Friends of Emsworth Memorial Garden
ANDREW PARES, MBE (Military), CBE. 1911-2006
Andrew Pares (my father) was one of the lucky ones. He survived World War II and lived to 95 years of age.
As a Captain in the Durham Light Infantry, 113th Lt Ac-Ac Regiment of Artillery, he departed from the East Coast in a cramped Landing Craft heading for Normandy. The very stormy conditions left his men seasick and weakened when they landed on the beach at St Aubin-sur-Mer, Emsworth's twin town. It was D-Day Plus 8 in June 1944. One of the 40mm guns stuck in the sand and with the abnormally high tide rushing in, it was soon under water. The men hid in the dunes to wait for the tide to recede in order to rescue the gun, but it was irretrievably ruined by the salt water and was left as war debris on the beach.
The group set off inland and were involved in some sniping action in a Normandy orchard where retreating German troops were hiding. Later a group of very young, frightened German soldiers surrendered and were brought to my father's tent because he could speak German (and French). He was given the task of taking the prisoners in an army lorry and finding the two co-ordinates on the map, designated for holding prisoners. The prisoner of war camp was not ready and he was delayed returning to his Battalion, who had moved on and were difficult to locate.
Andrew Pares was awarded the MBE for his most grisly task of the War. He was appointed Adjutant in charge of the burial parties at Belsen-Bergen Concentration Camp. 15,000 bodies were buried in mass graves and the German SS Guards and Hungarian troops were put to work. One good outcome of the liberation of Belsen by the British Army was that 15,000 prisoners were rescued and nursed back to health from starvation and typhoid and then evacuated.
After the War my father devoted much time to community and charitable works, becoming Leader of the Council and Mayor of the London Borough of Barnet, for which he was decorated with the CBE.
As a Normandy Veteran he returned to St Aubin in June 1994 and attended the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings, receiving the French Jubilee Medal from the President du Conseil Regional de Basse-Normandie at the Town Hall in Caen.
When I come to the Memorial Garden in Emsworth, I pause to give thanks for my father's full life and for his sacrifice of 6 years fighting for his country.
LESLEY HARRIS, Stanley Road, Emsworth