This is Stanley Coleman's
7th Green Howard Story
Life in Hartlepool
North East UK
Stanley Coleman was born and raised in Hartlepool, he was called up to serve his county for the entirety of WW2. He was always in the thick of it but was one of the few originals in the 7th Green Howards to survive. He returned from the war to live a normal life, working hard and raising a family of two sons and a daughter.
This is the story of a man with a gentle heart who fought in the war but never spoke about it to anyone. They say the people who don’t talk about it, saw a lot, that they want to forget.
Stanley was 1 of 6 kids that lived above his family store, Colemans located on 78 Sydenham Road, Hartlepool. His mother, Annie, was pretty woman but a ‘hard’ woman that ran a ‘tight ship’. People used to say that she counted each sweet in the jar and knew exactly how many there were. She gained a reputation, so much so, the kids used to sing a song about her “Colman’s Mustard, Colman’s starch, tell Mrs Coleman to stick it up her arse” That left Stanley’s sisters Esther, Eveline and Freda to raise him and his brothers Arthur and Wilfred. Fredrick William Robert Coleman the father, was a very quiet, gentle, kind man and was a Plate Layer laborer for the North Eastern Railway.
West Layton, Richmondshire in North Yorkshire map courtesy of http://www.archiuk.com/
Answering the WW2 Draft
Sept - 1939
Stanley attended St. Aidan’s C of E school and later became a mechanical apprentice at Whitehead Autos, just off Burbank Street. However, the garage shut down and he was out of job. As a keen cyclist and member of the Hartlepool Cycling Club, he rode his bicycle to York, to start a new job at the Rowntree Chocolate factory. He quickly found that he hated the job being cooped up inside the factory, whilst he looked through the windows at the green hills and beautiful countryside. He came back to Hartlepool with to start a new job working to the Electricity Board laying down cables.
Answering the WW2 Draft
Sept - 1939
WW2 was about to break out when he was called up via letter. He enlisted 20th October 1939 in Darlington and was sent to a seaside town of Bridlington to join the 7th Green Howards Territorial army for Infantry training. Once there they weren’t allowed to leave much due to the extensive amount of training they needed. Bridlington Priory is where Stanley became best friends with John (Ted) Dimmock.
On one occasion Ted did something wrong during training to earn him the punishment of running around the Square with his gun over his head (High port) for an hour, “which made him nearly pass out,” said Stan.
There wasn’t enough preparation or training before the Green Howards were about to go to France. However, several of the men including Stanley contracted the serious illness of diphtheria. They were laid up on stretchers in a hanger ready to be moved to a hospital in the Cotswolds. This is when he saw Ted for the last time before he went to France, waving to him through the window. “I hope he makes it,” said Stanley
Luck wasn’t on Ted’s side, as he was the only man from the 7th Green Howards to be killed at Dunkirk. If Stanley was there he would probably have been with Ted at that moment and could have been killed himself. Stanley received the news and went to show his sympathy with Ted’s family.
Ted was Jenny Butler’s Uncle, and they all lived in the same area. Ted’s Sister Ena told Jenny she should write to him, (the army at this time were appealing for people to write to soldiers to boost morale). So, Jenny and Stanley became pen pals throughout the war.
Stanley and Jenny would meet a few times but the romance didn’t start there, as Stanley would tease Jenny which she didn’t enjoy as she was a shy, quiet young lady.
Once Stanley left for War, he never returned to England until the War was over.
Stanley Coleman off to War
This part of his story still needs a lot of research, but this is his experience.
The days were as hot as hell but the night time was colder than the North Pole. They were sleeping in their tents with their guns in their blankets. This was to protect them from the prying hands that would appear under the tent from the locals scavenging for anything, especially weapons.
They lived off cans of bullied beef. He reckons there must be 1000’s of tins buried in the dessert.
Stanley role was a 15 cwt Truck driver of the 8th Army Motor Transport Division, where he would take rations up to the front line, driving under the cover of darkness, without the aid of headlights. “Never missed a drop off”, “Never took a sip of Rum” said Stanley.
It was Stanley’s turn to take patrol at night. However, a sandstorm kicked up which caused him to lose his way and wander, fortunately, into another allied camp. Subsequently, he needed medical treatment for his ears due to the sand being driven into his ears during the storm.
