WHILE the country commemorates the D-Day landings in June 1944, a Ross-on-Wye soldier was on manoeuvres in the Far East.

William Alfred Cook was born in Ross on Wye in 1918 and volunteered to join the armed forces at the beginning of the Second World War. Tadgy, as he was known, was originally with the Herefords and later the King's Shropshire Light Infantry before becoming a member of the elite commando units.

Mr Cook was like a lot of veterans – he didn’t talk about his experience – but suddenly one day towards the end of his life he started talking about his experiences in the jungle to his son, also called William.

Tadgy vividly recalled the many landings on foreign shores, being in the swamps, the snakes, and the fact that all the wildlife that wanted to eat you or kill you, and that included the Japanese.

But little else was revealed by Tadgy himself until a box of papers was discovered by his son William many decades after he died in 1991.

The paperwork revealed that Tadgy had been a member of the elite Commando unit and was awarded a special commendation for his part in the Tunisian Campaign.

The commendation citation reads: “You and the men whom you command have been identified with the Tunisian campaign from the very day on which the initial landings were made.

“Since then you have been engaged actively on the most difficult mountainous terrain of the entire front.

“As the time draws near for you to depart from this theatre, it is a real pleasure to express to you and your gallant men my commendation for a job well done. 

“You have exemplified those rugged self-reliant qualities which the entire world associates with the very name ‘Commando’. Please transmit my appreciation to the officers and men in your command. 

It was signed by the officer commanding No 1 Commando at Allied Force Headquarters.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill had called for specially trained troops that would ‘develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast’.

The No 1 Commando was a unit of the British Commandos, which formed part of the British Army during the Second World War. It was raised in 1940 from the ranks of the existing independent companies. Operationally they carried out a series of small scale cross channel raids and spearheaded the Operation Torch landings in North Africa.

At first the commandos were a small force of volunteers who carried out small raids against enemy occupied territory but by 1943 their role had changed into lightly equipped assault Infantry which specialised in spearheading amphibious landings.

By the autumn of 1940 more than 2,000 men had volunteered for commando training, and what became known as the Special Service Brigade was formed into 12 units known as commandos each comprising of around 450 men.

By 1943 the commandos had moved away from small raiding operations and had been formed into brigades of assault infantry to spearhead future Allied landing operations. 

The Tunisian campaign (also known as the Battle of Tunisia) was a series of battles that took place in Tunisia during the North African campaign, between Axis and Allied forces from 17 November 1942 to 13 May 1943. 

During Operation Torch in November 1942, No 1 Commandos became the first unit to wear the commando green beret. During the Tunisian Campaign the commandos were involved in the first battle of Sedjenane between February and March 1943.

BEACH LANDINGS: Tadgy, pictured on the right, is leading the commandos on landing on foreign shores. (Submitted)

During a brief period of rest and relaxation back in the UK in September 1943, Tagdy married Cathie who he had met while she was in the WAAF during his training in Cornwall.

When the war was over Tagdy, like many others who had served their country he came back home and had to start life from scratch.

Firstly the couple lived in St Ives in Cornwall, where jobs were few and far between and after two years they decided to return back to Ross where they lived at the camp in Alton Road. 

Tadgy gained employment at a variety of jobs over the years including working at the Gas Works in Kyrle Street, British Rail and ended his career as a civil engineer.

Mr Cook was made redundant at the age of 63 years, but sadly he never worked again. But despite this Tadgy was a very popular local character who everyone loved and when he died, aged 73, in 1991 he was sorely missed.