Suffolk veteran returns to French barn where his life was saved

Haverhill war veteran Bill Gladden inside the Normandy barn where his life was saved

Bill Gladden inside the barn in Normandy where he was carried for medical treatment after being shot during machine gun fire in 1944. - Credit: Robin Savage

Memories flooded back for a Haverhill war veteran after he travelled to the Normandy barn where his life was saved nearly eight decades ago.

Bill Gladden, now 98, flew to Normandy on June 6 1944 with the 6th Airborne, Recce Regiment on a glider carrying a tank and six motorbikes.

The then 20-year-old was heading to France as part of Operation Overlord and was holed up in an orchard just outside Ranville.

On June 18 he suffered severe injuries when he was shot in the leg during machine gun fire from a Tiger Tank.

Carried to the barn, medical treatment began which meant he could be brought back to the UK and begin a long road to recovery. 

Author Neil Barber and photographer Robin Savage alongside The Taxi Charity arranged the visit for Mr Gladden, but all were surprised when they able to go inside the barn. 

Mr Gladden said, “I have been travelling back to Normandy with the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans for many years and this year I was very touched that Neil and Robin had spent time finding the very barn where my life had been saved and where I had last seen my injured friends who didn’t survive.

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"The current owners of the barn were so welcoming, and I must admit the visit was very nostalgic and brought so many memories flooding back. I think part of my tibia is probably still in that orchard - perhaps one day someone will stumble across it."

Mr Gladden was evacuated back to Portsmouth on June 21 and spent three years in hospital due to the severity of the injury, which left him learning to walk again. 

Photographer Robin Savage, said, “The afternoon we spent with Bill taking him back to the barn near Ranville was one of the most special moments I've ever had in Normandy, and I am so pleased we were able to do it for him. We thought we might just be able to show him the barn from the outside, but the current owners were so welcoming and invited Bill into the barn and showed us around their home which had been used as a 'Main Dressing Station' during the war."

To find out more about the support the Taxi Charity offers veterans or to donate please visit www.taxicharity.org