Under heavy German shelling at the front line, Stanley drove his 15 cwt truck and picked up a bunch of screaming Italian prisoners who swarmed his truck. They had been previously shooting the British troops from their trenches, taking cover from Germans. The truck became over whelmed and stuck. Stanley got out to free the wheel when a shell landed nearby. A piece of shrapnel hit him in the rear right shoulder. He clambered back into his truck and drove it single handedly, saving the lives of many Italian soldiers. Afterward, he was mentioned in dispatches by General Alexander and awarded an Oak Leaf. His family read about it afterwards in the Hartlepool Mail.
When there was a break in the War, he was relieved to take a short break in Cairo. This is when he bumped into his Brother in law, Norman Adams, who was married to Esther Coleman. Not much is known about Norman or what was his role was in the war.
Stanley was able to relax, as you can see though his pictures.
As Stanley was on leave in Ciao he bumped into his brother in law Norman Adams who married oldest sister Ester Coleman. Ester worked in whilst Norman worked for.
Can any one identify his uniform or have any more information they can share about him?
April 1943 Kabrit
Stanley Coleman back right and Fred Willis front left are posing with his comrades in Cairo. Does anyone know who the other chaps are?
The Northern Daily Mail Monday April 13 1943
Invasion of Sicily
In April 18th 1943 the Northern Daily Mail posted a write up about Stanley being mentioned for Gallantry by General Alexander.
Private Stanley Coleman (24) of the Green Howards an old boy of St.Aidan’s School, who was later employed in the electricity department of the Corporation at Burn road; has had his name mentioned in Army records “for gallantry and devotion to duty during the past 18 months in the Middle East”. He has sent home to his parents Mr and Mrs Coleman of 78 Sydenham Road, West Hartlepool, a card signed by General Alexander which reads: ‘Your name has been brought to my notice for your gallantry action. I thank you for your devotion to duty and for the high example that you have set” Pte. Coleman joined the up at the outbreak of the war.
This video of S Col Bernard Montgomery handing out cigarettes to troops with Stanley Coleman, in the middle shirtless wearing his forage cap accepting cigarettes in 1943 in Messina the last Town of Sicily. Stanley didn’t smoke cigarettes, just his pipe, so he gave his gift to the lads. He mentioned later that he was the only one man in that movie clip to survive the War.
View the full page spread by clicking the PDF.
1:26min in you can see the acutal clip
Various shots of the British tanks and armoured vehicles moving through Messina. Large shelter which used to be used by the Sicilians. Various shots of the wrecked harbour of Messina and the damaged oil storage tanks. Long shot across Straits of Messina towards the coast of Italy. Several shots of the American flag being hoisted outside the Municipal Building in Messina, the Royal Navy hoist their flag nearby. Various shots of General Bernard Montgomery going among his troops in Sicily - he hands out tins of cigarettes to them. Long shot across the Straits of Messina. Various shots of shore batteries and ships in the Straits opening fire on the Italian coast.
Back to mainland Europe
Stanley in a battle hardened infantry brigade was the 2nd wave of infantry to hit Gold Beach in Normandy on D-day as part of the 50th Northumbrian Division. Being the short man he was, 5ft 7inch, he got soaked as he jumped off the landing craft into the cold sea and onto the beaches, walking along side Church Hill Crocodile tanks.
Follow the 7th Green Howards movements on Dday by visiting the Normandy War guide. Which has a new feature of overlaying the original maps with current google maps. Just click the links.
At one point there was a large house on a hill that needed to be cleared as it was believed to be an enemy strong hold. Stanley and an officer went forward crawling up the hill towards it. When they looked back, they realized that the rest had not followed behind and they were on their own. They continued onwards showing up most bravery when others didn’t to clear this house.
Stanley hated the rope bridges. One rope for your feet and another above your head. Being the short guy it was difficult to use when you were next to people much taller than you.
From this point, we do not know when he joined the 5th Wiltshire Battalion of the 43rd Wessex division. Only when his service records come back will we understand.
Stanley would carry a Brenn gun from time to time. He had to wear an eye patch when shooting it as he couldn’t close his eye to the blasting of the gun. He carried his Brenn gun as he entered Germany, walking alongside the tanks. Being so close to the tanks the sound was incredibly loud, which made things even more terrifying as you couldn’t hear if you were being shelled.
Bergen-Belsen – concentration camp
Upon arriving at Belsen concentration camp, “you could smell it for miles’ said Stanley. But before they arrived at the camp gates they passed by the officers’ houses. The officers lived in luxury and claimed they did not know what was going on in the camp.
