Funeral of High Peak D-Day veteran takes place
The funeral of a High Peak veteran – who was the last of the D-Day pathfinders – has taken place today.
Robert (Bob) Stoodley died last month, aged 97.
Over 120 mourners attended his funeral service at St James Church, Buxworth, today including four generations of his family. Also present were members of the 4th Battalion Parachute Regiment, three serving soldiers from the Pathfinders, plus veterans from the local Parachute Regimental Association.
One of 14 siblings, LCpl Bob Stoodley joined the 22nd Independent Parachute Company - The Pathfinders - and was in the very first drop on D-Day under the command of Lieutenant Bob Midwood setting off from RAF Harwell just before midnight on June 5 1944.
Jumping around 00:20 on D-Day over DZ-K near Touffreville, Bob was able to successfully deploy his Eureka Beacon to guide in the Paratroopers and Gliders of the 8th Battalion whose mission was to destroy bridges on the River Dives east of Caen to protect this flank.
Sadly his body guard, ‘Paddy’ O’Sullivan was killed in action almost as soon as he landed. Once the main body of the invading forces left to carry out their tasks, the enemy moved into the area in force with armoured vehicles and Bob was ordered to destroy his Eureka to prevent it being compromised.
This action however was always going to give away his position and Bob was mortared in the shallow trench he was hiding in.
He was injured and burnt and captured being tied to an enemy armoured vehicle which reversed away to protect him from fire.
After being taken to a German field hospital, he was taken to a Chateau and interrogated by the Feldgendarmerie (Military Police) and after refusing to submit any information other than name, rank and number he was taken to Rennes Hospital then Rennes POW camp.
Eventually he was then taken on a Box Car train with approx 650 other POWs to Stalag IVB where he remained in the medical area till he ‘escaped’ after the camp was liberated by the Russian Army in 1945.
From this point Bob returned to Normandy almost every D-Day anniversary and always attended the single military grave in Touffreville Church, of his friend Edward Delany ’Paddy’ O’Sullivan.
Bob was a successful business man after the war, keeping in touch with many comrades of his stick, especially Captain Bob Midwood. He went on to help out on the 1972 and 1975 Everest South West Face Expeditions as well as the International Karakoram Project and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
After losing his beloved wife Joyce in 2015, a down turn in Bob's health affected his mobility and he lived his last few years in constant pain, but never did his love for Joyce, nor his pride of being a member of the Pathfinders wane.
He will be sorely missed and leaves 5 children, 15 grand-children and 4 great-grandchildren who all know him simply as ‘Grandad’. Always a true gentleman, a man of his word. RIP LCpl Robert ‘Bob’ Stoodley 1924 -2021 - 22nd Independent Parachute Company.