Memories of the borough men who made the ultimate sacrifice

By Nub News Reporter

8th Jun 2024 | Local History

Leading Stoker Edward George Archer from Horndon on the Hill and died aged 23 years on 6th June 1944 on the beaches of Normandy. He is buried in St. Aubin-sur-mer churchyard 10 miles west of Dieppe.
Leading Stoker Edward George Archer from Horndon on the Hill and died aged 23 years on 6th June 1944 on the beaches of Normandy. He is buried in St. Aubin-sur-mer churchyard 10 miles west of Dieppe.
In the latest of her occasional series, Sue Yates - chair of Thurrock Local History Society - reflects on the D-Day commemoration.

Thursday 6th June 2024 saw the 80th anniversary of D-Day when allied troops were landed on the Normandy Beaches and it was reckoned that 25% of the troops were killed in the action on Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword and Juno beaches. 

The force was made up of 7,000 ships and landing craft carrying over 195,000 troops from eight allied countries. 

Many of us watched the commemorations all over the country on TV.

Here in Thurrock we were lucky to have our own event to mark such an important day in our history, as well as various commerations and beacon lightings.

The Port of Tilbury and the Tilbury on Thames Trust Ltd organised and staged it with backing from Thurrock Council. 

Thurrock Local History Museum had a display, Tilbury Riverside Project served the refreshments in costumes of the period. 

The British Legion sold poppies and music was provided by Geralding Aldwinkle singing songs from the 40's. 

The day was brought to a close with the entire audience joining Geraldine in her rendition of Vera Lynn's war time favourite "We'll Meet Again".

At the end of the day you must not forget the thousands of young men who gave their lives for our freedom. Thurrock Local History Society who did an excellent display based on those men from Thurrock who lost their lives in the D-Day landings.

Leading Stoker Edward George Archer, Service No: C/KX145589. He was the son of Albert and Emily Archer of Horndon on the Hill and died age 23 years on 6th June 1944 and was one of many to hit the beach from landing craft. 

He is buried in St. Aubin-sur-mer churchyard 10 miles west of Dieppe because his body was not found until sometime later. He is mentioned on the Horndon war memorial.

Another Thurrock man to pay the ultimate price on 6th June 1944 was Private John Thomas Wilson service no: 6031294 who was in the 9th battalion of the Parachute Regiment He was the son of Joseph and Mabel Wilson and husband of Alice Wilson. 

He was only 22 and died during the early hours of the airborne paratroop landings which preceded the main seaborne invasion. He is buried at Ranville War Cemetery.

The third Thurrock man to die on 6th June 1944 was Joseph James Polley age 19 years, service no: PO/X11675 of the Royal Marine Commandos. He was the son of Joseph and Mary Polley of Grays. 

He died in the landing on Juno beach and is buried in Bayeux War Cemetery, Normandy where his grave bears the legend "You have left us alone but still you're our own in a beautiful memory Mum Dad and Alan".  Sadly he is not commemorated on any memorial within the borough. 

There were three other young men who died on 7th June from injuries sustained on D-Day. 

Able Seaman Edward Mills aged 19 years was the son of Charlie and Emily Mills. He was killed when his landing craft stormed Sword Beach. He is buried in Chadwell St. Mary Cemetery.

7th June saw Lance Corporal Ronald Frederick Russell of 225 Parachute Field Ambulance die from injuries sustained on D-Day itself. 

Aged 29 years he was the son of Frederick and Edith Russell and leader of North Stifford Scout Group. He died from injuries sustained when enemy aircraft attacked and strafed the Medical Station.

The third young man to die from Thurrock on 7th June was Private Victor Wilks of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He was the son of Herbert and Mary Ann Wilks and aged 23 years. 

He was married to Queenie Wilks and they lived in Corringham. They had a daughter Maureen who he never knew as she was born after he died. He died after landing by glider late on 6th June. 

He is buried in Herouvillette cemetery, Normandy and commemorated on Corringham Church memorial plaque. 

When you walk through a war cemetery what strikes you most is the age of the men who made the ultimate sacrifice.

It is true they gave their tomorrow for our today. We are free and have freedom of speech because of them. 

My father who served in the RAF during the war could never understand why he should be given medals as he was not a hero but they all were and we should never forget that.


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