Six of our Jewish Glider Pilots:
Last Voices of our Eagles who Landed
By Martin Sugarman BA
The Glider Pilot Regiment (GPR) was one of the elite units of the British forces in the Second World War. It was formed in February 1942 to transport paratroops and other Special Forces and their equipment on raids; it was part of both the Army Air Corps (AAC) and the Paratroop Regiment and, although with their own badge, they wore the Paras' red beret. RAF glider pilots served with and were attached to them but were a separate unit, with different RAF insignia and berets, albeit with the same missions and skills. The GPR motto was Nihil est Impossibilis ("Nothing is Impossible").
Highly trained volunteers, the pilots carried out their missions behind enemy lines in the most dangerous of circumstances, spearheading airborne invasions with paratroopers and their equipment, in slow, vulnerable, wooden aircraft. Their casualties were invariably high. These pilots, and the paratroopers whom they mostly transported, worked, and fought alongside, are the subject of many books. Among the best are N. Cherry, Red Berets and Red Crosses: The Story of the Medical Services in the 1st Airborne Division in World War II (Renkum, Netherlands: R. Sigmond, 2014); M. Dank, The Glider Gang (London: Cassell, 1977); Godfrey Freeman, Escape from Arnhem (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2010); Martin Middlebrook, Arnhem 1944 (London: Penguin, 1994); J. Hey, Roll of Honour at Arnhem (Arnhem: Arnhem Airborne Museum, n.d.). In my Fighting Back (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2010), the chapter on Arnhem refers to many books which mention Jewish Paras and glider pilots, among the best being G. Powell, Men at Arnhem (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 1998); J. O’Reilly, Delhi to Arnhem (Thoroton, Notts: Thoroton Books, 2009); and R. Seth, Lion with Blue Wings (London: Gollancz, 1955). On D-Day glider operations, see Stephen Ambrose, Pegasus Bridge (London: Simon and Schuster, 1988) and Claude Smith, The History of the Glider Pilot Regiment (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2014). The Rhine crossing story is told by Tim Saunders, Operation Varsity (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2008) and Stephen L. Wright, The Last Drop (Mechanicsburg, pa: Stackpole Books 2008).
Most notable, however, are the accounts by the Jewish pilots and Paras themselves, including Major Lewis Golden obe Mil., Echoes of Arnhem (London: W. Kimber, 1984); Louis Hagen mm, Arnhem Lift (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 1993); Leo Heaps, Grey Goose of Arnhem (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976) and The Evaders (Annapolis, md: Naval Institute Press, 2004); and Captain Lipman Kessel mc, Surgeon at Arms (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 1976).
Bertie Ginsberg (Operation Varsity, Rhine Crossing), Frank Ashleigh (or Greenbaum – Arnhem), and Raphael Shovel (D-Day and Arnhem) are probably the last survivors of the Jewish glider pilots who took part in operations in the war. I have been fortunate and privileged to be able to tape their memoirs for the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) Museum, albeit some years apart, and present here their three distinct stories. Even though memories are clouded, much has been checked with their personal records and this research report gives a snapshot of how British Jews served, those 70 years ago, in one of the most dangerous and daring units of the British armed services. All three men are now in their nineties, so let these last voices be a tribute to all the Jewish glider pilots who served or died, and all the Glider Pilot brotherhood alongside whom Bertie, Frank, and Raphael fought.
The other three of this report's six glider pilots (Ernest Simion, who was killed at Arnhem, and Hyman Woltag and Louis Hagen/Levy, who both survived the battle) are no longer alive but I have been able to piece together much of their story through eyewitness and other accounts. I am indebted especially to the superb work done by Mike Peters and Luuk Buist in their Glider Pilots at Arnhem (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2009) and to various websites containing stories from the men who fought in the GPR. (1)
1806751 1st Pilot Warrant Officer Bertie Ginsberg, RAFVR
Bertie Ginsberg was born on 20 April 1922 in Ladbroke Gardens in Kensington, London, the son of Jewish immigrants, David and Fanny, née Marber. After leaving Bayswater Jewish Elementary (Primary) School, aged fourteen, Bertie was apprenticed to Gertler’s, the diamond setters, at 45 Hatton Garden. Following the example of his cousin John Lush (or Lash), who became a Flight Lieutenant in Bomber Command, and inspired by the actor Anton Walbrook in the film "Dangerous Moonlight" (1941), Bertie wanted desperately to become a pilot. On the day war broke out, Sunday 3 September 1939, he went to the RAF recruiting office in Tottenham Court Road and volunteered, underage, without telling his parents. Here he was confronted by one Sergeant Goldberg who, after asking him a few technical questions, advised him to go and study some more mathematics and science, as pilots needed to be more qualified than Bertie was.
