TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the last remaining survivors of a daring D-Day raid.

Stan Watson, from Clacton, was in the first glider to land at Pegasus Bridge in the opening moments of the Allied invasion of Normandy.

The private’s role in the surprise attack – codenamed Operation Deadstick – was to rain mortar shells down on enemy machine gun positions on the opposite side of the bridge, which spanned the Caen Canal.

Stan and the rest of his platoon were momentarily knocked unconscious as their glider, Glider 91, landed and his mortar was damaged.

They touched down just yards from the eastern end of the bridge and Stan was in the first group of soldiers to cross it.

At about 9am, he was among a small group of men sent into the village of Benouville, where 7 Para – including big-screen actor Richard Todd – were fighting.

Stan, Corporal Bill “Jack” Bailey and Paddy O’Donnell were given the mission of taking out German snipers in the church.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

  • AT HOME: Stan Watson with actor Neal Ward, who plays him in the film, Pegasus Bridge, and director Lance Nielsen

The paratroopers’ raid is being made into a feature film called Pegasus Bridge, starring Jason Flemyng, Phil Davis, Danny Webb and Rupert Penry-Jones.

Stan was one of the last surviving members of Glider 91 and is portrayed by Neal Ward in the film.

The actor and writer/director Lance Nielsen visited the veteran at his home a year ago as part of their research for the film.

The production team said: “Stan had a great sense of humour and was thoroughly independent when we were able to meet him at his house in Clacton.

“Neil Ward, who plays Stan, expresses his sadness, as does director Lance Nielsen and Pegasus production team.”

An interview with Stan will be screened at the premiere of Pegasus Bridge. The film’s social media producer Alex Tabrizi said: “Although there are other survivors from the units portrayed in the film – Lovat’s Commandos, the 7th Parachute Battalion, and the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry who were glider infantry – Stan Watson was the only one living at the time the film went into development who had an actual speaking role in the film.

“As Stan was traced as one of the last surviving members of Glider 91, the production cast the role early on, so the actor who would play him, could meet him.

“We conducted an interview with him and part of it will be shown ahead of the film at the premiere.”

The Veterans’ Charity also paid tribute to Stan.

A spokesman said: “We are very sad to learn that D-Day veteran Stan Watson has passed away.

“He returned to Normandy on several occasions in the late 2000s and was a pleasure to chat to.

“He didn’t remember many of his comrades at first and had little recollection of events, but with each visit, his memories returned and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy the visits and spending time with former comrades.”