Hi Guys, I had the very sad news that a friend of mine, Walter Freegard passed away yesterday, aged 97.
I had known Walter for 10 years.
He was born in Middlesborough on 29th January 1916. He was educated at Stockton Grammar school. Prior to the outbreak of war, he worked in the family bakery. Walter joined up on 4th Sept 1939, the day after Britain declared war on Germany. He served with 3rd Corps Transport Col, Royal Army Service Corps. Like many men who later became Pathfinders, he initially volunteered as a Glider Pilot, but like many, failed the course. These men became a rich source of recruits for the Parachute Regt.
Walter became a Para, passing No.57 course on 22/3/43 at Ringway. He was described as "keen and efficent and an average jumper". He joined the XX1 Indep. Para Coy (Pathfinders) in 1943 at Larkhill.
He served in North Africa, Italy, Southern France, Greece and Palestine. When the Coy was posted back to the UK, a platoon was left behind in the Med to provide training for US Pathfinders and to provide Pathfinder support for British Airborne operations in Italy, Southern France and Greece. He served as a Clp.
Walter was nicked named "Free" by his comrades. He left the Company upon their disbandment at Latrun in Sept 1946. He left the Para's with the rank of Sgt.
Post war he took up teaching and was awarded the OBE for his services in 1978. He retired in 1980.
Walter attended the re-unions of his company, which is where I met him. He was a very modest man and when I asked for a photo of him said "Why would you want a photo of me?" As well as going to the reunions in the UK, Walter even traveled out to the South of France for the commemorations there each August. I was with him there in 2004. But he continued to go until 2011 Despite his years he had a good memory of his wartime service. He very much enjoyed going to France where he had an eye for the ladies and the red wine!
Along with several other comrades, he was honoured with the award of the French Croix de Guerre a couple of years ago by President Sarkozy.
He is survived by his Son.