Princess Diana’s father led British army unit to liberate two French towns

A picture of John Spencer during his army days in the 1940s. The 20-year-old lieutenant led a small regiment to help liberate two French towns in 1944

A picture of John Spencer during his army days in the 1940s. The 20-year-old lieutenant led a small regiment to help liberate two French towns in 1944

A picture of John Spencer during his army days in the 1940s. The 20-year-old lieutenant led a small regiment to help liberate two French towns in 1944

Princess Diana‘s father led a British army unit to liberate two French towns her brother Charles has revealed – after receiving a letter ‘out of the blue.’

The 9th Earl Spencer, said he only recently learned about the heroic exploits of his father, John Spencer, who served in the Royal Scots Greys from 1944 to 1945, during the Second World War.

The 55-year-old received correspondence from a person in France, saying the 8th Earl Spencer led a unit that helped liberate two towns – La Neuve-Lyre and La Vieille-Lyre – from Nazi tyranny.

Earl Spencer, said he previously knew little of his father’s time in the war, but has now received a fascinating insight into what happened after he landed on Juno Beach, in France, on June 7 1944, a day after D-Day.

He told NBC’s Today Programme: ‘A few years back I got a letter from Normandy: ‘Your home is called Althorp – might you know who a Lieutenant Althorp was, in 1944?’

‘The eldest son in my family is called Lord Althorp. I knew my father was fighting in the war then. I replied that it must have been him.

Charles Spencer, received correspondence from a person in France, saying the 8th Earl of Spencer led a unit that helped liberate two towns - La Neuve-Lyre and La Vieille-Lyre - from Nazi tyranny

Charles Spencer, received correspondence from a person in France, saying the 8th Earl of Spencer led a unit that helped liberate two towns - La Neuve-Lyre and La Vieille-Lyre - from Nazi tyranny

Charles Spencer, received correspondence from a person in France, saying the 8th Earl of Spencer led a unit that helped liberate two towns – La Neuve-Lyre and La Vieille-Lyre – from Nazi tyranny

Diana, Princess of Wales enters St. Paul's Cathedral on the hand of her father, Earl Spencer, for her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales July 29, 1981 in London, England

Diana, Princess of Wales enters St. Paul's Cathedral on the hand of her father, Earl Spencer, for her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales July 29, 1981 in London, England

Charles, the ninth Earl Spencer, attending Harry and Meghan's wedding in May 2018 at Windsor Castle with his wife Karen

Charles, the ninth Earl Spencer, attending Harry and Meghan's wedding in May 2018 at Windsor Castle with his wife Karen

Diana, Princess of Wales enters St. Paul’s Cathedral on the hand of her father, Earl Spencer, for her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales July 29, 1981 (left). Charles, the ninth Earl Spencer, attending Harry and Meghan’s wedding in May 2018 at Windsor Castle with his wife Karen (right)

John Spencer served in the Royal Scots Greys from 1944 to 1945, during the Second World War

John Spencer served in the Royal Scots Greys from 1944 to 1945, during the Second World War

John Spencer served in the Royal Scots Greys from 1944 to 1945, during the Second World War

‘This is how I learned that, while a 20-year-old lieutenant, he’d led a small force of British troops who liberated two Norman villages, La Vieille-Lyre and La Neuve-Lyre, 80-odd miles west of Paris.’ 

John Spencer, known as Lieutenant Althorp during his service, was entrusted with a small regiment, which included four Sherman tanks – that were widely used by Allied forces during the conflict.

What did John Spencer do after the Second World War?

After the conflict, the 8th Earl of Spencer, served as an aide to the Governor of South Australia from 1947 to 1950.

He was an equerry to George VI, from 1950-1952, and to the Queen herself in the first two years of her reign.

He married Diana’s mother Frances Ruth Roche in 1954, and the couple had five children, including a son, John, who died an hour after he was born in 1960.

The couple divorced in 1969 and in 1976 he married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the daughter of novelist Barbara Cartland.

On his Father’s death in 1975, he become the eighth Earl Spencer. He died from a heart attack in 1992, aged 68.

