“Wherever the fighting was heaviest throughout the day, Hollis displayed daring and gallantry… he prevented the enemy from holding up the advance of The Green Howards at critical stages… By his own bravery he saved the lives of many of his men.”
From the VC citation of CSM Stan Hollis
Stanley Elton Hollis was born in Middlesbrough where he lived and attended the local school until 1926 when his parents (Edith and Alfred Hollis) moved to Robin Hood’s Bay where Stan worked in his father’s fish and chip shop. In 1929, he became an apprentice to a Whitby shipping company to learn to be a Navigation Officer. He made regular voyages to West Africa but in 1930 he fell ill with blackwater fever which ended his merchant navy career.
Returning to North Ormesby, Middlesbrough he got a job as a lorry driver and married Alice Clixby with whom he had a son and a daughter. In 1939 he enlisted as a Territorial Army volunteer in 4th Battalion, The Green Howards. At the outbreak of World War II he was mobilised and joined the 6th Battalion, The Green Howards and went to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 where he was employed as the Commanding Officer’s dispatch rider. He was promoted from Lance Corporal to Sergeant during the evacuation from Dunkirk. He then fought from El Alamein to Tunis as part of the British 8th Army in the North African Campaign. Hollis was appointed Company Sergeant Major just before the invasion of Sicily in 1943 where he was wounded at the battle of Primosole Bridge.
On 6 June 1944, Operation Overlord took place involving over 6000 warships, transports and landing craft supporting 160,000 Allied Troops assaulting five Normandy beaches codenamed Gold and Sword (British soldiers), Ohama and Utah (American soldiers) and Juno (Canadian soldiers). Hollis was still a company sergeant major with the Green Howards, who were one of the assault battalions at Gold Beach. As the company moved inland from the beaches after the initial landings, Hollis went with his company commander to investigate two German pillboxes which had been by-passed. He rushed forward to the first pill-box, taking all but five of the occupants prisoner and then dealt with the second, taking 26 prisoners. Then he cleared a neighbouring trench. Later that day, he led an attack on an enemy position which contained a field gun and Spandau machine guns. After withdrawing he learned that two of his men had been left behind and told Major Lofthouse, his commanding officer, “I took them in. I will try to get them out.” Taking a grenade from one of his men Hollis carefully observed the enemy’s pattern of behaviour and threw it at the most opportune moment. Unfortunately, he had forgotten to prime the grenade but the enemy did not know this and kept their heads down waiting for it to explode. By the time they realised their mistake Hollis was on top of them and had shot them.
In September 1944 he was wounded in the leg and evacuated to England where he was decorated by King George VI at an investiture held in Buckingham Palace on 10 October 1944.
After the war, he spent several years as a sandblaster in a local steelworks. He later became a partner in a motor repair business in Darlington before becoming a ship’s engineer from 1950 until 1955. He then trained as a publican and ran the ‘Albion’ public house in Market Square, North Ormesby: the pub’s name was changed to ‘The Green Howard’. The public house was demolished in 1970 and he moved to become the tenant of the ‘Holywell View’ public house at Liverton Mines near Loftus.
Stanley E. Hollis VC died on 8 February 1972 and was buried in Acklam Cemetery Middlesbrough.
His Victoria Cross was bought in 1997 by medal collector Sir Ernest Harrison OBE, chairman of Racal and Vodafone. Harrison later presented the medal to the Green Howards Museum in Richmond, North Yorkshire. Ten years later, he purchased, for the Green Howards, the Normandy hut which Hollis had attacked.
Company Sergeant Major 4390973 (Warrant Officer Class II) Stanley Hollis’s VC was announced in the London Gazette on 17 August 1944. His citation reads:
“In Normandy, France, on 6th June 1944, during the assault on the beaches and the Mont Fleury battery, C.S.M. Hollis’s Company Commander noticed that two of the pillboxes had been by-passed and went with CSM Hollis to see that they were clear.
“When they were 20 yards from the pillbox, a machine-gun opened fire from the slit and CSM Hollis instantly rushed straight at the pillbox, firing his Sten gun. He jumped on top of the pillbox, recharged his magazine, threw a grenade in through the door and fired his Sten gun into it killing two Germans and making the remainder prisoner.
“He then cleared several Germans from a neighbouring trench. By his action he undoubtedly saved his Company from being fired on heavily from the rear and enabled them to open the main beach exit.
“Later the same day in the village of Crepon, the Company encountered a field gun and crew armed with Spandaus at 100 yards range. CSM Hollis was put in command of a party to cover an attack on the gun, but the movement was held up.
“Seeing this, CSM Hollis pushed right forward to engage the gun with a PIAT from a house at 50 yards range. He was observed by a sniper who fired and grazed his right cheek and at the same moment the gun swung round and fired at point blank range into the house. To avoid the falling masonry CSM Hollis moved his party to an alternative position. Two of the enemy gun crew had by this time been killed and the gun was destroyed shortly afterwards.
“He later found that two of his men had stayed behind in the house and immediately volunteered to get them out. In full view of the enemy who were continually firing at him, he went forward alone using a Bren gun to distract their attention from the other men. Under cover of his diversion, the two men were able to get back.
“Wherever the lighting was heaviest CSM Hollis appeared and, in the course of a magnificent day’s work, he displayed the utmost gallantry and on two separate occasions his courage and initiative prevented the enemy from holdng up the advance at critical stages.
“It was largely through his heroism and resource that the Company’s objectives were gained and casualties were not heavier and by his own bravery he saved the lives of many of his men.”