Welsh war hero, 99, to be buried in world famous Arlington military cemetery

  • Mr Guard spoke to ITV Wales after he was awarded the Legion d'Honneur in 2018

A decorated Swansea soldier who died at the age of 99 will be laid to rest at one of the most prestigious military cemeteries in the world.

Clifford Edwin Guard, known affectionately as GI Limey, left Wales at the age of 15 having joined the merchant navy in the midst of the Great Depression.

He enlisted into the army as the Second World War broke out and spent the best part of a year helping to push the Germans back to Berlin.

Mr Guard's funeral recently took place in Swansea Credit: Guard Family

After spending most of his life in America, Mr Guard returned to Swansea where he died peacefully at a care home in Uplands.

He will be interred at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC with full military honours, having fought for the US Army during World War 2.

It is an honour reserved for only the most decorated soldiers where former US presidents such as John. F. Kennedy are also buried.

He signed up to fight after he found himself in New York shortly after the USA joined the war, fighting with the 3rd Armored Division Credit: Family photo

Despite a highly decorated career and winning numerous medals, including France's highest honour, the Legion d'Honneur, Mr Guard refused to call himself a hero saying: "The heroes didn't come back [from the war]."

Talking before his death, he added: "I lost quite a few of my buddies and they were the heroes."

Following the war, he settled in New York and went on to have a successful career in the US Government.

GI Limey with his friend Geraint Thomas, who paid tribute at the funeral on Monday Credit: Family photo

But the traumatic impact of his role in the Second World War never left him.

Paying tribute at GI Limey's funeral in Morriston his friend, author Geraint Thomas, said: "The mental scars of what he saw and did were to have a lifelong impact."

Mr Thomas, who wrote the former soldier's life story, added one of the things which stayed with him from their numerous conversations, "were the silent tears as he recalled the carnage, bloodshed and futility of combat."

A friend said GI Limey's memories of the war had a "lifelong impact" on him Credit: Guard family

He added: "From witnessing countless mutilated corpses in the Falsie Gap to helping liberate a concentration camp, he saw the worst of humanity and paid the price.

"He spoke of the awesome responsibility of taking a life and told me he would often wake with nightmares around the mothers of the German soldiers he had killed being informed of their deaths."

GI Limey met several world leaders, including French president Emmanuel Macron at an event to mark the 75th anniversary of D Day Credit: Family photo

Born into "abject poverty" in Swansea in 1924, with the GI sleeping on a straw mattress as a child, in his eulogy Mr Thomas said: "It always makes me smile when I think of that snotty nosed school kid, with a sock sticking out of a hole in his shoe, going on to be invited to Buckingham Palace, where he was summoned to meet the Queen, attending a VE Day memorial service at Westminster Abbey before shaking the hand of a British Prime Minister, and then being invited to France for the 75th anniversary of D Day and sharing a stage with the US and French Presidents.

"Not bad for a no-good boyo from little old Swansea."

Wanting to combat his own struggles after the war, and to improve the lives of other veterans facing a similar plight, Mr Guard studied psychology at university, "fuelled by the determination to better understand his mental torment and to help others."

Using that same determination, after his return home, he helped set up the Swansea Center for Drug and Alcohol Abuse, and was well known for selling poppies every year in the city's market.

He was described as a beloved husband, dear father and loving grandfather who "was proud of each and every one of his four children, as well as his grand and great grandchildren."

GI Limey earned his nickname as he proudly served the US during World War 2 Credit: Family photo

Although he only met his second wife Maggie "relatively late in life", Mr Thomas said: "It always struck me, when I saw them together, that they were two Swansea teenagers in love."

Talking before his death, Mr Guard said: “I’m ok with it [death] and not scared of the final moments of leaving this world and moving on to whatever is on the other side."Somehow I know for sure I will meet up with my buddies again.”