Plucky Fred returns to scene of shooting

Memories: Fred Smith with son-in-law John Kay, who is taking him to Belgium
Memories: Fred Smith with son-in-law John Kay, who is taking him to Belgium
Share this article
Have your say

A Second World War army veteran is planning a return to the spot where he nearly died.

Today marks 68 years since 89-year-old Fred Smith was shot in Bure, Belgium.

Fred was fighting with the 6th Airborne Division, 13th (Lancashire) Battalion, The Parachute Regiment and had returned home after months of fighting from the early hours of D-Day until September/October 1944.

Along with his comrades Fred was sent back to England to re-group and rest and was sent on leave just before Christmas 1944.

However in December the Germans started the Ardennes offensive and Fred was re-called to barracks and travelled by boat to France on Christmas Day, which was also his birthday.

On January 3 the battalion attacked the village of Bure and the battle raged on until January 5.

More than 120 men were killed and many others wounded. Fred was one of the wounded.

He and another man were pinned down in a doorway near a church. They tried to make a run for it, but the other para was cut down by machine gun fire and died, Fred was shot and went down.

One of the officers saw this and had him rescued, the medic said he wasn’t worth saving, however the officer insisted and Fred was evacuated by ambulance.

Fred was evacuated back to England and made a recovery.

Fred, who lives in Ribbleton, will travel to Bure with his son-in-law John Kay in March for the Ardennes Commemoration.

The great-grandfather said: “I have been back, but it must have been about 12 years ago. I haven’t been back for a long time.

“I know I will probably be the only 13th battalion there.

“I am looking forward to it to see if any of the people who I served with at the time are there.

“It is only on occasions like that that you meet.

“We used to be able to meet when the battalion had a reunion.”

Of that near-fateful day all those years ago, Fred said: “I was very lucky.”

Fred was discharged from the army in 1946, he went to marry his late-wife Betty and had seven children.

Fred and members of his family also travel to Ranville, France every year.