remembering Wigan’s World War One casualties during the centenary commemorations of that conflict, Rev Long said he found the small number of deaths in combat in Normandy remarkable, particularly given that advancing technology gives us far more of an unflinching view of the horrors of warfare those who landed on the beaches faced.
Rev Long said: “I was coming back from holiday through Dunkirk and it was thinking about the Second World War.
“I got back and everyone was talking about the 75th anniversary of D-Day and I couldn’t find anything online about the local casualties so thought I would do it myself.
“It was the defining moment of the Second World War. They were so heroic and you can see the film of these men going out of the landing crafts into a hail of a bullets. The footage of the Second World War is very graphic.
“Eric did this book listing the casualties but unfortunately he didn’t use computers, which meant I had to go through it longhand, line by line. It was quite harrowing, especially going through those who died as prisoners of war at the hands of the Japanese. You see their names one after another and it’s horrible.”
In total 12 Wigan men died on the June 6, the first day of operations to land Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy.
All in all there were 37 casualties from the borough and nearby areas and Rev Long has compiled detailed information about each, saying how old they were when they gave their lives for their country, which part of the armed forces they served in, which memorials they are remembered on, and in some cases who their relatives were.
The youngest, Pte Thomas Gibson, was just 18, while the oldest, Pte John Kelly of the South Lancashire Regiment, was 40.
As well as those who were killed fighting against the Nazi German forces on the beaches and in Normandy itself a number of the casualties were in the Navy and went down with their ships while off the coast.
Between D-Day and VE Day, on May 8 1945, 219 men from the wider Wigan area died during the liberation of Europe, while Dr McPherson’s 2001 book lists around 1,800 local casualties from the entire Second World War.
The 1st Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment was the local force involved in D-Day and was one of two leading assault battalions in the 3rd Division.
Forces from the battalion landed on Queen White Beach at 7.20am on D-Day itself, with more than 100 casualties including its commanding officer. They stormed the German beach defences and pressed inland, capturing villages over several days and securing a famous bridge across the River Orme before being heavily engaged in the brutal fighting to secure the town of Caen.
The 12 men from the Wigan area who died on D-Day are:
Pte Stanley Bibby, The King’s Liverpool Regiment, who died of his wounds aged 31.
Spr John Brannon, Royal Engineers, who was killed aged 36.
Tpr Frederick Dean, Royal Armoured Corps and No.6 Commando, who was killed aged 25. The son of John and Annie, from Wigan.
Pte William Hampson, 1st Battalion South Lancashire Regiment, killed aged 31. Son of James and Elizabeth and the husband of Irene, from Ashton.
Norman Hannah, Royal Navy serving on HMS Lochailort, who was killed operating a tank landing craft aged 20. The son of William Arthur and Annie, from Leigh.
Charles Edward Johnson, Royal Marines, killed aged 20. The son of Robert and Ann, from Hindley.
Pte John Kelly, 1st Battalion South Lancashire Regiment, killed aged 40. The son of John and Ann and the husband of Elizabeth, from Hindley.
Sgmn William McLeod, Royal Corps of Signals, killed aged 20. The son of Charles and Anne, from Wigan.
Gerald Naylor, Royal Marines, killed aged 20. The son of Peter and Edith.
Pte William Sutton, 7th Battalion The Green Howards (Yorkshire Regiment). Killed aged 28. The son of Thomas and Maria.
Capt James Helier White, The South Lancashire Regiment, killed aged 34. Born in Wigan, the son of Dr Robert Prosser and Clarice.
Pte Walter Bertram Wood, 1st Battalion The South Lancashire Regiment, age unknown. The son of Thomas Bertram and Florence.
A further 25 men from the Wigan area lost their lives in northern Europe between D-Day and VE Day the following year. They are:
Lt William Roy Armer, 10th Battalion Highland Light Infantry, killed june 29, aged 21. The son of William and Lily, from Worthington.
L/Sgt Alfred James Barnes, 1st Battalion South Lancashire Regiment, killed June 27, age 24. From Higher Ince.
George Barton, Royal Navy serving on HMS Minster. Went down with his ship off the Normandy beaches on June 8, age 24. The son of Richard and Ellen, from Ince.
Pte Joseph Laurence Bent, 6th Battalion The Green Howards, killed June 27, aged 26. The son of James and Catherine, from Pemberton.
Bdr William Bradley, Royal Artillery, killed June 9, age 30. The son of William and Rachel from Rainford, remembered at Orrell Rugby Football Club.
Colin Daniels, Royal Navy serving on HMS Minster, went down with his ship off the Normandy beaches on June 8, aged 19. The son of William and Ada, from Newtown.
Gnr James Davies, Royal Artillery, killed February 8 1945, aged 29. The son of Albert and Catherine and husband of Elsie, from Ince.
Fus William George Davies, 6th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, killed June 29, aged 19. Lived with his grandmother in Leigh.
Pte Kenneth Evans, 8th Field Ambulance, killed June 11, aged 24.
Pte William Henry Foster, 2nd Battalion King’s Own Shropshire Light Infantry, died of his wounds on June 7, aged 26. The son of James and Mary, remembered in Leigh.
Pte Thomas Gibson, 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, killed June 23, aged 18, the son of Michael and Catherine, from Wigan.
Bdr John Hallinan, Royal Horse Artillery, killed June 27, aged 35. The husband of Mary, from Wigan.
Frank Marsh, Royal Navy, HMS Minster, went down with the ship off the Normandy beaches, June 8, aged 29. The son of Percy and Elizabeth and husband of Gladys.
Pte William Patrick Joseph Mellan, 1st Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment, killed June 11, aged 20. The son of William Patrick and Edith.
Pte Alfred Morgan, 8th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, died of his wounds on June 14, aged 32. Husband of Ruth.
Pte Thomas O’Brien, 1st Battalion The South Lancashire Regiment, killed June 24, aged 30. The son of James and Edith and husband of Elizabeth, from Ashton.
Pte John Price, The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, killed June 29, aged 26. The son of Henry and Elizabeth.
Peter Rabbitt, Royal Marines, killed in a landing craft on June 25, aged 22. The son of Peter and Nancy.
Pte Alexander Redmond, 7th Battalion The Duke of Wellington’s Regiments, died of his wounds on June 19, aged 21. The son of John and Margaret from Pemberton.
Gnr Arthur Ring, Royal Artillery, died of his wounds on June 27, aged 20.
Pte William Roughley, 2nd Battalion The Cheshire Regiment, killed June 19, aged 29. The son of Harry and Mary and husband of Doris.
Pte Joseph Sergeant, 1st Battalion The Gordon Highlanders, died of his wounds on June 19, aged 24. The son of William and Mary Elizabeth, from Ince.
Cpl Wiliam Silcock, REME, killed June 8, aged 22. The son of Richard and Ann, from Orrell.
Pte Herbert Southworth, 8th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry, killed June 10, aged 24. The son of Thomas and Anne, from Wigan.
Pte Stanley Worthington, 5th Battalion The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, died of his wounds on June 23, aged 23. The son of Thomas and Mary Alice.