Cheltenham D-Day hero endured being shot down and taken Prisoner of War

102-year-old Derek Tapson is a D-Day veteran with a remarkable story to tell
-Credit: (Image: Lilian Faithfull)


The 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings is being commemorated with a series of tributes taking place in the UK and France to honour the courageous individuals who risked their lives for freedom and peace. Among these brave souls is 102 year old Derek Tapson, a former Flight Lieutenant of the RAF 197 Typhoon Squadron.

Derek has been under the care of Lilian Faithful care charity at Astell House in Cheltenham for the past eight years. Despite being non-verbal and frail, the charity is paying tribute to him as the special occasion is marked.

Derek was trained as an RAF pilot in America. In December 1943 he joined 197 Squadron at Tangmere, flying Typhoons and operating against German radar sites, shipping and mechanical transport over France. From April 1944 he flew from Needs Oar Point bombing radar sites on the French coast.

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Derek was trained as an RAF pilot in America and in December 1943 he joined 197 Squadron at Tangmere, flying Typhoons and operating against German radar sites, shipping and mechanical transport over France. From April 1944 he flew from Needs Oar Point bombing radar sites on the French coast.

On D-Day, 6 June 1944 more than 130,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy. The largest seaborne invasion in history, it laid the groundwork for the liberation of Western Europe and was a major turning point in the Second World War.

The Legion D'Honneur badge given to Derek in 2015
The Legion D'Honneur badge given to Derek in 2015 -Credit:Lilian Faithfull

After D-Day the squadron continued beyond the beachhead, giving close support to Canadian troops (using B3 a specially prepared airfield at St Croix sur Mer). Bombing both German positions and their armour in Normandy.

In July 1944, he joined 84 group Support Unit flying Typhoons and supplies to Normandy beachhead airfields. Offensive operations continued over France, then the Netherlands and Germany, before Derek's remarkable story saw him shot down on February 8 1945 and captured to become a Prisoner of War in Germany.

The Battle of Normandy lasted until the end of August as British, American, French, Canadian, Polish and other Allied forces pushed German forces beyond the River Seine.

For Derek it has been an honour to remember D-Day as in 2015 he was given the French Government's Highest Award called The Legion D'Honneur for his and the Squadrons role in the liberation of France from occupation.

On this 80th anniversary, Lilian Faithfull at Astell House say it remains "a great privilege for all our staff. A hero and a gentleman with a very remarkable story."