Undeterred, Bertie immediately joined the Air Training Corps (ATC), was listed as a reserve candidate flyer, and learnt basic navigation, map reading, and other flying skills. But he still found it difficult to enlist. The reason was that he had moved into the electrical instruments trade, first with Smith’s (at Cricklewood) and then Avo Meters (in Victoria), the only firm in Britain repairing blind-flying instruments for the Air Ministry. Gertler’s also had a contract to do these repairs so Bertie returned to that firm, who were then evacuated to Chesham to avoid the bombing in London. This occupation was listed as reserved and too important to the war effort by the government. Eventually, after persistent nagging and with better qualifications, Bertie was allowed to volunteer for the RAF on 12 April 1942, just before his twentieth birthday, his cousin John having helped him cram for the various pilot examinations. If he failed, he would have to return to Gertler's. (2)
After "square bashing" in Swiss Cottage, overseas inoculations, and a turn at Heaton Park (then the Aircrew Despatch Centre) near Manchester with the rank of Aircraftsman, 2nd class, he did his first short training course on Tiger and Gypsy Moths in Perth in Scotland between 4 and 25 August 1943, with 26 Early Flying Training School (EFTS). He was then entrained and boarded the Queen Mary to New York, for further basic flying training in Canada (Monkton, New Brunswick) from 11 November 1943. In December he was posted to the USA with 6 British Flying Training School (BFTS), flying PT 17s (Stearmans) and T 6s (Texans), until 14 April 1944, at the advanced flying school at Ponca City, Oklahoma. However, a high fatality rate saw all the men transferred from there to 4 BFTS at Falcon Field, Mesa, Arizona. Here, American civilian instructors trained them, and Leading Aircraftman Bertie became an excellent student, flying Stearmans and Harvards (AT 6s), till June 1944. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant Pilot on graduation that month.
Bertie thinks he met a Jewish Chaplain at some stage, (3) but certainly remembers two nasty incidents of antisemitism, one of which occurred in the UK and one during training in the us, both of which ended in fights – one he says he lost and one, that in the us, he won. In another incident while at Ponca City, Bertie, as was common at the time, was invited by a local family to a meal. In the conversation it came up that he was Jewish but the family refused to believe him, "as all Jews have hooked noses and pointed chins", they explained.
Bertie returned to the UK in August 1944, to 11 EFTS, where he was again flying Tiger Moths (DH 82s), but there were few vacancies for new pilots and he "marked time" by driving airmen from base to base. One day, a notice was posted asking for volunteers to attend at Stanmore. Here they were asked if they would train for the GPR. Eager to use his training and get into the fight, Bertie immediately agreed and was sent to Blakehill Farm aerodrome (Wiltshire) with 5 Glider Training School between 3 and 17 November, for training on Hotspur gliders. Easily passing this course, he then proceeded to 21 Heavy Glider Conversion Unit at Brize Norton and graduated on Horsa 1s, Wacos (Hadrians), and Hamilcars on 28 November 1944. (Here he donned the RAF blue beret with RAF wings, as opposed to the Army Glider Pilots' red beret with AAC badge.) Quite often on Sundays the pilots would take ATC students on glider trips.
As a trained RAF pilot, converting to gliders was relatively simple and he was soon a First Pilot (Gliders) with many hours of flying under his belt; Bertie's logbook – which he still has with its hardback RAF blue, Canadian Air Force cover – lists all his many flights and the skills he developed. When I asked about the immediate prospect of being on frontline duty, Bertie said that, like all the young men he knew, they never really thought about it; they had a passion for flying and they had a job to do.
In December 1944 he was posted to an Operational Refresher Training Unit with his 2nd Pilot, Sergeant Buglass (a Scot), by which time his flying hours totalled 276 all told. On 29 December he was again posted to Blakehill Farm aerodrome with E Squadron, 2 Wing, GPR, under Major B. Jackson.
Then came Operation Varsity – the Rhine Crossing on 24 March 1945; this was the last great glider and airborne operation of the war. For this mission, more than 1,500 RAF glider pilots, including Bertie, joined with the GPR; 60 per cent of the glider pilot casualties came from the RAF group who were among the Allied Glider and Parachute troops of the British 6th Airborne and American 18th Airborne Divisions taking part.
Bertie took off in his Horsa No. 341 (probably a Mark i), by then with 290 hours of flying experience, for his first active service from Down Ampney or possibly Rivenhall (the logbook is unclear). He thinks he was towed by a Douglas C54 or Dakota C47, with E Squadron. Bertie believes that his 2nd Pilot was Sergeant Buglass but the logbook suggests that it was Sergeant Roberts on this occasion; they were carrying about twelve troops and a large jeep with special lighting equipment. With instructions on where to land (LZ, Landing Zone), as he approached the Rhine all hell broke loose; the German anti-aircraft fire was tremendous and Bertie saw many aircraft blown apart with men and heavy equipment falling from the sky all around him. Soon his tow-rope was blown away by a German shell and he was on his own precisely over the river and miles from his LZ with no hope of reaching it. He decided that it was best to make a sharp turn and dive, and land on the British side of the Rhine, as close to the river as possible to allow the troops and jeep to cross on amphibious vehicles as soon as they could.
