Northern Irish teacher who fought in campaign to liberate Europe dies at age 96

A veteran of the Normandy campaign of World War Two has died, a month after the world marked 75 years since VE Day.

By Adam Kula
Wednesday, 17th June 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th June 2020, 3:29 pm
Stanley on his wedding day
Stanley on his wedding day

Stanley Littlewood was a Belfast-born soldier who served in a unit which disembarked at Gold Beach.

He landed a couple of days behind the initial assault and proceeded to press his way into German-held territory.

His family say he reached the front lines, and his job was to signal co-ordinates to artillery teams so they could pound enemy positions.

Stanley in his later years

They also said that he encountered POW camps housing Soviet troops who had been captured by the Germans, and that he ultimately went on to be part of a force which accepted the surrender of Hamburg, among other exploits.

Grandson Colin Caughey said that the family is “all very proud of what he did”, adding that he “was very humble about it and didn’t really brag”.

He was just shy of his 21st birthday when he landed in Normandy, and when he died on June 7 this year he was eight days short of his 97th birthday.

He was born in the Holylands district of south Belfast, son of William and Holly, in 1923.

He attended Belfast High School in Newtownabbey where on one of his last days of school, during a bicycle ride to Islandmagee, he met Ida May Dixon who would go on to become his wife and mother of their two children – Mike and Deirdre.

It is believed he enlisted in the military in around 1942; Colin said that his explanation for joining was that “something had to be done”.

His family say he enlisted in the 53rd Welsh Division, and he was also involved with the Royal Artillery.

Colin, 35, recalled that whilst his grandfather was still in training in the UK he and his comrades drew the ire of infantrymen from the southern United States.

The reason? They enjoyed drinking with African-American soldiers, who would not typically be allowed to mix on equal terms with whites.

After victory was finally won on VE Day on May 8, 1945, Stanley helped with the demobilisation of other soldiers.

Despite his experiences, grandson Colin also said that he “never had any animosity to the Germans”.

He then trained as a teacher and taught PE at his old high school, where he spent much of his career.

Stanley’s family said he lived by the Shore Road in Newtownabbey, had a “passion for painting”, and continued to be a member of various clubs until his final days (including Probus and the Royal Artillery Association).

They also said that he was a supporter of the charity Combat Stress.

It was a cause “close to his heart”, because the way his wife cared for him when he returned from war “ensured that he did not suffer the psychological scars of many of his fellow soldiers”.

He suffering a fall shortly before dying.

He was cremated at Roselawn in Belfast, and his ashes are to be placed in the grounds of St Patrick’s Church of Ireland, Jordanstown (where his wife was also laid to rest).

An address read by Colin at his funeral concluded as follows: “We know that he is seated in heaven, safely returned to his wife Ida’s side, with a painting easel in front of him, and biscuit crumbs down his jumper.”

Stanley’s wife predeceased him three years ago.

He is survived by daughter Deirdre Caughey and son Mike Littlewood, along with his grandchildren Alan Caughey, Colin Caughey, Rob Littlewood and Jen Littlewood.

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