One of Sheffield's last surviving D Day landings veterans dies aged 98
A man believed to be the last surviving Sheffield veteran of the initial D Day assault on the Normandy beaches has died aged 98.
Douglas Parker, of Intake, was one of the first ashore on Sword Beach at 7.20am on D Day, June 6, 1944, as an infantryman with 2nd Battalion East Yorks Regiment, having to brave a hail of enemy gunfire. Their assault aimed to clear the way for an invasion force to establish the foothold in mainland Europe that went on to secure victory against the Nazis.
He was among British veterans awarded France’s highest distinction, the Légion d’honneur, in 2016 and returned for commemorations many times. His final trip was in 2019 with his son, Rev John Parker, for the 75th anniversary.
Douglas told The Star then that he had joined up, aged 18, in 1941 “as a way to escape”, leaving his job as a metal window frame maker.
Instead he fought in one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
Douglas recalled: “It was really rough. We were boxed in for quite a while. But it had to be successful, and it was.
"If it hadn’t, it would’ve been a catastrophe. It was the worst part of the war, it was in such a small area.”
He was the last off the landing craft ramp: “I dashed out, and I could see the machine gun bullets hitting the sand about 10 yards in front of me.”
He took cover before pressing on. “I ran up and there was this chap, Corporal Wilkinson, lying on the sand. He said ‘Help me, help me’.
“I dragged him to a little stone wall, laid him behind there and shouted to the stretcher-bearers who were hard at work, but he died. He was one of those enthusiastic soldiers - Let’s get at them’. He’s buried at Hermanville Cemetery.”
The invasion strategy meant Douglas was at the front throughout as more troops landed behind to storm the beaches.
Douglas also served in Palestine before being demobbed in 1946. He returned to his job and met his wife Maureen, a shorthand typist, at a City Hall dance.
The couple married in 1952 and Maureen died aged 90 in 2019. Douglas leaves sons John and Stuart, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.