On crash landing, the nose and tail of his glider were damaged so Bertie jumped out and used the prepared charges to blow the tail off to allow the men and equipment speedily to exit the aircraft. They drove fast to Xanten to try and cross the Rhine there – but Bertie and the other glider pilots in the vicinity were stopped and ordered to Eindhoven by lorry, to prepare to take part in a possible second wave from the UK. One of the soldiers thanked Bertie for the best birthday present he had ever had: Bertie had saved the men from disaster.
The war ended soon after in May, and Bertie was engaged in various duties on RAF bases, mainly moving aircraft in and out of hangars and instructing drivers, till he was finally demobilized in January 1947. He returned to the jewellery business in Hatton Garden as a diamond-cutter and later manufacturer.
Bertie kept in touch with many of his wartime friends for years and went to the sixtieth anniversary of the Mesa training school in Arizona in about 2003. Now living in Bushey, he never misses an AJEX Annual Parade in Whitehall, held every November a week after Remembrance Sunday. He has the 1939–45 and France and Germany Stars, and the War and the Defence Medals.
In 1947 his ambition had been to go to Israel with two Jewish pilot friends and help in the rebirth of the Israeli Air Force during the War of Independence, but it was not to be. Instead, many years later, his son Gary, now an economist with the Israeli Health Ministry, served in the Israel Defence Force for him, as will his grandchildren who live there.
14417002 1st Pilot Sergeant Frank Ashleigh/Greenbaum
Frank was born a true Cockney in Collingwood Street, Stepney, on 23 December 1924, the son of Isaac Greenbaum, a tailor from Russia, and Annie, also a Jewish immigrant. Frank attended Castlewood Road school in Stamford Hill (where his parents had moved in 1927) and then continued to Upton House Secondary School in Homerton, Hackney, leaving school when he was fourteen. At the outbreak of war, Frank was living at 480 Finchley Road, opposite the then Regal cinema, and was taking a course in welding while working at T. C. Jones, one of the George Cohen group of companies. He had meanwhile joined the 1st Cadet Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, becoming a corporal. Then he moved to work at Strachan’s coachbuilders in Acton, using his welding skills, and became an approved welder at the Aircraft Inspection Department.
On his eighteenth birthday (December 1942) he volunteered for the army. (4) At first, Strachan's refused to release him because he was doing war work on military vehicles but they soon relented. He was sent to Arnold near Nottingham for basic training, then to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) at Woolwich Arsenal, with whom he did further arc and acetylene welding courses at Letchworth and Cricklewood, although he was already proficient at both. Later he was posted to the Odeon Garage, Southend, Essex. Here he was made a Regimental Policeman in a vehicle depot overseeing the movement of Dodge 3-ton lorries.
Later he was transferred to the Royal Engineers (RE) at Larkhill, where he met Jewish Chaplain Rev. P. Cohen and was given his prayerbook and Book of Jewish Thoughts. While at his base he saw orders posted asking for volunteers for the GPR. Frank immediately signed up with two friends, Norman Kellet and Arthur Hepstintall, and in London passed the aptitude tests in early 1944 (his friends failed). He was then sent to Fargo camp on Salisbury Plain, which Frank describes as six weeks of hell on earth. Here the physical training was intense, with five-mile march-runs with field order packs, before breakfast – more often, "Let's go round again" was the rule. Great attention was paid to "bull", such as highly polished boots and hobnails for all parades – anything to see if the recruits had the physical and mental stamina to stay the course. The food, however, was excellent. If you were ordered "RTU" (Returned to Unit), this meant, says Frank, having your paybook marked "LMF" (Lack of Moral Fibre); this was a big incentive to stay. Conversely, if you asked to be RTU, there was no stigma attached.
The physical-training instructor was nicknamed Garth, after the Daily Mirror cartoon strongman character. At the end of the six weeks, the remaining recruits were promoted to corporal and were allowed to enter the corporals' mess; at its entrance was a beautifully drawn mural of a hideous devil, with the remark underneath, "So you want to be a Glider Pilot?" This acted as a catalyst, says Frank, and after this training and the promotion, nobody ever requested RTU.