Stanley would never forget the awful sights he would see. Thousands of skeletal looking people and dead bodies everywhere. Even when they freed them some poor unfortunates would collapse and die. The troops were ordered not to touch them and not to leave their vehicles when they first arrived due to the risk of catching diseases. They sat on top of their trucks and tanks, to throw food and drink down towards the starving prisoners.
Stanley later became Head of the Kitchens when he befriended an older German officer Arthur Bucklers. Arthur would later save Stanley’s life from a younger Italian soldier who attacked him with a knife.
Photo location found click here.
Stanley later became Head of the Kitchens when he befriended an older German officer Arthur Bucklers. Arthur would later save Stanley’s life from a younger German soldier who attacked him with a knife.
Saved by a German
The War was over
Once the war was won in 1945 he wasn’t sent home immediately but was sent to Ireland for infantry training, much to Stanley’s disgust. Once he was de-mobbed and sent back to civilian life, he returned to his old job at the Electricity Board (employers were forced by the Government to keep the jobs of soldiers open for them on their return from the War). He later starting back at ICI Wilton, a huge Chemical plant at Redcar on Teesside as a ‘plumber’s mate’. He would wake up at 4am and ride 19miles from the Coleman store to Redcar to work every day.
Stanley would find many excuses to always go return to West Layton to enjoy the warm company of the Dimmock family. Stanley and Jenny would take many long walks along the country lanes of the beautiful area of West Layton. Then on one Boxing Day after asking Jenny’s father, Joseph’s permission he would ask Jenny to marry him. He asked her in private, which she said yes.
However, at this time Jenny had joined the WAFF at the end war in 1945. She trained in Manchester and then was transferred Ruislip in Middlesex and afterwards to Gloucesterchire. Stanley and Jenny were married at Croft on Tees in 1947 and she moved to Hartlepool to start married life and raise a family. Initially, Jenny missed her family and took some adjusting to moving from the countryside to a large industrial town. They moved into a terraced house on Brenda Road, Hartlepool. First having their son Terry in 1948 followed by Stephen, with a delightful accident of having daughter Alison many years later.
Stanley, the quiet man he was, would never speak of war and had bitter taste for the army, particularly for the way they treated him for his service. He wouldn’t have received his medals if it wasn’t for Jenny sending off for them on his behalf. He believed, as did others, that” they should have awarded them, not you having to ask for them”. In total he received 6 medals, Oak Leaf for being mentioned in dispatches and the 8th Army Africa bar.
1939-45 Battle of Britain
Africa Star 8thArmy
France and Germany Star
War Medal 1939-45
8th Army Medal Ribbon Bar
“It seemed like everyone knew him”, said Jenny, “everywhere we went someone would recognize him”. There was one time in Italy that he and Jenny were on vacation walking around Lake Como when someone ran out of the coffee shop shouting “Are you Stanley Coleman?” This would happen many times but one of the most spectacular occasion is many years after the war when he met someone who was next to Ted when he was killed in Dunkirk. On another occasion, Stanley and Jenny were visiting their daughter in Coventry. Whilst walking in the City Centre a man walked past and said “Hello Stan” to which Stanley replied “Hello”. It was very strange. It was as if this happened every day. Both men then stopped, turned around, shook hands and went on their way.
Although Stanley met a lot of people he didn’t make a lot of friends as they would be come and go to quickly being killed. The one person he ever wrote to was the German, Arthur, who saved his life.
Stanley was still an avid cyclist and his favorite spot was Clay Bank, Great Broughton, an over-look car park perched high on the bank. One weekend he and Jenny went to go visit after Strawberry picking. They were enjoying looking out at the view from Clay Bank when a man and his father in wheelchair asked Stanley if he could use his binoculars. It was a clear day and you could see the North Sea on the horizon. Stanley said to the man “this is spot that where I want my ashes to be spread when I die” Only for the following weekend he died 1986 from a series of heart attacks.
You cannot help but think that his heart condition for a fit gentlemen must have been linked to the tremendous amount of stress he experienced over the war, trying to keep alive. Sadly, his name isn’t on any memorial as this is usually reserved for people who died during the War but each year, Jenny travels to Clay Bank with her son Stephen to lay flowers and remember him.
Can anyone share any more information on Fred Willis from the Green Howards?
Read this blog to find out progress on finding more Freds family
Here is a list of weblinks and books that has helped me.
The Green Howards Museum - Richmond UK
Finding service numbers and solider information
Greater detail on movements and pictures - paid service
Common Wealth war Games
Green Howards escape aboard HMS Venomous