Shrewsbury paratrooper war hero and St Chad's attendant dies at 96
A Shrewsbury war veteran who was part of an elite group of paratroopers who spearheaded the airborne invasion of southern France in August 1944 has died at the age of 96.
Glynne Medlicott was personally awarded France's top military honour during a state visit to Britain by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France in 2010.
He was one of three veterans presented with the Legion d'Honneur in a London ceremony.
Mr Medlicott was well known in Shrewsbury, working until he was 90 as a car park attendant at St Chad's Church, until failing eyesight forced him to give it up.
He is survived by Peggy, his wife of 66 years, and children Nick and Paul. Funeral arrangements are yet to be decided.
Mr Medlicott, who died on February 9 at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital with son Nick at his bedside, was born in Church Stretton on September 20, 1922. His father George was the steward of the British Legion club in Stretton for 26 years.
He worked at Humphries butchers in the High Street until the war changed his life. He served in the Royal Berkshire Regiment before successfully volunteering for the paras, seeing service in North Africa and Italy before taking part in the invasion of southern France.
Corporal Medlicott of the 1st Independent Parachute Platoon was in the lead plane of a force whose role was to prepare the landing zones for the main force which was due to arrive a couple of hours later.
As the 21-year-old flew towards the night parachute drop on August 15, 1944, he took a nap.
“I was relaxed. I felt I should get some sleep because I didn’t know how long it would be before I got some rest again. They had to wake me to have a flask of tea,” Mr Medlicott was to recall
“It was 3.30am and there was very thick fog. We were flying in at 1,500ft, which was quite high for us, because mountains were close by – normally we dropped at 700 to 800ft. When the green light came on I was jumping at number 14, out of 16. We had an accident in the plane. One of the chaps in my platoon, Private Eric Morley, got tangled up in the strop. He was killed in the jump.
“Fear? In my case I was more scared with having fear and not being able to jump. There were so many things to think about.
“On the way down I released the kitbag from my leg. It was on the end of a 20ft rope. I couldn’t see, and it went through the rigging lines of another parachutist below and collapsed his chute, and the two of us went down together. We had a hard landing. I landed in a dry, rocky river bed about 20ft deep. I was shaken up a bit. I had a few bruises but didn’t think about it.”
In the darkness there was no time to lose as he linked up with colleagues and scrambled through vineyards and got to the drop zone, a little over a mile away, near the village of Le Mitan. They prepared the landing area for the main force of parachutists and gliders, clearing it of “Rommel spikes” – poles to deter gliders – and set up a piece of homing equipment called Eureka.
The operation was a success and after a few weeks Corporal Medlicott and his colleagues were pulled out and redeployed to Greece, where there was a developing civil war and he was lucky to escape serious injury in a drop on a windswept airfield.
Leaving the Army after the war with the rank of Sergeant, he became a butcher in London.
Nick said: "He loved Church Stretton, and regularly returned to the town where his parents, siblings, and other relatives lived. In 1990 my dad came back to live in Shrewsbury."
Mr Medlicott was to recall: “We were young lads in the Parachute Regiment. We were aware that there were dangers. When I was on patrol in Italy my best mate got shot more or less beside me, and another got badly wounded.
“I was never scared. I thought perhaps we were always a little bit immune to it. It never worried any of us. I never saw one lad was who likely to pack it in. I think if they were going to pack it in, they were picked out during training at Ringway when were were doing our training jumps.”
He was to return to France years later for anniversaries and was able to pinpoint the exact spot where he had landed all those years ago.
“I don’t hold anything against the Germans,” he said.
“I used to box a little bit, and my brother boxed. You fight, knock each other about, but did not bear any malice. It was the same thing. Of course, we did not know all about the camps and what was happening to the Jews.”
While attending the Remembrance service at St Chad's Church in Shrewsbury in 2014 Mr Medlicott lost his medal for his service in the Greece campaign but happily after an appeal through the Shropshire Star it was found and returned by a parishioner.