Charlie’s memories of war
PUBLISHED: 08:00 17 March 2015 | UPDATED: 09:18 17 March 2015
THIS month marks the 70th anniversary of the Rhine Crossings, one of the most pivotal events in World War Two, and one 96-year-old Clevedon man has been reminiscing about his involvement in the conflict.
Charlie Sparey, who lives in Thackeray Avenue, was involved in the war from January 1940 to July 1946 and served in a number of countries including Gibraltar and India.
Charlie, who was born in Congresbury and captained the village’s football team, said: “In June 1939 I registered with the 1st Militia together with two other twenty-year-old lads from Congresbury.
“Come January 1940 I found myself on a train from Bristol Temple Meads to Plymouth. I was to join the 4th Battalion Devonshire Regiment.”
He served in Normandy before returning in September 1944 where he was asked by the chairman of Congresbury Parish Council and member of the Royal British Legion, J Gifford England, to salute at the cross during Salute the Soldier week. One of the first things he did when he was discharged in 1946 was to join the Congresbury branch of the Royal British Legion, which he is still a member of to this day.
On March 24, 1945, an airborne invasion of Germany known as Operation Varsity, or the Rhine Crossings, was under way.
Charlie said: “Each glider carried 26 men. All was quiet in the glider except when Johnny Belfitt jumped up as though he had been shot. Nobody else moved. All around us there were planes and gliders in flames.
“We crash landed through telegraph wires into a grassy bank. A few women with their hands on their head ran past and then a tank with Ford emblazoned on it scurried away. I still do not know if it was an enemy or one of ours.
“The crossings were definitely the beginning of the end of the war.”
After advancing towards the Baltic and taking part in jungle warfare in India, Charlie got home in April 1946 to his wife, Eve, and his job at Bristol Post Office.
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