From Fargo, Frank was sent to RAF Booker in Buckinghamshire, from where the recruits travelled each day to Denham airfield, near Uxbridge, to start flying training on Tiger Moths. It was here that Frank had a bizarre experience. His instructor asked him to board an aircraft, but on starting the engine Frank felt uneasy and declared the plane unserviceable. They flew another instead. That afternoon they boarded the first aircraft and again he told the instructor that it was unserviceable. When the instructor asked if he was refusing to fly, he replied that he was happy to fly but not in that aircraft. Next day, Frank’s friend Roy Roberts took off in the aircraft with his instructor and at 50 feet the engine failed and they crashed. Nobody was hurt but Frank has never been able to explain his sense of foreboding.
Frank was able to go solo after only seven hours' flying. After ten hours’ flying experience, he was posted to Stoke Orchard, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. He recalls seeing a Jewish Chaplain but does not remember any facility for attending services. There Frank began training on small Hotspur gliders, which had two pilots in tandem and carried about eight passengers, towed up by Miles Masters aircraft. It was there, on 6 June 1944, that he heard on the radio during a training flight, gunnery instructions from Allied ships being given for the landing beaches in Normandy.
Then came training at North Luffenham in Leicestershire with the Heavy Glider Conversion Unit; here Frank learned to fly the Horsa heavy glider, towed by Whitely bombers, practising both high (above the tug's slipstream) and low towing. After qualifying on this, he was promoted to Sergeant and was presented with his wings – the Army Flying Badge – which consisted of a cloth badge of two wings with a lion in the centre surmounted by a crown, worn on the left breast like an RAF pilot; the metal cap-badge was worn on a red beret and showed a flying eagle above the AAC initials. (Today's AAC badge – whose members fly mostly helicopters – has the eagle facing the other way, possibly to distinguish it from the old GPR's; their beret is light blue in colour.)
Posted to A Squadron at Harwell, Frank was now operational. He still has a coin buried there: it was the custom to bury a sixpence so you had to come back for it. Many GPR operations from here were prepared but then cancelled, as the Allies were moving fast into Europe. After being posted to Blakehill Farm in Wiltshire, Frank and his comrades were told that it was a secret airfield and nobody was to talk about its location. As a result, when leave was given, they were taken by lorry to London and met there for the return journey, with no indication on their passes as to their location. Frank was arrested by military policemen and taken to the Provost Marshall's office at Scotland Yard for not revealing where his station was. Eventually, General Browning himself (Officer Commanding Airborne Troops) telephoned the Provost Marshall to order Frank's release, whose private car took Frank back home to Finchley.
Then came Arnhem in September 1944 – Operation Market Garden. Frank was given very little briefing, and mainly spent time at Harwell checking the loading of his Horsa for the operation. He discovered to his horror that the quick-release pins securing the glider's load had been incorrectly inserted which would have made rapid exit from the glider fatally slow; he had them all changed. His Horsa carried a jeep and two trailers, all heavily tarpaulined, with crews, totalling six men of the Royal Army Service Corps Air Landing Brigade. Frank later discovered that the trailers contained one of only two radar sets sent to Arnhem, and his was the only one to arrive safely.
A Stirling bomber began towing them for take off but as they were almost airborne, an engine failed: Frank immediately turned the glider to the left as the aircraft went to the right to keep the runway clear, and they skidded to a halt. A tug recovered the glider quickly and they took off eventually, last of all in the flight. It was Monday 18 September. The journey to Arnhem was uneventful except that the telephone between him and the tug failed to work. However, they were able to use Morse code with a torch to "speak" to each other via the Stirling's rear gunner. Frank's co-pilot was an ex-Fleet Air Arm pilot named Bernard "Lofty" Cummins; sadly, he was killed later in the battle.
The landing was quite peaceful, just north of Wolfheze, with unloading carried out without enemy interference, surrounded by other gliders. Their passengers got away and Frank and Lofty were told to bivouac at Wolfheze before proceeding to the Hartenstein Hotel at Oosterbeek. They saw many German POWs enclosed in a tennis court and a German FW109 flew over. The pilot dived, waved, and smiled; he clearly thought they were a German army unit. Next day they continued their journey and at about 9pm, as they entered Oosterbeek, found a café, where they slept in the cellar.
Next morning they got to the Hartenstein and that afternoon were sent out on patrol to Oosterbeek town. Now acting as infantry as expected, they carried Enfield .303 rifles. Frank later also obtained a Sten gun. There was much fighting going on and Frank walked passed the now famous German staff car with its dead senior officer, General Kussin, hanging out.
With a Captain O'Malley and two others glider pilots named Ray Osborne and Wag Watson, they entered Oosterbeek. Suddenly realizing that they were cut off, they dived into a church as a large group of German troops approached from behind them (Frank later discovered that they were SS troops of the Hermann Goering Division). As the Germans entered the church, they decided to scale the stairs and get into the roof space, where they made for a small window; for three days they acted as snipers from this location, firing only one round every hour or so and managing to dispose of many enemy troops. From just inside the roof and window, their gun-smoke could not be seen and the Germans had no idea where they were.
