Tod Sweeney

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Henry John Sweeney
Nickname(s) Tod Sweeney
Born (1919-06-01)1 June 1919
Blyth, Northumberland
Died 4 June 2001(2001-06-04) (aged 82)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1942–1974
Rank Colonel
Unit Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Commands held 1st Green Jackets
Awards Military Cross
Other work Director General of the Battersea Dogs Home

Colonel Henry John Sweeney MC (1 June 1919 – 4 June 2001), known as Tod Sweeney, was a platoon commander in the coup de main operation by gliderborne troops on D Day, 6 June 1944, tasked to seize two vital bridges before the main assault on the Normandy beaches. The following day he was awarded the Military Cross for rescuing a wounded member of his platoon while under heavy fire near Escoville.

Early life and World War II[edit]

Sweeney was born in Blyth, Northumberland and educated at Douai School, Berkshire. He entered Douai Abbey as a novice monk. At the outbreak of the Second World War he enlisted in the Royal Army Pay Corps later volunteering to join the infantry. He was commissioned into the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and shortly afterwards transferred to the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry joining the 2nd (Airlanding) Battalion (the 52nd) in 1942.

In 1943 the battalion transferred from the 1st Airborne Division to 6th Airlanding Brigade, 6th Airborne Division. He was a platoon commander in Major John Howard's 'D' Company coup de main Operation Deadstick on D Day. The task was to seize Benouville bridge, now known as Pegasus Bridge, over the Caen canal and Ranville bridge, now known as Horsa Bridge, over the River Orne. Sweeney and his No 23 platoon's objective was, with two other platoons, to capture the Ranville bridge.

On D Day his platoon landed approximately 500 yards from Ranville bridge. On arrival at the bridge he left one section on the west bank and crossed the bridge with the other two sections. He met up with Lieutenant Dennis Fox on the far side of the bridge and found Fox's platoon in control of the bridge and surrounding area. By 00.26 hours on D Day both bridges had been secured. The operation to capture the bridges was portrayed in the film The Longest Day (film) (1962).

Sweeney was awarded the Military Cross for rescuing a wounded corporal of his platoon on 7 June 1944 while under heavy fire near Escoville. Sweeney was wounded in Normandy in July 1944 and evacuated to England. He rejoined the 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (the 52nd) in October 1944. He served in the Ardennes and the Netherlands from December 1944 to February 1945. He served in Operation Varsity: the air assault landing over the Rhine on 24 March 1945. He took part in the advance across Germany to the Baltic sea. In October 1945 the 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (the 52nd) was posted to Palestine.

Post World War II[edit]

In 1946 Col. Sweeney was appointed instructor at the Infantry Battle School near Haifa. He served as adjutant of the 1st Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 43rd and 52nd in the Suez Canal Zone from 1951 to 1953. He commanded the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry guard of honour at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953. The senior warrant officer of the guard of honour was RSM, later Major John Stevenson MBE DCM.

He served in Cyprus as a company commander from 1956 to 1959 and was mentioned in dispatches. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1962. Sweeney commanded the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) at Penang from April 1962 to January 1964. The regiment was deployed to Brunei in December 1962 following an Indonesia backed uprising. He was mentioned in dispatches. He commanded the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) in Borneo during the confrontation with Indonesia and was again mentioned in dispatches.

On 1 January 1966 the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) became the 1st Battalion, The Royal Green Jackets. He was Defence Advisor to the U.K. Mission to the United Nations in New York from 1966 to 1969. He then became Head of Public Relations HQ BAOR, Germany. He was Deputy Commandant of the School of Infantry from 1971 to 1974.

Sweeney retired from the Army in 1974. He was Director General of the Battersea Dogs Home from 1974 to 1988. He was the subject of a This is Your Life programme presented by Eamonn Andrews in 1985. Sweeney was Chairman of the 43rd & 52nd Old Comrades Association. In retirement he lived in Warwickshire and later in Shepton Mallet, Somerset.

Sweeney married Geraldine Follett in 1942 with whom he had two sons and three daughters. He died on 4 June 2001; a memorial service was held at Douai Abbey, Woolhampton, Berkshire.

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