WWII veteran Bill Gladden has always enjoyed painting and on several occasions has raised money for the Taxi Charity by donating his artworks.
During our trip to Normandy in June of this year, Bill presented the Mayor of Ranville with a framed copy his watercolour, 'My Memory'.
This was a particularly poignant moment because it was on the afternoon of D-Day when Bill and his regiment, the 6th Airborne Armoured Recce regiment, landed at Ranville in a glider.
The story behind Bill Gladden's 'My Memory' watercolour
The painting depicts the scene after Bill and his troop landed in a Hamilcar glider on the afternoon of D-Day, 6 June 1944.
Bill’s Hamilcar glider was carrying a Tetrarch Tank and six 350cc Matchless motorcycles, and flew from RAF Tarrant Ruston to Landing Zone LZ-N at Ranville.
Bill was a trooper with the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment and whilst in Normandy rode one of the Matchless motorcycles on recce work.
On the night before D-Day and Operation Mallard (the second lift), using white chalk, Bill inscribed their glider with the words “Operation Black Bess”.
The choosing of that name was inspired by his Troop Commander, Lt. Turpin.
On 18 June 1944, the troop had just returned to an orchard near Ranville, where they were dug in, when Bill received a severe gunshot wound. He had his first operation in a field hospital.
After he came round, he recalls his label reading: “Camp Reception Station. Amputation considered. Large deep wound in right ankle. Compound fracture of both tibia and fibula. All extension tendons destroyed. Evacuate (air, lying).”
But before he could be flown out, a big storm arrived, which broke up the Mulberry Harbour. So Bill was put on a Tank Landing Craft anchored off the north coast. He was picked up the following morning and taken back to Portsmouth.