A true hero will be laid to rest this week.
War veteran Leo Hall, 95, was one of the last men off the bridge at Arnhem.
President of the Central Lancashire Parachute Regiment Association up to his death, Leo’s funeral will take place at Leyland St Mary’s Church on Friday. Leo was a well decorated soldier who served with the 1st Airborne Division in the Second World War.
Terry Kenyon, secretary of the Leyland-based CLPRA, said: “Leo was at Arnhem on the bridge as a radio operator.
“He was the only person able to radio out. Just as he was coming out there was an explosion that blasted him against a wall.”
Leo was taken prisoner by the Germans.
“He finished up in a German hospital. He said they were very good. He had no complaints,” said Terry. “When he was in the hospital a German nurse, I think they were male nurses, came and put six cigarettes on top of his locker. He said, you know I’m a prisoner,’ he said you are a soldier and that meant a lot to him. The Angel of Arnhem, a local woman who helped a lot of soliders, meant a lot to him as well.”
Terry continued; “They marched him to the gulags in Russia, but when the Russians started attacking, they marched them back. They had seven weeks walking back.
“They were skin and bone and had nothing to eat properly. He’s been through a lot but didn’t say much. You always find those who have been through something don’t say a lot - but if anyone else said something he didn’t agree with, he let rip.”
Leo lived alone on Regent Road, Leyland.
Terry said: “He used to come to every meeting, he always came smart in his blazer. I think he missed the last two up to about August or September. His health started deteriorating. He had trouble walking. He’ll be missed because he was a tower of strength really. He had a good head on him.”
Leo, who served in North Africa and Italy before Arnhem wrote a book about his exploits called Fit to Drop.
“It’s sad but he was a hero, let’s put it that way,” said Terry. “He was an airborne warrior.”
A large number of military personnel are expected to attend Leo’s funeral. The call for standard bearers has gone out to Para branches nationwide.
“We’re hoping it’s going to be a big occasion – all the Leylanders knew him,” said Terry.
Leo died in Royal Preston Hospital where he was taken after a fall. Following the funeral service, there will be a gathering at Preston Crematorium at 1pm.
A reception will be held at the Wellington Park, Leyland, at 3pm but the hotel will be open from noon for those not attending the crematorium.
South Ribble Council’s Champion for Armed Forces, councillor Alan Ogilvie, said: “I would like to express my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Leo Hall. Leo was a great man who served his country during the war and served his community during peacetime as a respect teacher at Wellfield High School.
“He was a lover of drama and music and a talented pianist, who made a wonderful contribution to St Mary’s RC Church and St Mary’s RC Primary School. He shall be missed by many.”