AN historian is appealing for the family and friends of a soldier from Bury — who was one of the first to die on D-Day in 1944 — to come forward.
Roy Bailey, a committee member and newsletter editor of the Royal Green Jackets Association Oxford branch, is researching the life of Lance Corporal Fred Greenhalgh and wants to find out more about his family.
He was in a group of three gliders containing 30 men of “D” Company, 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, and some Royal Engineers, which landed in a field in Bénouville, near to a bridge over the Caen Canal, which they quickly captured.
The group were the first to go into action on June 4, 1944, and the first to suffer fatal casualties, with Lance Cpl Greenhalgh being thrown from his glider as it landed and drowning in a nearby pond, aged 29.
Mr Bailey described Lance Cpl Greenhalgh’s story as one of the saddest stories of D-Day and is hoping to hear from his descendants to add to his research.
Fred Greenhalgh was born on July 12, 1914, to Sam and Lily and his last known address was in Duckworth Fold, Bury.
He originally enlisted into the Lancashire Fusiliers, before transferring into the Royal Welch Fusiliers and eventually joined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on July 27, 1942.
On D-Day, two of the three gliders had made a successful landing and Lance Cpl Greenhalgh’s glider came down to land after the second, but crash- landed and broke in half on impact, throwing him into a pond with the wreckage.
The account of how the glider came to crash and kill Lance Cpl Greenhalgh is disputed, but it is believed that he became trapped in the wreckage of the glider.
Other soldiers survived and walked away after only suffering concussion.
Lance Cpl Greenhalgh is buried in La Delivrande War Cemetery at Douvres, about six miles from Bénouville.
Mr Bailey said Lance Cpl Greenhalgh’s sacrifice has been largely ignored and hopes he can bring it to the attention of the public.
He said: “It was the most tragic of accidents. Horsa gliders are made almost entirely of wood, but there are parts that are harder than others and Fred Greenhalgh must have struck some substantial part as he was thrown out.
“Had he been rendered unconscious and landed on dry ground, he would likely have recovered and played his part in the operation.
“Had he landed in the water while conscious, as the two pilots of his glider did, he would also have been able to carry on.
“If he was trapped in the wreckage in water, then that would have been fatal. It is unlikely that the exact circumstances of his death will ever be known.”
Anyone with information can contact Mr Bailey by emailing oldharry99-40@ yahoo.co.uk