After three days without food and water, they went down to the organ loft. Frank found a long pole down which he slid and obtained a rope and water, which was pulled up by his comrades who then pulled him up.
Eventually the Germans began to investigate the church. The door of the organ loft opened and O'Malley was shot in the stomach; he then, understandably, decided he had better give himself up and, possibly because he was in shock, said there were three more men inside. A German officer then entered the church and, out of sight, called out in perfect English that they had ten minutes to come down with hands up, else the Germans would start firing. In that ten minutes they destroyed their firing pins to make their rifles useless and shortened their grenade fuses to a split second so that, if used by the Germans, they would blow up when the pin was removed. They then surrendered.
The Germans dragged the priest of the church before the men and tried to implicate him but Frank and his comrades had not met him and said they did not know who he was. This must certainly have saved his life. Meanwhile, Frank was reported missing on 25 September, which was announced in the Daily Telegraph on 16 October 1944. (5)
The SS troops treated them well. When Frank told them in schoolboy German that they had not eaten for three days, they were given food. The GPR men looked at it suspiciously but a sergeant (Feldwebel) said that it was all right and ate a piece from each of the three plates to show that it was not poisoned. All personal items were stolen from them, but they had already destroyed or hidden their daggers. They were taken that day by truck to an interrogation centre at Oberusal, not far from Arnhem, where Frank had his POW "mugshot" taken, which still survives; it clearly shows the edge of his GPR wings on his breast pocket. When questioned, the only answers they gave were name, rank, and number. Treatment, including food, at the centre was initially good but then Frank and everyone else were slapped a few times on the face by interrogators and his nose was injured. Frank says that these Germans were not fighting men and, unlike enemy soldiers, did not respect other soldiers. There was also some confusion as the Germans expected all pilots to be officers but glider and some fighter pilots were often flight sergeants. The Germans did not know what to do with sergeant pilots.
From Oberusal, Frank was taken in appalling railway cattle trucks on an awful journey east to a POW camp. The POWs were packed in and each truck contained a barrel of water; every eight hours or so they would stop and a slice of bread was distributed to each man. Finally they arrived at Stalag Luft vii in Upper Silesia, at Bankau, near Opole in modern Poland. This was a small and quite modern camp for the RAF. Food was poor but every other week Red Cross parcels were distributed without fail. Every tin of food was punctured to prevent storage for escape attempts and so had to be eaten relatively quickly. However, they found a way of heating the cans, expelling the air, and re-sealing them. There were escape attempts but Frank remembers that all of them failed.
Frank met one other Jewish POW who had been in the Intelligence Corps. His name may have been Melzac or Karzac; he later became a Metropolitan Police Inspector. There were the usual committees for escape and entertainment and "Goon baiting". On one occasion, Frank had a raging toothache; he was allowed to go with an elderly driver in a car to a dentist in a nearby town so long as he gave his word not to escape; this he did in order not to jeopardize others' chances of getting medical attention.
Some of the guards were good-humoured and laughed at the POWs’ jokes about them, especially on morning parades. However, there was no fun when in January 1945, the POWs were made to carry out one of the notorious forced marches, in freezing conditions, over the Oder, to escape the approaching Soviets. There were about 800–1000 men on Frank's march, moving from camp to camp. Many were seen by Frank having died of exhaustion and hypothermia by the roadside, though Frank says he saw nobody actually killed, as happened on other marches. The guards did what they could; Frank says that it was mainly the older POWs who died, as they were weakened by lack of food. Where they could, the POWs never abandoned those who were still alive, but if they died en route they had to be left. One night, Frank and two others hid in some brick ovens in a factory, hoping to avoid the march the next day and await the Allies, but they were caught.
They finally reached a huge Army POW camp (Stalag III-A) south of Berlin. Here there were thousands of Russian POWs. Frank recalls the horror of seeing them, starved and wretched; the British did not have much food but what they could spare they gave to the Russians by throwing it over the fences. Then one morning in April they woke and found that the guards had gone; soon massive Russian tanks arrived – "like saving angels", Frank says – and they were liberated. The Russians caught the camp Kommandant but handed him over to the Russian POWs, who slaughtered him. The British POWs were treated like great heroes and the Russians were immensely kind to them, Frank remembers. He also remembers clearly that one of the first things he did was to get into the administration offices of the camp and destroy his papers, which said he was Jewish; although the Nazis had been defeated, he was still afraid that they might exact revenge if they caught him again.
Within 48 hours, they were taken to an airfield and flown home in, Frank thinks, Dakotas and were sent to a camp near Slough. Fortunately, Frank had an aunt in Slough whose husband was in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and stationed in a nearby camp. He pulled a few strings and got Frank a pass to visit his aunt.
