Gerry Brereton, (9 September 1921 – 2005) was a ballad-singing baritone English singer and Commando who was blinded during a raid on Sicily in 1943. Also played football for Derby County before his accident.
During the war, Gerry served with No. 3 Commando and in 1943 his unit took part in Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily. In July 1943, after successfully capturing the town of Cassibile, 3 Commando embarked on HMS Prince Albert with the aim of landing in the Bay of Agnone and then seizing the Ponte dei Malati bridge. The bridge connected Syracuse to Catania and as it was essential for a rapid advance, it had to be taken intact.
There was a shortage of landing craft and so the commandos had to disembark in two waves. The first wave landed around seven miles from the bridge and came under immediate enemy fire. A few hours later, the second wave landed and suffered the same fate. Despite this, the commandos managed to get off the beach and push inland. The first group was in position at the Malati bridge at 3 am on the 14th of July where the single platoon of Italians garrisoned there was quickly overcome. The commandos settled in to defend their position until reinforcements arrived.
Over the course of the next few hours they came under intensive mortar and shell fire and the number of casualties grew: 30 were killed, 66 wounded and 59 reported missing or captured. Among the wounded was Gerry Brereton who lost his sight in an explosion.
Before the war, Gerry had a promising career as a footballer with Derby County but now totally blind, he needed to find a new way to earn a living.
In 1946, the ‘St. Dunstan’s Review’ reported that Gerry had secured a job as a telephone operator at an iron foundry but less than a year later, there came the first of several announcements to say he could be heard in a radio broadcast. In 1949 he received a fantastic reception from the audience when he took part in Hughie Green’s ‘Opportunity Knocks’ and by 1950 he was described by one of his local BBC assistant senior producers as, “the North’s leading vocalist.” His success growing, Gerry decided to move with his family from his home in Derby to see if he could hit the big time in London.
He was a guest singer in a concert at the Royal Festival Hall and then spots in several radio and TV broadcasts culminated in his invitation to appear at the Royal Variety Performance. He walked on stage unaided, having memorised the route during rehearsals, and sang ‘Here in My Heart’. The audience took him to their hearts and he was the only artiste to be called back to take a second bow.
The next day, the newspapers were full of praise for him. A recording contract followed and it wasn’t long before Gerry released his first record on Parlophone, ‘Wyoming Lullaby’
(Info from Glarnies, Green Berets & Goons)
This is where the trail goes cold, although I did find a comment by Gerry’s son in law who wrote that he used to drive Gerry and his pianist Tim, around to some of their gigs”.
Also another comment by his Grand-daughter, “ He was a great singer in the 50's and used to perform with Eddie Calvert among others. He toured the country and sang at the London Palladium in 1952. My grandad sang Hold me, thrill me, kiss me in 1953 which can be found on the 1953 Time to Remember CD along with singing many others including The Bells of St Mary, You above all, Let the rest of the World go by and Trees . He was a great man but very private and his family were very important to him, hence he retired from the music business! However he still continued to entertain all his family and friends.”
“Sadly most of his own collection of memorabilia was lost during a flood he had at home many, many years ago. He was also a great golfer (even though he was blind!), playing with the likes of Bob Hope for charity. The Telegraph was able to supply me with a fantastic photo of them. He certainly had a very active (if not quiet life), along with being a great comedian, the loss of his sight never stopped him doing anything. He was a member of St. Dunstan's, who do a lot of work for ex-service men & women who loose their sight. The only reason I ever knew as to why he never carried on with his showbiz career, was that he wanted to spend more time with his family. “(source “Whirlygigtv.yuku.com)