Remembrance Sunday: Remembering the Famous Who Fought

Source: Wikimedia

David Niven

Conflict: Second World War 

The glamorous film star originally joined the Army during the early 1930s before quitting to pursue an acting career. But when war broke out Niven left Hollywood and returned to the British Army, becoming a lieutenant. He eventually joined a secret commando unit called Phantom, which reported enemy positions.

He was involved in the abortive raid on Dieppe in 1942 and the 1944 D-Day landings, once recalling listening to the sound of nightingales over the gunfire while lying in a Normandy trench.

Niven ended the war as a lieutenant-colonel. The US government subsequently awarded him the Legion of Merit.

In 1940 prime minister Winston Churchill told the Pink Panther star: “Young man, you did a fine thing to give up your film career to fight for your country. Mark you, had you not done so it would have been despicable.”

JRR Tolkien

Conflict: First World War 

The acclaimed author of Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit was inspired to create some of his dark fantasy characters after experiencing the horrors of the trenches.

Having joined the Lancashire Fusiliers in 1915 he was sent to France a few months after marrying Edith. He recalled: “Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute. Parting from my wife then… it was like a death.”

Lieutenant Tolkien was soon in action during the infamous Battle of the Somme but in October 1916, as his battalion attacked Regina Trench, he fell ill with trench fever from a disease transmitted by lice.

He was then invalided back to England just before his unit suffered massive shelling and spent the rest of the war in and out of hospital, later lamenting: “By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.”

Michael Caine

Conflict: Korean War 

Famous for parts in blockbusters such as Zulu, Caine’s first film role was in a little-known movie about The Korean War – a conflict he had himself fought in.

Then known as 19-year-old fusilier Maurice Micklewhite, Caine was doing his national service when he was sent to join British forces in what has been dubbed the Forgotten War.

Some 1,106 British servicemen died in the conflict and at one point Caine came close to death while on a patrol.

He later said: “We were surrounded by Chinese and we knew we were going to die so we agreed to take as many with us as possible. As they closed in the officer said, ‘Let’s run towards their line – they won’t expect it.’”

Incredibly he and his fellow soldiers managed to escape. Caine, now 82, added: “That night we went back to our bunkers and celebrated with a beer. I faced a moment when I knew I was going to die and I didn’t run, I wasn’t a coward.”

CS Lewis

Conflict: First World War

On his 19th birthday in 1917 the future author of The Chronicles Of Narnia arrived in the trenches as an officer in the Somerset Light Infantry.

He was soon plunged into action and later wrote of “the horribly smashed men still moving like half-crushed beetles”.

Lewis once took 60 German prisoners shortly before being wounded near Arras in April 1918. A shell blast killed two soldiers standing next to him and Lewis was wounded in three places.

Managing to crawl through the mud the second lieutenant was rescued by a stretcher bearer. He was taken back to a hospital in England where he spent the rest of the war.

One piece of shrapnel had lodged so near Lewis’s heart that it wasn’t removed until 1944.

AA Milne

Conflict: First World War 

He would later create the much-loved Winnie The Pooh stories but Milne’s experiences in the trenches were anything but cuddly.

He served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and became a lieutenant in 1915, losing his best friend almost immediately.

As a signaller Milne helped to run telephone lines in no-man’s land and at the Battle of the Somme in August, 1916 his platoon went over the top, losing 60 men in one attack.

He later wrote: “It makes me almost physically sick to think of that nightmare of mental and moral degradation.”

Later that year he was sent home with trench fever and got a job in military intelligence.

Arnold Ridley

Conflict: First World War and Second World War 

Loved by millions of viewers as the doddery Private Godfrey in TV’s Dad’s Army, few knew that Ridley was a real-life war hero.

During the First World War he fought on the Somme, suffered multiple shrapnel injuries and was once bayoneted in the groin by a German soldier. He was also hit over the head with a rifle butt which left him suffering blackouts. Another bayonet wound to his hand left it almost useless.

Medically discharged from the Army with the rank of captain he was, however, not done with the services. Ridley joined up again in 1939 serving with the British Expeditionary Force, being evacuated shortly before Dunkirk. He was discharged and joined the Home Guard.

Tom Finney

Conflict: Second World War 

The former Preston North End and England winger lit up the football field with 30 goals for the national side but was also extremely skilled on the battlefield.

Called up to the Royal Armoured Corps in 1942 he was one of Montgomery’s Desert Rats fighting in North Africa and also served in Italy, taking part in the battle to capture Argentain 1945. Finney drove a tank and recalled in his autobiography: “I saw action at close quarters. When the tanks were in combat the enemy lay just a few hundred yards away and I had to learn how to cope with fear and to stay cool as the sergeant in command bellowed orders down your headphones.

“To return to base at night and discover that some of your pals had perished was a disconcerting experience.”

During leave Finney played against local football teams with the future star of Doctor Zhivago, Omar Sharif, being just one of those players who were lining up against him.

Roald Dahl

Conflict: Second World War 

As author of hit titles such as Charlie And The Chocolate Factory he sold 200 million books. Less well known is Dahl’s role in fighting the Nazis.

When war broke out Dahl, then 23, was in Tanzania and briefly served in the King’s African Rifles before eventually joining the RAF in November 1939.

He flew Gloster Gladiators, once crash landing in the desert and just managing to drag himself away from the burning wreckage despite suffering a fractured skull.

By 1941 Dahl was flying Hurricanes in the Battle of Greece, shooting down several German bombers. His tally of at least five kills garnered him the tag “ace”.

Dahl described going into battle as being “an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards me from every side”.

Promoted to flying officer he was later sent home to Britain after suffering from blackouts.

By: James Moore, 10 November 2016, The Express,  http://www.express.co.uk/news/history/730744/remembrance-sunday-2016-fighters

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