Youngest paratrooper to serve in D-Day landings honoured with plaque

The youngest paratrooper to serve in the D-Day landings is being honoured with a plaque in the street where he lived.

Portsmouth City Council is placing information panels on each of the roads where the 119 men from the Hampshire city lived who took part in the Normandy campaign.

They served with all three armed services as well as the Merchant Navy.

They ranged in age from 16-year-old Private Robert Johns, who served with the Parachute Regiment, to 47-year-old Warrant Engineer William Smith, who was killed when HMS Mourne was torpedoed.

Pte Johns ran away from home at the age of 14 and was the youngest to pass the jump course.

D-Day 75th anniversary
Robert Johns with his mother Daisy (Portsmouth City Council/PA)

He was shot dead by a sniper on 23 July 1944, aged 16, and is buried at Ranville War Cemetery, Normandy.

Major Jack Watson, A Company commander from the 13th (2/4th South Lancashire) Battalion, is reported to have said of Johns: “He was quite a big lad when he did his training and it was only when he died that we found out he had lied about his age.”

Jenny Ward, the niece of Pte Johns, who attended the unveiling of the plaque outside his former home in Jervis Road, Portsmouth, said: “I am so moved to think that 75 years later Bob has been remembered, and feel certain my grandparents would have been so proud that their dear son is being honoured this way by their home town of Portsmouth.”

Steve Pitt, deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: “The immediate picture we have of the invasion is thousands of men landing on beaches, but these plaques break down what happened into individual human stories, which is very important.

“So many people in Portsmouth had relatives involved in D-Day and the fighting that followed.

“The plaques show the level of commitment and sacrifice shown by the city.”

A council spokesman said: “The campaign started with the launch of Operation Overlord – D-Day on 6 June and continued until 31 August 1944, with the Battle of Normandy and the liberation of Paris after the allies had crossed the Seine.

“The 119 men were killed at a rate of more than one a day during the length of the campaign – a similar rate to battles like the Somme and Passchendaele during the First World War.”

Portsmouth will be hosting the national commemorative event for the 75th anniversary next month, which is to be attended by US President Donald Trump and the Queen.

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