Jack Quinn with medals

As thousands of men embarked on vessels on 5th June to begin the perilous journey to Normandy, thousands more boarded aircraft, to be dropped or landed behind enemy lines ahead of the main invasion. These included paratrooper Sidney Cornell and gilder-borne trooper Bill Gladden. At the same time, aircraft flew sorties against strategic targets, including the Lancaster bomber carrying Gilbert Gray. Later in the Normandy campaign, Georges Muller would parachute into occupied territory to radio back German troop movements and vital strategic information – but at grave risk.

Sidney Cornell family Sidney Cornell family 2 Photo of Sidney Cornell

Private Sidney Cornell

7th Battalion, Parachute Regiment

Portsmouth-born Sidney volunteered for the Airborne Division, landing behind enemy lines with 7th Parachute Battalion near Pegasus Bridge on D-Day. His courage became legendary, and he was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and promoted to Sergeant. His great nephew Chris leads the family research and is proud of Sidney, who delivered vital messages under enemy fire.

“He was just in the thick of it and his job was to be the Company runner. He was running around, there were bullets pinging all over the place. They said he got wounded in the shoulder, and probably the leg, about four wounds in all, but he just carried on regardless. And that was the thing, he wasn't going to let a wound in the shoulder stop him. He could have been taken out of the field and sent home, but he was determined not to. He was working closely with his senior officers because that was part of his job. He was literally a messenger between them all.

I know that on one occasion he went in with one of his senior officers and they captured a couple of Germans who were snipers and taking out their men. And he and another group went into a farmhouse and got the snipers out of there and captured them.”

Sidney was killed in action in Germany one month before the end of the war in Europe. He had three sons and a daughter; he never knew his three grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Sergeant Gilbert Gray

Flight Engineer, 106 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command

Gilbert Gray Family 2
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Flight Engineer, 106 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command

Gilbert was 19 years old when he trained as a flight engineer; he and his crew would fly a total of 34 operations in Lancaster Bombers, including missions over Normandy. These started a month before D-Day when they bombed an ammunition factory south of Paris. Then at 2:39 am on 6th June they took off on a mission to destroy gun batteries on the Pointe du Hoc.

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“We had just dropped our bombs… and we spotted four enemy fighters. There were very few German aircraft in the air on that morning, but we got four of them, four Focke-Wulfs. Now, these were very smart fighters, and so they came towards us, and we were flying above the cloud, as we've been told to do, and two of them broke off and came towards us. And they were firing at us, and you could see [the bullets] were red.

Gilbert Gray Family
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…luckily they missed us. But my rear gunner was shouting, ‘Get into the cloud!, Get into the cloud!,’ which we did, and we got away with it. We saw the armadas below and all the things going on. But it was just a case of getting back to base.

One thing that you must not do is be frightened. You've got to keep yourself together and it was all your training that helped you to do that.”

Gilbert Gray passed away in November 2023. His eleven grandchildren and seven great grandchildren live in Britain, Germany, Japan and New Zealand.

Georges Muller Family - Hervé Junet-Muller 2 Georges Muller Family - Hervé Junet-Muller

Captain Georges Muller

Sussex Teams, Bureau Central de Renseignements et d’Action (BCRA), Free French Forces

Georges, from Alsace, was very active in the Resistance before leaving France for England, where he arrived in January 1944. He underwent Commando training and volunteered for the Sussex Teams. This was a unit of 120 French nationals who received specialist training in covert operations, including sabotage and message encryption. A month after D-Day, he parachuted behind enemy lines to radio back vital information such as enemy troop movements.

His grandson, Hervé, has spent many years piecing together Georges' story.

« My grandfather was a member of the ‘Libération Sud’ movement, responsible for printing a resistance newspaper as well as forged papers. He also helped sabotage trains and housed resistance fighters. As the political police intensified their control, he decided to leave France in April 1943.

I learned that Georges returned on the night of 5th July 1944 when he parachuted into Fouilleuse, in Oise, with four other agents. I have the coordinates of the drop zone. He was the head of a mission called ‘MURAT’ and was accompanied by a radio operator, Théodore Refanche – they worked in pairs. To protect his family, he did not contact them. He left behind four children, and we might ask: why did he do this, if not out of patriotism? He fought for Freedom. »

Georges and other resistance fighters were killed in a German ambush on 31st August 1944.

Trooper William ‘Bill’ Gladden

6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps

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On 6thJune, aged 20, Bill flew out from Dorset in a Hamilcar glider that carried a tank and six motorbikes. He landed east of the River Orne bridge and made his base just outside Ranville, where he rode one of the motorbikes on reconnaissance work. On 18th June he was severely wounded in the leg by machine gun fire. Evacuated back to the UK, he spent three years in hospitals receiving treatment.

D-Day veteran Bill Gladden portrait
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“Well, we had to do the recce work for the whole of the 6th Airborne Division. We used to go out daily looking for Jerry, find out where he was, relaying that back; then either the Paras went in, or they sent the Hurricanes in. I can remember being in Ranville cemetery and watching the Hurricanes come in and the rockets going, I remember it seemed as if the plane stopped as the rockets went, blowing up all the tanks up in the woods. They knew exactly where they were because our report had got back and told them where they were.


D-Day veteran Bill Gladden
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Our job was looking for them, not so much fighting them. Many's the time we got chased back… and that's when we learned the idea of felling trees and blocking their paths from following us back, because all around Ranville, even months after I got wounded, there was still action all round there.”

A keen painter, Bill has made countless illustrations of his time in Normandy. Bill married Marie and they had one child together. He has a niece and nephew, two great nieces and five great great nieces and nephews.

D-Day 80

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