Freddie Gilroy's fellow comrade celebrates 100th birthday

When it comes to World War II, one could say that every soldier has a story to tell.

Friday, 29th March 2019, 3:59 pm
Updated Friday, 29th March 2019, 4:03 pm
Andrew Jordan pictured on a previous birthday party with daughter Irene and his son Andrew.
Andrew Jordan pictured on a previous birthday party with daughter Irene and his son Andrew.

A particularly interesting one is that of Andrew Jordan, who discovered, just months before his 100th birthday, that he had a special connection with war hero Freddie Gilroy – who is immortalised with a sculpture on Scarborough’s Royal Albert Drive.

Born and raised in Glasgow, Andrew is celebrating his milestone birthday today.

His experience in the army began on February 22 1940 when he was called up to join the war at the age of 21.

Andrew Jordan fought in the same division as Freddie Gilroy.

As part of his role in the Royal Signals, Andrew was billeted to Whitby, where he was tasked with guarding the pier and lighthouse, and to Driffield.

According to his family, Andrew saw action in Norway, Poland and Germany and by D-Day he was a corporal attached to the 11th Armoured Division, which they later found out was the division in which Freddie Gilroy served.

James Mitchell, Andrew’s son in law, said: “On a recent trip to Scarborough me and my wife were walking along North Bay with Andrew and we stopped at the metal sculpture of Freddie Gilroy.

“My wife read the description to him and at the mention of the 11th Armoured Division he interrupted with ‘I was in the 11th’. The interruptions continued when Belsen and then Hamburg were read out.

Irene and James Mitchell who told the story of Andrew Jordan.

“We were quite shocked because prior to this he didn’t really talk,” said Andrew’s daughter, Irene.

“I suppose it wasn’t a particularly pleasant time so when he came back he just got on with his own life. We knew he was in the army and that was it.”

Like Freddie Gilroy, Andrew took part in the Normandy landings, fighting his way ashore on Juno beach to free German-occupied France.

He then proceeded eastwards towards Hamburg, taking part in the Battle for Caen, one of the Allies’ main objectives.

Unlike Freddie, though, who went on to liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April 1945, Andrew’s unit was stopped due to the risk of disease.

His name was mentioned in a dispatch for distinguished service published in the London Gazette on August 9 1945.

“I’m really proud,” said Irene, “there must be thousands of soldiers whose stories don’t get told because they simply die with them.

“I’m glad that we took him down to the statue,” added James, “otherwise we would have never known. He was a true unsung hero.”

The ‘Freddie Gilroy and the Belsen Stragglers’ steel structure was made by Ray Lonsdale, and was paid for and donated to the town by Maureen and Michael Robinson.

The sculpture is based on a retired miner Ray became friends with who turned out to also be one of the first soldiers to relieve the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of World War II.