D-Day commemoration is moving occasion for family of first black Paratrooper

When world leaders gather in Portsmouth on Wednesday they will meet at the place where Britain’s first black Paratrooper – a D-Day hero – spent his early days.

Sergeant Sidney Cornell grew up in Southsea, next to the common where the commemoration event to be attended by the Queen and Donald Trump will take place.

He was the son of American circus performer Charles Cornell, from Connecticut, who was one of the few black people in Portsmouth at the time.

Sidney supplemented his income as a builder by taking part in boxing matches in fairgrounds.

It prepared him well for Army life.

Just after midnight, in the opening action of D-Day, Sidney was dropped into Normandy with B Company of the 7th Parachute Battalion.

The Paras’ job was to hold crucial positions before the main landings took place on the beaches in the morning.

Sidney went on to fight in some of the toughest battles in northern France.

His proud descendants told the Mirror how he gained a reputation for bravery after being wounded four times.

Grand-daughter Penny Cornell, great-nephew Chris Cornell and nephew Garry Cornell are helping the producers of a new film about Sidney’s life.

Penny, 29, who lives in Havant, near Portsmouth, said: “It makes us all very proud to know what he achieved, and for him to be properly remembered in Portsmouth now.”

Sidney died in action in Germany in 1945 after being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery.

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