Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Article – Wartime hero remembered (Sheffield)

THIS is Sergeant Major Gerald Strachan, the World War Two elite soldier whose Boys Own adventures are set to be recreated in a new book.
The Diary tracked down the late Sheffield paratrooper’s family after French scholar Nicolas Bucourt asked for help finding more details about the hero for the history tome.
Gerald was one of the lead players in one of the conflict’s defining operations, the daredevil Bruneval Raid, which effectively allowed the Allies to wrestle control of the European skies.
And his offspring – two children, six grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren and 10 great great grandchildren – are delighted his heroics are still being celebrated nearly 70 years after the 1942 assault.
“It’s incredible there are still people out there who value what dad did,” says son, also Gerald.
Incredible it might be – but then Gerald played a pretty incredible role himself.
Then aged 37, he was parachuted behind enemy lines to steal key German radar equipment based in north France.
The 200-man operation saw the Brits take the Germans by surprise, swipe the technology and escape by sea with only one British fatality. Significantly, the stolen radar allowed British scientists to perfect the Allies own technology and take control of the skies.
Gerald was later awarded the Croix de Guerre – the French version of the Victorian Cross – for his bravery during the raid.
“He was shot three times,” says younger Gerald, a 67-year-old retired heavy plant fitter of Angleton Green, Manor. “They say his stomach was hanging out but he was a fighter.”
He would later be taken prisoner during the Allies’ attempts to capture the Arnhem Bridge, and remained captive until the war’s end.
Afterwards he stayed with the army but died from war wounds in 1948, aged just 42.
“My mother was so proud,” says daughter Sandra Trigg, a retired carer of City Road, Deep Pit.
“We all are. I’m 66 now so I was only three when dad died but I’m happy to help Mr Bucourt’s research anyway I can.”
Gerald, originally a fishmonger from Aberdeen, met wife Ivy while based at an army camp in Darley Dale where she was a cook.
They fell in love, married in 1942 and moved to Studley Road, Darnall. Ivy lived to 91, only passing away in 2004.
And how would she feel about this new book on the Bruneval Raid?
Granddaughter Jane Smith, 44, of Mansfield Drive, Woodthorpe, thinks for a second.
“She’d be so happy,” she says. “They only knew each other a short time but it was such a strong love she said she thought about him every day.”

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