When Frank got home, he was given six weeks’ repatriation leave with double civilian rations. Frank's mother showed him a card she had received from the War Office saying he had failed to return from a patrol and was believed to be a POW. She had also received a couple of POW cards from him in Germany (he does not know where they are now). She sent him cards but he never got them. He was then posted to the London District Hostel Unit, where he was ordered to oversee the conversion of some houses in Rochester Way into dormitories for troops on leave. Finally, he was demobbed at Woking.
After the war, Frank became a company director in the toy trade until his retirement aged 72; he remained active in the community and was given a citizenship award by his local council and the Mayor of London for "making an outstanding contribution to London life".
Frank returned to the church at Oosterbeek some time after the war. He was amazed to find that the cartridge cases from their weapons were still there in the loft. Wearing his Airborne Pegasus tie, he was stopped many times by local Dutch people, including young children, and invited to have meals and drinks with them. Since 2002 he has been back several times with wife Mavis (they have been married for more than 60 years) and his two sons (who have given him three grandchildren), usually with the Glider Pilot Association. Every year he is on parade at the Annual Remembrance Parade at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, and the following Sunday with the Jewish War Veterans, Kenton contingent, of AJEX.
His medals are the 1939–45 and France and Germany Stars, Defence Medal, and War Medal. He was also awarded the "Thank you Liberators" medal by the Dutch government.
14564670 2nd Pilot Sergeant Raphael Shovel
Raphael was born on 26 August 1923, the son of Hyman and Rose Shovel, who were poor Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe; Hyman was a kosher butcher in the East End of London. Raphael attended Wood Close Primary School in Hare Street, off Brick Lane in Whitechapel, and then the famous Parmiters Boys Grammar School in Bethnal Green (Victoria Park). Following a spell in a millinery factory after leaving school, he enlisted on 18 March 1943 from his home at 36 Cheshire Street (formerly Hare Street) and was posted to the Jersey and Guernsey battalion of the Hampshire Regiment on 29 April and then to the 11th battalion on 20 July 1943.
Shortly after this posting, Raphael saw a notice at his base asking for volunteers for the GPR, and on 10 November he volunteered. After passing some tests, he was sent to the 2nd battalion of the GPR at Larkhill, Salisbury Plain, to train. The training regime was deliberately tough, in order to weed out the weaker candidates. Raphael's group were told to don full marching gear and run after the instructor who was wearing only shorts, singlet, and plimsolls. Followed by a vehicle to pick up stragglers, the last twelve standing (out of more than 30 original candidates), including Raphael, were selected. They proceeded to the EFTS at RAF Booker near High Wycombe.
At Booker, RAF veteran pilots taught them the theory, and later practice, of flying (in Tiger Moths). There was an urgent need for glider pilots so the course was cut short, resulting in rather rapid progress to the first solo flight. Usually, 1st pilots had 100 hours' flying before going solo; Raphael, as a 2nd pilot, was given only 12 hours before going solo and only 20 in all before being given his wings.
Some men were going solo at 7 or 8 hours but Raphael was on 10 hours 40 minutes and still had not succeeded. His instructor was concerned and did one last circuit with him on dual controls. Raphael performed both a bad take-off and landing, after which the instructor told him that he was a dangerous flyer and said he was getting out and leaving Raphael to do his solo there and then. After an average take-off, Raphael made several circuits desperately trying to land the way he had been taught, by in effect gliding in – but to no avail; he kept approaching far too steep and fast. Finally he came in and the plane cartwheeled. Left hanging upside down and with fuel everywhere, he coolly remembered to switch off the ignition and got out without a scratch, as fire engines and an ambulance approached the aircraft. A brief court of enquiry found that as Raphael had not panicked (he had switched off the ignition), he should be allowed to continue; he passed his solo flight later that day. He then proceeded, as a corporal, to the gliding school at Stoke Orchard to train on Hotspurs towed by Miles Masters. The gliders were easy after engine planes and could travel so slowly that often cyclists would overtake them below on the roads. Raphael passed this course, was awarded his wings and red beret with AAC badge and was sent to an operational station at Broadwell in Oxfordshire, officially a Sergeant in the GPR.
He was then posted to 2 Wing, GPR on 8 February 1944; his senior pilot, Staff Sergeant Jack Tarbitten, was several years older and had already taken part in the Sicily landings; he and Raphael served together on the Normandy and Arnhem operations, and Jack served in Operation Varsity. They trained two or three times a week on Horsas, towed by Dakotas, learning the crucial casting-off techniques, always carried out by the 1st pilot. For some reason (perhaps because he thought 2nd pilots inferior), Jack never spoke to Raphael directly unless to give an order and never properly tutored him in the finer points of glider flying; he also refused to mix with him socially. Nevertheless, Raphael tolerated this and obeyed orders as required.
