Veteran to visit grave of friend
PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 March 2011
FOR Alf Arnold, returning to the fields he fought in during the Second World War will be an emotional journey.
The 85-year-old veteran is going to visit the grave of his best friend Cyril Chugg, who died the day the pair were separated on the beaches of Normandy.
Mr Arnold, who lives in Llewellyn Drift, Kesgrave, is taking the trip with his grandson Ian Hicks, in May, after being awarded a grant of £875 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return 2 scheme.
He is planning a route around northern France to trace the steps he took 67 years ago, in August 1944, following the D-Day landings.
“When I first joined up in 1943, I was too young, at the age of 17, to go into the regular Army, so at first I was in the Home Guard and spent a year training,” Mr Arnold recalled.
“I had never been out of my little village in Surrey, but had to get the train from Kings Cross to Retford, in Yorkshire, for the training.
“When I was standing on the train platform, I noticed another lad in his Home Guard uniform – it was Cyril.
“We palled up and spent all of our training together. Then D-Day came and with the 1st Battalion, The Rifle Brigade, on the August bank holiday we sailed from Newhaven.
“When we got to the Normandy beaches, just outside Bayonne, the regimental sergeant put his arm between Cyril and I and told Cyril to go one way to join I Company, and he told me to go and join A Company. There was a shelling that night and Cyril was killed.”
Mr Arnold said when he discovered he was being given the grant, the first thing he wanted to do was find Cyril’s grave, so he could visit his friend to pay his respects.
“I will also be going back to Caen. The last time I was there it was just a pile of rubble, so it will be interesting to see what it’s like now,” he said.
“I stayed with the regiment for the rest of the war as part of the Armour Division, we were the ones who were sent in to help the tanks out when they got into trouble. It all becomes a bit of a blur.
“I do remember the freezing conditions of the particularly bad winter. We were staying in a town where all the civilians had been evacuated and it was so cold we had to find a barn and huddle down with the cattle to keep warm.”
The Heroes Return 2 programme has so far awarded about £1million in East Anglia to more than 1,400 Second World War veterans.
For more information call 0845 00 00 121 or visiting www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn.