Frederick George Millward

Frederick George Milward

16/01/1924 – 23/07/2017

Fred Milward was born on the 16th January 1924 in the village Ticehurst in East Sussex. In 1940 at the age of 16 Fred joined the local platoon of the Home Guard (Dads Army) and had many funny experiences, including one when a German bomber crash landed in a nearby field he and three of his comrades chased after it, but when they saw four large Germans standing beside it they hid behind a hedge until the local Policeman told them to help him arrest them.

Fred from a young age had an interest in flying and aviation so in late 1941 he tried to enlist in the Royal Air Force but as he was still only 17, they told him to come back when he was older, so he went to the recruiting office of the Royal Sussex Regiment next door and they accepted him. So, in early 1942 he joined the Army and done his basic training, later he saw they were asking for volunteers for the Glider Pilot Regiment so he applied but failed the medical because of colour blindness. The next year he saw they wanted volunteers for the newly formed Parachute Regiment where he applied for and was accepted.

In 1943 after rigorous ground training Fred was sent to Ringway (now Manchester International Airport) for his parachute training which he found very hard, he said the most difficult thing he had to was jumping out of static Balloon basically because of his fear of heights and yet he loved flying. After finishing his training, he was posted to the 9th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment and began training for the invasion of Europe.

Late in the evening of the 5th of June Fred and his comrades board their Dakota aircraft ready for departure.  Soon after their aircraft was thrown about by anti-aircraft fire and he and his number two fell out of the aircraft, Fred hitting his head on the tail plane knocking off his helmet. When the two of them landed they found that they were near the planned Drop Zone to join up Col. Otway and the other men that had landed nearby. Of the nearly 700 men of the 9th Battalion only 150 had reached the rendezvous point by time Col. Otway order the attack, Fred was ordered to attack No 1 Casemate, he saw some of his comrades being shot and wounded but managed to reach the main door of No1 Casemate, where he threw in his grenades. 

Later that day the 9th attacked Le Plein capturing the Chateau St Come and dug in, they were joined by other members of the Battalion who had dropped wide. Fred always said that this was the toughest part of his war fighting numerus attacks from the Germans. After a long spell of fighting the Unit was relieved for a rest. They then sent to the Bois de Bavant where on the 26th of July Fred was wounded. He and a comrade had jumped out of their slit trench to rescue a Spitfire pilot who had been shot down, a mortar bomb landed close to them killing his Sergeant and injuring Fred down right side.

After a period in hospital he was declared unfit for active service because he was totally deaf in his right ear. He was then given a choice of being sent back to the Barracks in England or staying in France as a guard looking after German POWs in Bayeux which is what he did. It was here that he met his future wife Connie Purvis who was a Londoner, she served in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) and was sent to France to return control to the French Civil Authorities. 

Fred was demobbed in 1947 and took his wife back to the village of Westfield.  He took up a job as a motor mechanic in local village garage where he worked until his retirement in the 1990s.

It wasn’t until the fortieth anniversary of D-Day that he told his family what he had done on that day, they had always known he was a paratrooper but nothing else. It was in 1985 that Fred and Connie returned to Normandy for the first time bringing back very strong memories for both of them, especially for Fred when he returned to the Merville Battery and the Chateau St Come. In 2016 Fred was very proud to be presented with the Legion d’Honneur by the Mayor of Merville-Franceville Olivier Paz, this was his last visit to the Battery as he became ill in 2017 and passed away on the 23rd of July.the nexr

Fred Milward was one of a kind; a remarkable and unknown hero.
Andy Saunders
Neighbor of Sergeant Milward and editor of Britain at War Magazine