Peter among troops who saw off the Nazis

Coun Timbers, left, and John Armstrong with the painting
Coun Timbers, left, and John Armstrong with the painting

Representatives of Hebden Royd Town Council – including Mayor Coun Jonathan Timbers, and past Mayors Couns Karl Boggis and Robin Dixon - were yesterday in France commemorating the liberation from Nazi occupation of Hebden’s twin town, St Pol St Ternoise.

They will be laying wreaths to mark the occasion 70 years ago when British troops, including at least one man from Hebden Bridge, Peter Armstrong, pushed the Nazis out of the town.

They will be accompanied by the son of that brave soldier, John Armstrong, who rediscovered the story whilst looking through his father’s possessions after he died.

When his father passed away John, of Todmorden, discovered a not-seen-before diary, originally written by his father’s comrade Billy Church and left to Peter when he himself died.

The diary recounted Peter and Billy’s time serving in the Second World War and John decided that coupled with his love of France he should revisit some of the locations his father had visited while serving with the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats, having originally served in the Reconnaissance Core. During his service with the Reconnaissance Core he drove a Bren Gun Carrier taking it in turns to lead the line, 30 minutes at a time, at the front.

John visited Arromanche (Gold Beach) where his father, then aged 20, landed two weeks after D-Day, and the site of the Battle of the Falaise Pocket (August 12 to 21, 1944), the decisive engagement in the Battle for Normandy before eventually reaching St Pol Sur Ternoise, a small provincial town, in the northern region of Pas de Calais.

While exploring the town John came across the town’s Information Centre and was greeted by a lady who turned out to be St Pol’s Deputy Mayor, Claude Rousseau. While looking at a map of St Pol John noticed a familiarly named street - that of Rue de Hebden Bridge and in amazement explained where his father had come from.

John and his father were unaware of the long standing (35 years in 2015) twinning agreement between the two towns and John could not believe that his father had been so directly involved with the St Pol’s liberation on September 3, 1944.