The liberation of La Neuvre-Lyre took place on August 23, 1994.

French historian Eddy Florentin in his book ‘Montgomery crosses the Seine’, translates a story of the young lieutenant’s entrance to the town.

It says: ‘They provide us with calva, champagne, eggs, flowers and fruits. We are kissed, hugged, shaking hands, jostling each other, while two or three hundred civilians circle around us, singing and dancing.

‘What a wonderful summer day! The first vacation we have enjoyed for three months.’

The story adds that his unit was offered to stay in the area by the mayor, but he responded that they must move on as their ‘is still an enemy to fight.’ 

The connection was made by local French historian Basil Kourotchkine, and librarian and teacher June Gillis.

Gillis said about her discovery: ‘I was excited! People are very proud of the fact that (Princess Diana’s) father liberated these two villages.’

After he found out, Earl Spencer traveled to France to take part in the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the towns. 

Charles Spencer tweets a picture of the memorial to the Royal Scots Greys and his father. Dedicated to 'our british liberators'

Charles Spencer tweets a picture of the memorial to the Royal Scots Greys and his father. Dedicated to 'our british liberators'

Charles Spencer tweets a picture of the memorial to the Royal Scots Greys and his father. Dedicated to ‘our british liberators’

John Spencer, pictured in his army fatigues, landed on the beaches on France a day after D-Day

John Spencer, pictured in his army fatigues, landed on the beaches on France a day after D-Day

John Spencer, pictured in his army fatigues, landed on the beaches on France a day after D-Day

John Spencer, known as Lieutenant Althorp during his service, led a small unit that helped liberate La Neuve-Lyre and La Vieille-Lyre, located approximately 80 miles west of Paris

John Spencer, known as Lieutenant Althorp during his service, led a small unit that helped liberate La Neuve-Lyre and La Vieille-Lyre, located approximately 80 miles west of Paris

John Spencer, known as Lieutenant Althorp during his service, led a small unit that helped liberate La Neuve-Lyre and La Vieille-Lyre, located approximately 80 miles west of Paris

He was told not many would turn up due to the French taking vacation during August, but 300 people appeared waving flags and with bagpipes playing.

Earl Spencer added: ‘We gathered round a memorial thanking the ‘British liberators,’ and I felt great pride when the commanding officer that day was mentioned — my father.’

During the commemoration there was a release of pigeons and a poppy wreath placed a the foot of the memorial to the men who helped liberate the towns.

In his address, Marc Morière , the Mayor of La Vieille-Lyre, said: ‘It’s a pride for us to welcome you, Charles. Seventy-five years ago, on August 23, 1944, at around 3:00 pm, your father arrived first, the young lieutenant who was only 20 years old.

John Spencer was the father of beloved Princess Diana (pictured)

John Spencer was the father of beloved Princess Diana (pictured)

John Spencer was the father of beloved Princess Diana (pictured)

‘And how to pass over in silence that you are also the brother of Lady Diana, the one whom the whole world admired for his kindness, his beauty and his kindness. 

‘She was loved by the French, and her disappearance on August 31, 1997, almost twenty-two years ago, made us all upset. ‘

After the conflict, the 8th Earl of Spencer, served as an aide to the Governor of South Australia from 1947 to 1950.

He was an equerry to George VI, from 1950-1952, and to the Queen herself in the first two years of her reign.

He married Diana’s mother Frances Ruth Roche in 1954, and the couple had five children, including a son, John, who died an hour after he was born in 1960.

The couple divorced in 1969 and in 1976 he married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the daughter of novelist Barbara Cartland.

On his father’s death in 1975, he become the eighth Earl Spencer. He died from a heart attack in 1992, aged 68.

Lord Spencer and Lady Spencer sitting hand in hand in their hotel suite while on a visit to Munich

Lord Spencer and Lady Spencer sitting hand in hand in their hotel suite while on a visit to Munich

Lord Spencer and Lady Spencer sitting hand in hand in their hotel suite while on a visit to Munich

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