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Veteran Stan recalls d-day

"I REMEMBER seeing the bomb explode in front of my face, I went down, I was holding part of my face in my hands."

"I REMEMBER seeing the bomb explode in front of my face, I went down, I was holding part of my face in my hands."

Stan Smith, an 85-year-old World War Two veteran was recalling the moment he was left horrifically injured in June 1944 when a mortar bomb exploded in his face.

A member of the 43rd division 5th Battalion of the Dorset Regiment, Stan joined up in 1941 and was later dispatched to France during the D-Day invasion.

"We were ordered to take Hill 121," he recalled. "The skies were black with aeroplanes. There were 2,000 of us going up and only 30 standing when we got to the top."

As a wireless operator, 20-year-old Stan was carrying a set and believes this may have saved his life when the bomb exploded.

"I instinctively knew I had lost my eye, I tried to look around with my right eye but could not comprehend what had happened.

"The stretcher bearers picked me up. I passed out and cannot remember the journey from the point of impact to the field hospital."

His terrible wounds meant Stan was flown back to Britain and operated on at Wroughton Airforce Hospital and then to Basingstoke Hospital where Sir Harold Gillies, widely considered as the father of plastic surgery, took over Stan's care.

With the left side of his face destroyed, Stan wasn't expected to live.

"My parents were sent for on July 16 and they were there for five days but I was unconscious and have no recollection of that time."

A series of painful operations to rebuild his skull and face, including a new eye socket, followed and Stan soon had to deal with people's reactions to his disfigurement.

"After my fifteenth operation, Sir Harold asked if I would like to go home on leave. The nurses knitted me a woollen bandage which covered most of my face including the hole where my eye was supposed to be.

"I had to change trains at Crewe and it was full of Yanks and ladies and it seemed every one of them was staring at me. I cried and cried."

Despite losing his wife Lily several years ago Stan has found love again with fiancée Irene and the couple now live at Brookmeadow Court in Hall Green.

Retired, he now spends much of his time as welfare officer for the Birmingham branch of the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association.



Cathrina Hulse
Multimedia Journalist
Annette Belcher
Multimedia Journalist
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