Alan Creswell Holman Pyman was born in 1921 to Frederick Creswell Pyman and Frances Gweneth of West Hartlepool, Co. Durham . To his family and especially his brother - Michael - he was nicknamed simply as ‘Zonk’.
Capt. Alan Pyman, formerly of the Royal Artillery, served in North Africa as a Troop section sub-altern of No.2 Troop of No.6 Commando from at least 13th January 1943 . During the Battle of Steamroller Farm on 26th February 1943 he distinguished himself by several times leading concerted counter attacks on German forces in the face of superior opposition. For this he was awarded the Military Cross.
The Military Cross citation reads:
‘ Feb 26th 1943 : Fedj-et-Attia (516128 Sheet 34). Lt. Pyman was in command of No.2 Troop. He was ordered to attack a Company of the Herman Goering Jaeger Regiment at hrs on 26th February. His own party was 46 strong. He attacked with vigour and skill driving this company into a prepared trap. He was then attacked by a second Company and lost and retook a hill-top at 528126 no less than three times. He withdrew the Troop after 6 hours fierce fighting when they had no ammunition left and having caused considerable enemy losses. He then led his men back to their own lines through enemy occupied territory without loss. A task which took him ten hours. This officer has shown outstanding courage on every occasion and is a first class example to his men.’
He was promoted to A/Captain by Lt-Col. Derek Mills-Roberts on 10th March 1943 , to be effective from 26th February 1943 , and was later promoted to Troop Captain of No.3 Troop of No. 6 Commando during the re-organisation of the Commando on 21st June 1943 .
On 6th June 1944 (D-Day) Capt. Pyman, supported by Lt. Donald Colquhoun and Lt. Marshall Leaphard, led No.3 Troop onto the Normandy beaches from LCI (S)s 503 & 516. No.3 Troop’s task was to breach the beach defences that remained after the beach assault divisions had landed, and to lead No.6 off the beach and on towards the Commando rendezvous area. Prior to the rendezvous area, No.3 Troop would split into sections and attack a pillbox and a nearby ’flak tower’. Once these assaults had been completed No.3 Troop where to join the rear of the Commando for the march to the River Orne and Caen Canal bridges.
Instead the men of No.6 Commando were delayed by resistance at the small Normandy town of Benouville , so circumnavigating the rest of the Commando, the men of No.3 Troop arrived at the captured bridges first. It is therefore no surprise that, as the ranking Commando officer reaching the bridge, Capt. Alan Pyman was the first Commando to relieve the brave airborne troops that had landed by glider and parachute earlier that day. However, as the film ‘The Longest Day’ portrays, history will record that it was Brigadier The Lord Lovat (Simon Frazer) who would greet the Airborne troops and apologise for being two and half minutes late in doing so, and not Capt. Alan Pyman.
Later that afternoon, after moving with the rest of No.6 Commando to the east of the Orne bridges and establishing a Commando base at Le Plein, Alan Pyman was ordered by Lt-Col. Mills-Roberts to proceed to the nearby town of Breville . There to make contact with the men of the 9th Parachute Battalion. No.3 Troop entered the town and found neither allied nor German troops in the town. Instead, many of the town’s citizens including the Mayor warmly greeted the men of No.3 Troop as liberators and followed them to the deserted German military HQ situated in a large townhouse. Shortly after establishing his Troop HQ in the townhouse, Capt. Pyman led Lt. Colquhoun’s section out on a reconnaissance patrol of the surrounding area in order to make contact with any allied paratroopers in the immediate area. During the patrol, in an attempt to contact some troops that were assumed to by allied paratroopers, Capt. Pyman was killed by enemy machine gun fire. He was just 23 years old on his death.
Capt. Alan Pyman MC is laid to rest in grave IVA.O.12. at the Ranville War Cemetry ( Calvados , France ).
The inscription on his headstone reads:
‘And laughter. Learnt of friends: And gentleness, in hearts at peace.’