CSM Stanley Elton Hollis VC, 6th Battalion, The Green Howards.
Stanley Elton Hollis was born in Middlesbrough on 21 September 1912, the eldest son of Edith and Alfred Edward Hollis. In 1926, his parents moved to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Yorkshire coast where Stan worked for his father in his fish shop. At the age of 17, he was apprenticed to the Rowland & Marwood Shipping Company of Whitby to learn to be a Navigation Officer. He later transferred to the Elder, Dempster Line making regular voyages to West Africa. In 1930, he fell ill with blackwater fever in West Africa which ended his merchant naval career. He returned to North Ormesby, Middlesbrough where his parents now owned a fish shop in Beaumont Road and found employment as a lorry driver. He married Alice Clixby and had a son and a daughter.
In 1939 Hollis was employed with Crossley Brick Company and enlisted as a territorial in 4th Battalion, The Green Howards. He was mobilised at the outbreak of WW2 and helped to form 6th Green Howards. They travelled to France in April 1940 to join the British Expeditionary Force, primarily to build runways for aerodromes. He was employed as the Commanding Officer’s dispatch rider. He was promoted to Sergeant from Lance Corporal when the battalion escaped from Dunkirk.
He moved with his battalion to Iraq, Palestine and Cyprus then fought from El Alamein to Tunis in the North African Campaign as part of the 8th Army. Hollis was promoted to CSM just before the invasion of Sicily in 1943. He was wounded at the Primasole Bridge and recommended for, though not awarded, the DCM.
On the day of the invasion of Normandy, Stan Hollis was in the left-hand assault company of 6th Green Howards. He was the Sergeant Major of D Company and with A Company on its right. As his landing craft – carrying about 20 men laden with equipment – made its way towards the coast, the noise was deafening and swathed in smoke from the massive naval bombardment from ships lying out to sea. He could just pick out landmarks that he and his men had studied from aerial photographs and sand models during their training for the invasion. There was the house with the circular drive about half a mile from the beach; it was on the road which ran inland to Crepon and beyond. The two marines steered the landing craft to the exact spot where they had planned to disembark. Hollis saw the pillbox on the sea wall which had caused him so much worry during training. He knew his men would come under devastating fire as they reached and crossed the beach unless it was destroyed quickly. Hollis picked up a Bren-gun, rested it on the ramp and fired a couple of long bursts hoping that it would do some damage and possibly keep the Germans’ heads down. The ramp lowered and his men piled out into waist deep water. Hollis’s immediate task was to wade ashore, take the two machine-gun and the 2” mortar crews, and lay down smoke between him and the pillbox, so his men could work their way safely through the minefield.
Soon the leading platoons were across the minefield, through the hedge and working their way up hill in the direction of the house with the circular drive. Then there was a burst of fire from the pillbox fifty yards to the right of the house, which seemed to be aimed into the rear of the leading platoons. Hollis reacted instantly. He charged the pillbox alone, firing his Sten-gun from the waist. The Germans returned fire at him but fortunately missed allowing him to dash up to the firing slit, shove his gun muzzle inside, fir a burst then clamber on top of the pillbox and push a grenade through the slit. When it exploded he jumped down into the trench leading to the entrance and burst through the door. Two Germans were dead and the others were either wounded or dazed.
As he came out of the smoke he noticed that the trench led to another pillbox about 100 yards away. He changed the magazine on his Sten-gun and walked carefully down the trench. As he did so, Germans started to emerge from the pillbox and at the sight of a British soldier with a weapon, they put up their hands. He directed them down towards the beach. In total, CSM Hollis captured between 15 and 20 prisoners. As the platoon commander and sergeant of 16 Platoon had been killed, CSM Hollis was ordered to assume command.
The Company’s immediate task was to clear the small village of Crepon to allow the battalion to pass through and reach its main objectives some five miles further south. D Company soon cleared the village and 16 Platoon were ordered to search a lone farmhouse to the west. Hollis led his men into the farmyard and finding the farmhouse clear he decided to scout round the area to the rear of the farmyard. On glancing round the wall into what appeared to be an orchard, there was a sharp crack as a bullet hit the stone wall a few inches from Hollis’s face. About 150 yards across the field in a gap in the high hedge he could see movement and what appeared to be a field gun in the hedge. Having reported the position of the gun he was given permission to deal with it. Hollis collected a PIAT anti-tank gun and returned to his men. Then taking two Bren-gunners, he began to crawl through a rhubarb patch towards the German gun. At the far end, he loaded the PIAT, took careful aim and fired. Like a tumbling turnip, the round looped through the air and fell short. The German gun traversed until Hollis felt he was looking down the barrel. There was an explosion and the shell passed over his head and slammed into the farmhouse behind him. Calling to the two Bren-gunners to follow him, Hollis crawled back at twice the speed he had come, and returned to report to his company commander. It was then that Hollis heard the sound of a Bren-gun firing from the rhubarb patch. The two men had failed to follow him.
Picking up the Bren-gun, CSM Hollis doubled back into the farmyard and down the narrow alley. He then charged straight into the middle of the orchard firing from the waist and shouting at the two Bren-gunners to get out fast. Totally disregarding shots from the Germans, he continued firing until his men had withdrawn. Once they were safe, Hollis sprinted after them, miraculously escaping the bullets whipping past him.
4390973 WOII Stanley Elton Hollis was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in Normandy on 6th June 1944. The announcement was made in The London Gazette on 17th August 1944. He was wounded in the leg and evacuated to England in September 1944. He was decorated by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 10th October 1944.
Hollis died in 1972, aged 59.