Amazing story of youngest paratrooper to fight in D-Day after running away from home aged 14 and sparking Saving Private Ryan-style search

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THE remarkable story of a 14-year-old boy who ran away from home to fight on the beaches of Normandy has been revealed.

Private Robert ‘Bobby’ Johns’ parents frantically searched for their teenage son but they were too late – he was killed just days before his 17th birthday.

Bournemouth News

Private Robert ‘Bobby’ Johns was shot dead by a German sniper close to Le Mesnil crossroads Normandy on July 23, 1944.[/caption]

Bournemouth News

Being a ‘big lad’ for his age, he was able to pass off as an 18 year old and he began training with the South of Lancashire Regiment[/caption]

Bournemouth News

After William and Daisy realised their youngest son was missing they alerted the War Office but to their heartbreak it was no luck[/caption]

Bobby, who was desperate to fight like his older brothers, was shot dead by a German sniper close to Le Mesnil crossroads Normandy on July 23, 1944.

After they realised their youngest son was missing they alerted the War Office but to their heartbreak it was no luck.

It was yet more heartbreak for his parents, Daisy and William, who had lost another serving son, William, who was killed in a submarine attack in 1940.

Seventy-five years on, a plaque commemorating the Paratrooper’s bravery and sacrifice will be erected on Friday on the street he was born I Portsmouth, Hants.

It will read: “Lived as he died, fearlessly.”

They didn’t know where Bob was for almost two years until he wrote them a letter from France in July 1944.


Bobby's niece, Jenny

His niece, Jenny Ward, 58, from Burton, Chrsitchurch, Dorset, said: “My family is so touched that Bob’s courage is being remembered in this way.

“The bravery of all the young men who gave their lives in the war should never be forgotten. We owe them so much.

“His story definitely had echoes of the film Saving Private Ryan.

“My grandparents were so distraught at losing William when his submarine was bombed in 1940.

“They didn’t know where Bob was for almost two years until he wrote them a letter from France in July 1944.

The plaque will be installed by Portsmouth City Council, who are commemorating each of the 119 men from the city who died between D-Day and the end of the Battle of Normandy.

When my grandparents found out he had been killed, they were devastated. My grandfather kept his letter in his wallet till the day he died.


Jenny

Bob’s other brother, Ron, who served on HMS Pembroke, was discharged after being shot in the eye by Bobby in a freak accident while playing in the garden in November 1939.

Despite being underage, Bobby, compelled by a desire to serve his country, was determined to follow in their footsteps.

Being a ‘big lad’ for his age, he was able to pass off as an 18 year old and he began training with the South of Lancashire Regiment.

He completed his jump course in January 1944. Five months later, in the early hours of D-Day, he parachuted into Normandy with A Company of the 6th Airborne Division.


In his letter to his parents he said he wished to be back with them instead of staying in this ‘God forgotten country’, signing off with the words ‘cheerio for now’ and five kisses.

Bobby’s parents never got over the loss of two of their sons, his father carrying his letter in his wallet for the rest of his life.

Jenny has a poignant photo of the couple visiting his grave at Ranville some time after the war.

“When my grandparents found out he had been killed, they were devastated. My grandfather kept his letter in his wallet till the day he died.

“I just wish they were still here and could witness the ceremony as they would have been so proud.”

Bournemouth News

Seventy-five years on, a plaque commemorating Pte Johns’ bravery and sacrifice will be erected on Friday on the street he was born I Portsmouth, Hants[/caption]

Bournemouth News

Bobby, who was quite big for his age, convinced the War Office that he was old enough to fight for his country[/caption]

Bournemouth News

Bobby’s parents didn’t know where he was for almost two years until he wrote them a letter from France in July 1944[/caption]


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