Times obituary for Richard Fry MC

The 3rd Parachute Brigade, in which Richard Fry commanded a platoon in the 8th Parachute Battalion, endured a dispersed landing in Normandy in the early hours of D-Day.

Their objectives were spread over broken ground, the pilots had difficulty in finding their drop zones and the wind drove many parachutists off course into flooded fields and the treetops of the Bois de Bavent. Fry counted himself lucky to land safely with most of the 30 men of his platoon around him. After days of confused fighting, they were subject to relentless attacks by an enemy still confident of throwing the Allied invasion force back into the sea.

The prose of the citation for the Military Cross, awarded to Fry for his courage and leadership, fails to capture the drama and tension of intense battle where the enemy is superior in strength and firepower. Fry stood firm, stirring his men by example; he showed outstanding bravery and resolution. The village of Le Mesnil was his responsibility to hold, and he held it.

Richard Noël Fry was not a professional soldier, and Normandy was his first experience of action. Although he went on to serve with the 6th Airborne Division in Palestine in 1946, his ambition was to be a farmer, and he was, briefly, in Somerset in 1949.

It was there, while attending a sick cow, that he met Jeannie Brunskill- Davies, a kennel maid. They were married that year and had a son, Dominic, now director of communications at Marks & Spencer, and a daughter, Verity, a former dancer with English National Ballet and now a Pilates instructor. All survive him.

When farming palled, he joined the Metropolitan police, becoming a member of Special Branch while working on an evening degree course at Birkbeck College. A zoology degree in 1957 secured him a post as a schoolmaster at Christ’s Hospital, Horsham. He was a compassionate man and when he and his family came upon a road accident involving six teenagers, he extracted each in turn with great care, holding one in his arms until he died.

In 32 years at Christ’s Hospital he was twice a housemaster. He taught biology and chemistry, coached boxing and judo and was a Combined Cadet Force instructor with responsibility for the arduous annual training camps in the Brecon Beacons and the Lake District. After leaving Christ’s Hospital he eventually settled in Lyme Regis. In July 2016 he was appointed as a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur for his part in the Normandy landings and the eventual liberation of France. After his death his family found a small notebook of French phrases and his own rules of conduct, including “never give advice to anyone over the age of 11” and “never discuss ailments, pills or bowel problems”.

Richard Fry, MC, soldier and schoolmaster, was born on May 22, 1924. He died on October 11, 2016, aged 92

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