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Son's Normandy pilgrimage to honour D-Day hero dad; HHEE SSUURRVVIIVVEEDD 1122 WWEEEEKKSS BEHIND ENEMY LINES AFTER GLIDER CRASH ON EVE OF INVASION.

By DAVID POWELL THE son of an RAF airman who crash landed in the D-Day landings and survived for nearly 12 weeks behind enemy lines is making an emotional journey to Normandy.

Chris Bartley will deliver poppy wreaths to his late father Ron's airbase in Oxfordshire and to northern France to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day operations in June 1944.

Ronald Bartley, who died aged 90 in 2008, was a glider pilot who took off from RAF Harwell but plummeted into an orchard.

Father-of-two Chris Bartley said: "Although it is 70 years since D-Day we should never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we could continue to live in freedom and enjoy life to its full.

"It is especially important that today's generation are reminded of what we went to war for and the sacrifice made by so many."

Mr Bartley, of Old Colwyn, who is travelling with his wife Sandra and friends Tony and Anne Hughes and staying in Deauville, will stop off at RAF Harwell in Oxfordshire, which was home to Squadron A of the Glider Pilot Regiment (Army Air Corps).

From this airfield, Ron's crew and three other crews took off at 11.15pm on the night of June 5 1944 - the day before D-Day - on a mission to knock out the guns at the Merville Battery. These guns had to be silenced as they could easily reach SWORD beach and also target allied shipping.

Mr Bartley added: "The gliders were to land at LZ (landing zone) V but unfortunately none of them made it. All four gliders were towed by Albemarles from 295 Sqn and the tow rope attached to RB's glider snapped due to flak just off the French coast.

"Fortunately, they just had enough height to make land and his glider crashed in an orchard south of Villers sur Mer.

"All four men aboard survived the crash and later that night they were joined by two Canadian parachutists.

"In the early hours of June 6 four of the group (all Canadians) were killed by German machine gun fire when crossing a field and heading for a barn."

Later that day, Ron hid in a cave close to a farm owned by the Huve Family and then made contact with Andre Huve. Ron was then hidden in a huge cider barrel but did not last long as he suffered from claustrophobia.

After two days at the farm, he was taken to a safe house by Mr Paul Harricot of the French Resistance and then helped the Resistance on several of their missions.

Ron always maintained that it was the French such as the Huve family who were the real heroes, as had they have been caught helping Allied airmen the consequences for them were severe.

Eventually, Ron and another two Canadians got through German lines and met up with American forces at Falaise. After 83 days behind enemy lines Ron returned to Britain.

During his son's visit he will be meeting Alain Huve, son of Andre Huve, who will show them the site where the glider crashed and then his father's farm where Ron was hidden.

Mr Bartley also wants to find the actual LZ V (if it has not been built on), visit Pegasus Bridge museum where there is a full scale model of a Horsa Glider, visit Ranville cemetery where one of the Canadians who was in Ron's glider is buried, and see the site of Mulberry harbour at Arromanches. If time allows, he will also visit the grave of Ron's best friend Vic Haynes, who also flew in one of the four gliders from Harwell on night of June 5 but was killed when it crashed in the Channel. Mr Haynes is buried in Abbeville cemetery.

CAPTION(S):

Ronald Bartley (top right) died aged 90 in 2008. His son Chris - pictured (top left) with wife Sandra and friends Tony and Anne Hughes - will travel to Normandy to lay a wreath (inset below) to honour those who took part in the D-Day landings (main picture)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jun 4, 2014
Words:676
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