Thursday 6 June 2019

Imperial War Museums - The D-Day Victoria Cross


Commandos of HQ 4th Special Service Brigade, coming ashore from LCI(S) landing craft on Nan Red beach, Juno area, at St Aubin-sur-Mer, 6 June 1944.
© IWM (B 5218)
Stan Hollis performed two acts of heroism that won him the only Victoria Cross awarded on D-Day. 

Hollis was Company Sergeant Major of one of the first battalions to reach Gold Beach on D-Day. He was no stranger to combat. By 1944, he'd fought at Dunkirk, El Alamein and the Battle for Primasole Bridge.

Hollis was thirty-one years old on D-Day. He was in charge of three machine gun and three mortar teams. He was one of the most experienced men in his unit, and many younger soldiers looked up to him.

It was at a house that overlooked the beach where Hollis performed the first of two heroic acts to win him the Victoria Cross.

When the lead platoons passed the house, they came under fire from a machine gun hidden in a pillbox. In response, Hollis charged around thirty yards over open ground, whilst under fire, stuck his sten gun into the pillbox slit and emptied the magazine.

Hollis then lay on top of the pillbox and dropped a grenade inside. He jumped down and entered, and took the surviving occupants prisoner. He then saw a slit trench leading away to a second pillbox in the garden of the house.

He advanced down the trench alone, captured the fortification and all those in it. In all, he captured 30 Germans single-handed.
D-Day 75
D-Day 75 © IWM
D-Day 75
Today marks 75 years since the D-Day landings.

This summer, we are retelling the extraordinary land, sea and air story through our three historic sites, which experienced first-hand the events of D-Day. Visit to mark this anniversary with family activities, tours, trails, special events and more.
Join us there
Later that day, at around 11am, Hollis performed the second act of heroism which contributed to the D-Day Victoria Cross.

He spotted a German field gun hidden in a hedge, and decided to try and destroy it. Accompanied by two machine-gunners, he crawled through a rhubarb patch to get close enough to the artillery piece.

However, he missed and the gun turned and fired on them. Miraculously, it fired high over their heads. Hollis shouted to the men with him to get back to a farm building they could use for cover.

Unfortunately, the men either hadn’t heard him or were too afraid to run. He felt that it was his responsibility the men were in trouble, and sought to get them to safety.

Hollis took a Bren gun and advanced into the open, firing from the hip in plain sight to attract the attention of the enemy field gun team. His comrades ran back from the rhubarb patch to cover. Astoundingly, even though he was standing in sight of the enemy, Hollis was not hit.

The Victoria Cross recognises acts of extreme bravery carried out under direct enemy fire. Stan Hollis was the only serviceman to be awarded the Victoria Cross on D-Day for his gallantry during the allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944.

Discover more stories in our D-Day interactive