Search

D-Day Anniversary: Romford parachutist one of first to land in Normandy

PUBLISHED: 14:00 06 June 2014 | UPDATED: 07:35 09 June 2014

Sgt Alexander Christopher Runacres

Sgt Alexander Christopher Runacres

Archant

In the early hours of D-Day, 27 parachutists were dropped out of a plane behind enemy lines and tasked with “holding” two bridges from the German’s while they waited on allies, and the largest seaborne invasion in history.

Pegasus bridge as it now looks Pegasus bridge as it now looks

One of the men was Sgt Alexander Christopher Runacres, of Romford, part of the 13th Parachute Battalion that set off from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire at 11pm on June 5 1944, heading for the village of Ranville in Normandy.

The men from the army’s 6th Airborne Division had to protect the crossings “at all cost” to stop the German’s getting to the beaches.

“They flew out the same time as the six gliders,” said Roy Goodey, Alex’s son-in-law. “They landed about two miles from Pegasus Bridge - they were dropped behind enemy lines. He was probably scared but he told me when people would ask ‘What do we do if the German’s come along, Sarge?’ he would say ‘f****** shoot them!’”

Three gliders landed on Pegasus Bridge and two on the Orne Bridge, capturing both. The other landed, wrongly, on the bridge on the River Dives.

Sgt Alex Runacres' items in the Pegasus Museum Sgt Alex Runacres' items in the Pegasus Museum

Many of the parachute battalions drowned in flooded areas or were dropped in the wrong area - resulting in some heavy losses.

One of the missions of the 13th Battalion was to blow up “Rommel’s Asparagus,” 13-16ft logs placed in fields by the German troops as a defence against the allied invasion.

Alex returned home in September after contributing to the victory.

In December of 1944 he fought in The Battle of the Bulge in Ardennes, Belgium, where he was wounded, by a “bloodly great Tiger tank” that “came round the corner and blew us all over the place,” as he would tell Roy.

He was wounded again in March 1945 after jumping from Dakota aircraft, where he was left hanging from a tree, but according to Roy, jumping out of planes was something he enjoyed.

“He never spoke much of his war years, only after a wee dram at Christmas. He would say ‘When you jumped out of that aircraft it was a wonderful feeling, you were invincible. And on the ground you’d fight the devil himself’.”

Roy met Alex in 1960 through Patricia, one of two daughters Alex had with wife Enid, who he met in Romford and married in 1939.

“He was a very hard man, a likeable man but a quiet man,” he said. “He never wanted to go back to Normandy. One of the things he did talk about was something he called ‘ringing the bell’. When they dropped out of the plane, they would jump through a coffin-shaped hole in the bottom. They would push each other along the aircraft so they fell out together, because if one hesitated they would land miles apart. ‘Ringing the bell’ was when you hit your nose on the edge and you would get a broken nose or a twisted nose. If that happened you had to buy the drinks!”

He was discharged from the army in March 1946 after further deployments in India, Singapore and Batavia, and returned to his trade as a bricklayer.

He would also win prizes for his beautiful gardens in Warden Avenue, Collier Row, which he maintained through some unorthodox methods.

“He once fired, via catapult, his daughters’ nail varnish bottles out of the window to keep cats off his best roses,” said Roy.

Alex sadly passed away in 2007 at Queen’s Hospital, a stones throw from where he was born, after a battle with Parkinson’s disease.

He left behind two children, five grandchilren and nine great-grandchildren, as well as his military gear, which is now housed, fittingly, in the Pegasus Museum in Normandy.

A proud serviceman, when out in his car Alex could often be heard uttering the words “course I ain’t lost, I was a flipping pathfinder.”

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Latest Romford News Stories

Yesterday, 17:00

Rats swarming in and out of bin bags, roaming confidently across front gardens and gnawing their way through fences – that is what residents of one Rainham street have found themselves up against.

Yesterday, 15:02

Fans can relive the unique musical talents of George Michael in a special tribute performance.

Yesterday, 12:19

Havering’s councillors look set to brand Sadiq Khan’s increased housing targets for the borough “unacceptable, unachieveable and unsustainable” at a meeting later this month.

Yesterday, 09:08

Medical failings stretching back more than two decades cost the NHS trust running Queen’s Hospital millions of pounds a year.

Yesterday, 08:13

An outspoken teenager from Romford is looking for two young people from the borough with mental health issues to take part in some mentoring sessions.

Mon, 17:00

A small Romford charity is celebrating their 20th anniversary with a special ball.

Mon, 16:30

Rail staff have shown their support for Havering Samaritans’ bid to turn “Blue Monday” into “Brew Monday”, by encouraging people to get together for a cup of tea and a chat.

Mon, 15:00

Havering Council cabinet members are set to discuss a proposed £30million grant from the GLA to pay for more affordable housing in the borough over the next three years.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Window and conservatory specialist Ken Rhodes talks about the possibilities for brightening up your home for the new year, and with their home improvement finance deals it’s possible for everyone to make some changes

Lisa and Jennie are cousins who grew up in the borough. Their grandmother, ‘Nanny Fish’ was a huge part of their lives, and while she had dementia and increasing needs, she really benefited from having care in her nephew’s loving home. This experience was the inspiration for Lisa and Jennie to set-up their own home care service.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists

News from your area

Competitions

Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now