Friday June 6, 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day. On that day in 1944 tens of Old Emanuels (OE) took part in the largest amphibious invasion in history to free Western Europe from Nazi domination. 70 years later we remember the actions of the only OE to lose his life on that fateful June day.
Robert aged 18
Robert Fielder came to Emanuel from Holden Street Boys’ School in 1935. A talented musician he played the violin. Robert was also a member of Emanuel’s Officers’ Training Corps. On leaving Emanuel he trained as a chartered accountant before being called up at the age of eighteen. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps (R.A.S.C.). Normally four companies of the R.A.S.C. supported a Division by keeping it supplied with ammunition, petrol and rations.
Robert was transferred to 716 Company (Airborne Light) which in 1943 became part of the 6th Airborne Division. It was soon designated for special operations in connection with Operation Overlord – the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. It wasn’t until the spring of 1944 that the commanders of the Airborne Division were given the code word Overlord. Lower ranks would have been kept in the dark until much nearer the time of the invasion.
Robert was in No. 1 Parachute Platoon 716 Airborne which jumped with the 5th Parachute Brigade. Robert had passed the required eight jumps in order to qualify for airborne operations.
Private Fielder 14384200
On May 30 1944, Robert wrote to his sister Margaret:
By the way, if and when the second front does start, will you please save me the morning papers for me for the first fortnight or so and when you write again please send a couple of Penguin books, not too blood-thirsty.
We were inspected last week by the King and Queen and Princess Elizabeth…They looked like what I expected except Princess Elizabeth who was smaller than she seems to be in photographs.
I’m afraid that leave is out of the question for some time yet. I think however that it will be sooner than you will expect.
In the early hours of June 6 No. 1 platoon took off in a Stirling aircraft from R.A.F. Keevil. 5th Parachute Brigade’s objective that day was to support Major Howard’s Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry glider-borne assault team who were tasked with the capture of the Bénouville and Ranville Bridges which crossed the Caen Canal and the River Orne. 5th Parachute Brigade was also tasked with clearing German anti-airborne defences. Members of 716 Company R.A.S.C. were tasked with gathering the various supplies being dropped by bombers and transport aircraft and distributing them to the fighting units.
However, on that fateful dark morning as Robert descended over Ranville his parachute caught on telephone wires. As he hung on the wall of the Chateau below he was shot by German troops. A French Countess recovered Robert’s body and covered him with a shroud, an act for which she was later awarded the Croix de Guerre, a French military decoration. Robert was later buried in Ranville War Cemetery. Robert was only 19 years old when he was killed on D-Day. As the sun sets over Normandy on Friday June 6, 2014, this brave young man and his family will be in our thoughts.
An early photo of Robert’s grave in Ranville
Robert’s mother and sister meeting Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery in Normandy in the late 1940s.