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Jonathan Charles Tomlin and Sidney Bates

This story and photo are shared by the Trust with kind permission from Chris Bates, nephew of Sidney Bates

Corporal Sidney Bates is the only Victoria Cross recipient to be named on the British Normandy Memorial. You can hear about his full Story here but serving alongside him was one of his comrades and close friend, Private Jonathan Charles Tomlin, whose death in action led to Sid carry out the action in which he won his VC.

In 1940 Sid joined the newly formed young soldiers Battalion, a unit established to train new volunteer recruits under the call up age. After 6 weeks training the boys were given rifles and ammunition and sent to guard vital points & aerodromes against German invasion.

Sid spent time at RAF Watton later being sent to train at Gorleston before being posted to the 1st Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment billeted at Wimbledon South West London. It was here that Sid met Jonathan Charles Tomlin or "Tojo" as he was nicknamed because he resembled the then Japanese prime minister because of his wearing of small round spectacles and being of a small stature.

Tojo became the brunt of many jokes in the billet and Sid, being a few years older and with them both being London boys, Tojo from Bethnal Green East London and Sid from Camberwell South East London Sid seemed to look out for him and took him under his wing. Sid also had a younger brother Bert whom he was very close to and the same age as Tojo so he seemed to become Tojo’s big brother!

Sid's younger brother Bert tried to join up with him in 1940 but his true age was found out, being only 17 at the time, and was sent home later to join the Royal Navy in 1942 and on one of the first minesweepers in on D-Day at Omaha beach.

Sid and Tojo became great friends in the time before Tojo's death whether it be as a surrogate brother or the fact that Sid saw it as his duty to protect Tojo being younger and smaller from the jokes of others.

The 1st Battalion, Norfolk Regiment landed on D-Day and then advanced through Normandy. By the beginning of August they were near Sourdeval where they fought German troops of the 10th SS Panzer Division in battle on the Perrier Ridge. Tojo was a bren gunner in Sid's platoon.

It seemed their position would be over run by the enemy so Sid decided to move his few men to a new position where they could better counter the enemy's advance. During this move Tojo was shot and wounded. Sid was dragging him to the cover of a nearby hedgerow when Tojo took a machine gun burst to his face and was killed.

At this point Sid realised the situation was critical and decided to advance alone onto the enemy some 80 SS Grenadiers.

My information on Tojo and my uncle comes direct from discussions I had in 1986 during the unveiling of Sid's memorial on the Perrier Ridge with their mates who were at the battle. They were: Ernie Seaman, the stretcher bearer who bought Sid in; Bill Holden, a Bren gun carrier driver in Sid's unit; Bill Ward, who was with Sid and Tojo during the battle and a few more including Father Green who was with Sid when he died.

Tojo was initially buried in Sourdevalle but on 29 January 1946 he and 11 others buried alongside him were reinterred in Tilly sur Seulles British Cemetery.

FALLEN HEROES

  • JONATHAN CHARLES TOMLIN

    Army • PRIVATE

    Royal Norfolk Regiment
    1st Battalion

    DIED 06 August 1944

    AGE 19

    SERVICE NO. 14626579

  • SIDNEY BATES

    Army • CORPORAL

    Royal Norfolk Regiment
    1st Battalion

    DIED 08 August 1944

    AGE 23

    SERVICE NO. 5779898

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