There were several briefings for aborted operations in Europe, when they were confined for security reasons to camp, but generally this small group of about 24 pilots, all sergeants with nobody giving orders, were left to their own devices. This included drawing money from RAF funds for going on short home leave by pretending that they were on pilot escape exercises. They agreed not to abuse this too much and always to hitchhike back and forth to avoid military policemen on trains.
Then, from the end of May 1944, several days before D-Day – an operation still unbeknown to them – members of the 6th Airborne Division began to arrive; the camp was sealed off completely, briefings began, and gliders were loaded. Raphael’s carried a jeep and a six-pound anti-tank gun, with about eight soldiers, plus petrol, ammunition, and so on. The pilots knew exactly what was on board as they were responsible for loading it all, but they were never told anything about the mission of the Airborne soldiers they were transporting, just the minimum they needed to know.
Instructions were given that on landing at the LZ, the rear of the glider was to be detached, the ramp lowered, and the equipment rolled out, with the jeep towing the gun away. Raphael warned the officer and men coming aboard not to sit near the front wheel-housing, as a hard landing would mean the wheels would shoot up through the bottom of the glider; no smoking was the rule but the pilots generally allowed it as they knew it would help the men relax.
No navigation was involved as the glider would be towed but the 1st pilot went to the briefing about the location of the LZ. Quick decision-making was important on missions, as a glider once released at about 2,000 feet could only fly about two miles for every 1,000 feet of altitude. Once release was made, the landing was thus fairly imminent.
Just before D-Day, Raphael was advised by his commanding officer not to take his ID disc, which said "Jew", with him into action (not all officers gave this advice).
On 6 June, after a good breakfast, the 20 or so gliders and tugs took off just after dawn for what became D-Day. Raphael, wearing the GPR helmet and armed with his rifle, as were all glider pilots, remembers the whole sky filled with Allied fighter and bomber aircraft of every possible description – truly an armada of a kind never seen before – as they flew over both the English and then the French coasts.
While Jack Tarbitten managed the take-off, Raphael's job as 2nd pilot was to fly the glider, adjusting wings and rudder as necessary during the tow. On approaching the LZ, Jack took over, released the glider, and circled, looking for the landing spot. However, to their horror, they discovered that the LZ was covered in vertical posts – anti-aircraft landing devices, similar to those used on the Normandy beaches and called "Rommel's Asparagus" – but Jack landed anyway. One wing came off, the front-wheel landing gear shot up through the floor but they disembarked in good order near the River Orne, where the famous Pegasus bridge had been taken earlier that morning. Suddenly, a German mortar shell landed on the glider as they were taking off its tail, killing the jeep driver and destroying the equipment. But the rest of the men got away and made for their rendezvous. Meanwhile, other gliders were landing all around and Raphael and Jack dug in as ordered at the edge of the field. Later that day they left for Ouistreham, a coastal resort nearby, where a battle was going on to take the town. On the way they saw many dead bodies, mostly German, by the roadside. At Ouistreham there was a German sniper in a church tower and Raphael watched as a Sherman tank was brought up to blow the tower away. Eventually, after about three days on the beach, watching streams of soldiers and equipment coming in and wounded going out, they returned to England on a small naval vessel, landing at Seaford. All the glider pilots had a chit for the Beach Master in order to get back to the UK since the pilots were needed in case another wave of gliders was despatched. They were debriefed about any enemy gun emplacements they had seen on their way to the coast, and then were asked to volunteer for another operation.
Raphael and Jack volunteered for a second flight and were sent to Tarrant Rushton, in Dorset, where they slept overnight and were trained on a smaller waco glider. But it was decided to reduce the size of the next mission, so lots were drawn and they were sent back to Broadwell instead, arriving on 9 June. Other operations in Belgium and France for Raphael's squadron were discussed but were all aborted.
Then came the briefing for the Arnhem operation with the British Liberation Army at Broadwell. Again, Raphael was in a Horsa with a Dakota tug, with F Squadron on the first dawn wave on 18 September 1944. He recalls that the weather was dull the whole time, he never saw an Allied fighter plane as the clouds were too low, but the armada of gliders and tugs was huge and again filled the sky, as on D-Day.
As they approached Arnhem, Jack pulled away after release, but another tug jettisoned a rope which hit the wing of their glider. Jack was forced to dive immediately, just short of their LZ. On the LZ itself there was heavy fighting going on so they were lucky in a way to have to land slightly off target. On landing and thereafter they were strafed all the time by enemy Me109s. As on D-Day, they pulled off the tail to allow men and machines out, without further incident. The troops went to their rendezvous and Jack and Raphael met up with other glider pilots and dug in on the edge of the woods around the LZ, amid heavy fighting or, as Raphael put it, "a hell of a lot of stuff flying around".
