Care home pays tribute to Cheltenham D-Day veteran

Cheltenham care home, Astell House, is paying tribute to one of its residents who served in the RAF on D-Day, as the country marks the 80th anniversary of the pivotal Normandy landings.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
Lilian Faithfull Care is paying tribute to Astell House resident, Derek Tapson, who served as part of the RAF 197 Typhoon squadron which flew on D-Day.

A Cheltenham care home resident who fought on D-Day is being honoured as the UK and France commemorate 80 years since the Normandy landings. 

Derek Tapson, who is 102-years-old and lives at Lilian Faithfull Care's Astell House in Cheltenham, served as flight lieutenant of the RAF 197 Typhoon squadron and flew on D-Day on Tuesday 6 June 1944. 

Trained as an RAF pilot in America, he joined 197 squadron at Tangmere in West Sussex in December 1943 and flew Typhoons during strikes against German radar, shipping and mechanical transport sites in France.

From April 1944, he flew from RAF Needs Oar Point in Lymington, bombing radar sites on the French coast; and on D-Day, he flew fighter sweeps to support the 130,000 Allied troops landing on the beaches in Normandy.

Derek continued to provide support to Canadian troops using a specially prepared airfield at St Croix sur Mer after the landing — and joined 84 group support unit in July 1944 to fly supplies to the Normandy beachhead airfields as offensive operations continued over France, Holland and Germany.

He was shot down in February 1945 and taken as a Prisoner of War in Germany. The fight for Normandy continued until the end of August 1945, when the Allied forces pushed German troops back beyond the River Seine and 197 squadron was disbanded. 

Acknowledging his bravery, Derek was awarded the Legion D'Honneur — the French government's highest award — in 2015 for his and 197 squadron's role in the liberation of France. 

He is now non-verbal and frail, but still has a smile on his face, with the team at Astell House saying that caring for Derek for the last eight years has been 'a great privilege for all our staff' and described him as 'a hero and a gentleman'.

Thursday 6 June 2024 is 80 years since the D-Day landings, with community and commemorative events, including the lighting of a beacon on Robinswood Hill in Gloucester, taking place to mark the occasion.

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