D-Day 80: 'He just wanted to save his friends' says family of Victoria Cross hero Stanley Hollis

Chris Conway went to meet the granddaughter of Stanley Hollis, who was awarded a Victoria Cross for his bravery on D-Day

The family of the only man to receive a Victoria Cross for his extreme bravery on D-Day have said he was simply trying to save his friends.

Stanley Hollis was awarded the honour - the highest award for gallantry in the face of enemy fire - for his bravery on 6 June 1944.

The Middlesbrough soldier served with the Green Howards and landed with his comrades in the 6th battalion on Gold Beach on the morning of D-Day.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross for two acts of heroism on 6 June.

Mandy Hart, his granddaughter, said: "They landed on the beaches on the 6 June, first thing in the morning. And as they were landing they realised they were pinned down and there were numerous pill boxes and they were losing a lot of people.

"My grandfather took it upon himself to run up the beach and take the pillbox out."

She added: "He didn't talk about who he was or being fussed over. He went everywhere because of my gran - she loved the pomp and ceremony and going places but that was as close as you got to saying anything about what happened to him.

"Every time D-Day comes around we learn more about him."

Mandy Hart, granddaughter of Victoria Cross winner Stanley Hollis. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Promoted to sergeant after his battalion escaped from Dunkirk, he took part in the North African and Sicily campaigns and at the age of 31 was one of the more experienced men at D-Day.

Stanley received his Victoria Cross in October 1944 from King George VI. It is now displayed at the Green Howards Museum in Richmond, North Yorkshire.

But for many years was kept in an unassuming drawer under the till in the pub he ran in North Ormesby.

Mandy said: "It used to be in the pub, in the drawer underneath the till. The medal was actually kept in with the bottle tops he used to save.

"He just had it in the drawer and he used to say to my gran 'it's your pension fund. Anything happens to me, you sell it and I know you'll be looked after you for the rest of your life.

"He wasn't out for any sort of bravery or anything like that. He was just fighting for friends and family and to live in a free country. That was all he wanted."

Stanley Hollis' Victoria Cross is now displayed at the Green Howards museum in Richmond, North Yorkshire. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

'The utmost gallantry'

In his citation, Hollis was praised for "displaying the utmost gallantry".

It continued: "In Normandy, on 6 June 1944, Company Sergeant-Major Hollis went with his company commander to investigate two German pill-boxes which had been bypassed as the company moved inland from the beaches.

"Hollis instantly rushed straight at the pillbox, firing his Sten gun into the first pill-box. He jumped on top of the pillbox, re-charged his magazine, threw a grenade in through the door and fired his Sten gun into it, killing two Germans and taking the remainder prisoners.

"Later the same day […] CSM Hollis pushed right forward to engage the gun with a PIAT [anti-tank weapon] from a house at 50 yards range.

A statue of Stanley Hollis was unveiled in Middlesbrough in 2015. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"He later found that two of his men had stayed behind in the house.

"In full view of the enemy, who were continually firing at him, he went forward alone, distracting their attention from the other men. Under cover of his diversion, the two men were able to get back.

"Wherever the fighting was heaviest…[he]…appeared, displaying the utmost gallantry… It was largely through his heroism and resources that the Company’s objectives were gained, and casualties were not heavier. ….he saved the lives of many of his men."

Stanley died in February 1972 at the age of 59 and is buried in Middlesbrough. A statue of him was unveiled in the town in 2015.

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…