Raphael grabbed a parachute and lined the slit-trench with it. The Germans had them pinned down, with fixed machine guns firing at about two feet above the trenches all through the night, using tracers to ensure that nobody was able to fire back or escape. The mortar bombardment was constant. In one dreadful incident, while Raphael was standing alongside another glider pilot, firing back, a bomb landed nearby and decapitated the man; the blood and body parts were splattered all over Raphael and he has never been able to get that terrible memory out of his mind to this day.
The following day, they made their way gingerly through the woods towards Oosterbeek. At this time, Raphael received a slight shrapnel wound in his right leg near the kneecap; it was bandaged by a medic and hurt but did not do any real damage. Jack and Raphael lost each other at some point during the journey and in fact never met again. Chaos reigned and at one time a Paratroop colonel drove by and asked where the headquarters were.
Probably three days into the battle, by then with five other Airborne men, Raphael found himself in an old house on the outskirts of the town. He gave his 48-hour ration pack to some Dutch women; as the glider pilots had been told that 30 Corps would relieve them in 48 hours, this seemed a sensible and humane thing to do at the time. As the senior NCO, he told the men to mount their Bren gun upstairs but one of them said he could hear noises from the cellar; he had also noticed a large photograph of a German officer on display in the house. Raphael called down into the cellar but nobody replied; one soldier was a bit tense and wanted to throw a grenade down, thinking they might be Germans. Raphael refused and opened the door and heard whimpering from below. He went down and in dim candlelight saw two or three women with two Scotch terriers (one white and one black, called Whisky and Soda). The women had little water, so Raphael brought some down to them from the kitchen. Although they also had little food, the women offered to share it with the soldiers. Raphael wonders if that family is still alive in Arnhem.
The Germans were so close that they could clearly be heard talking and digging in nearby in the woods. Often, bullets came flying through the doors and windows. Soon Raphael and the men split up and Raphael moved from one place to another (at one point he was sheltering in a barn which came under tank-fire), mainly in woodland, seeing men killed and wounded around him all the time.
In spite of this, morale was high. He remembers the Germans using loud-speakers to urge the Paras to "ay down your arms and come and have some tea"; the Paras' replies were unrepeatable. He remembered a fruit tree out in the open and men running to grab some fruit while the Germans took pot shots at them: every time a Para got back to cover with an apple, a loud cheer went up. The Airborne men showed no fear and fought to the bitter end with fantastic spirit, Raphael says.
He then found himself in Wolfheze and heard, around the tenth day, that there would be a withdrawal across the river, with Canadian troops in boats coming to assist. He remembers little detail except that he saw terrible things and witnessed horrendous casualties; these have been blocked out in his memory, he thinks as a protection from the trauma.
Now in the so-called "Cauldron" or pocket which was surrounded on three sides by the Germans, Raphael was told to make for the river that night; the air was full of enemy shooting and many German flares were used to seek out the British troops. Making for the river with various groups of men, he was suddenly hit in the right thigh and then far more seriously in the left thigh. Able to hobble, he continued till he had to crawl when his left leg gave way. Suddenly, some shapes came out of the darkness and carried him to near the riverside; but the embankment up to the river itself was high and steep, and then steep again down the other side to reach the water. Having lifted him near the top of the embankment, the men went off to find a boat, but never returned. Raphael crawled to the top using his right leg and his arms, and saw a wooden post up which he hauled himself to see if he could see any boats approaching; the German flares made the night quite bright. There was another explosion and he was hit heavily yet again, in the groin, by shrapnel. Weak with blood loss, having eaten little except fruit for several days, and feeling a burning all over his groin, he tumbled helplessly down the bank to the water, flat on his back; he put his hand down his trousers and feeling his wrinkled vest thought he had hold of his blown-open intestines. He thought he was going to die but the wound turned out to have been not as serious as it felt, even though there was a lot of blood. (He carries the shrapnel in his hip to this day; it was discovered by a doctor only in 1998.)
Then he heard a noise and there in front of him was a small boat; he called out and was pulled down into the boat and ferried to safety on the other side of the river. There may have been other wounded men too but he cannot be sure; nor does he know if the crew were the famous Canadian engineers.
Raphael was placed in a gas cape (a large water- and gas-proof cape carried by infantry) held by four men and taken to a Casualty Clearing Station in a tent lit with storm lamps. There were bodies everywhere. Covered in his own and others' blood, muddy, and unshaven for several days, he was taken to a surgeon who declared him too far gone; he was placed in a corner to die. But Raphael raised himself and said "I am not too far gone!" The surgeon smiled and ordered him onto a truck at once. He was taken on a bumpy and painful cross-country ride to Nijmegen Hospital. There he was placed on a stretcher in a corridor full of wounded men. He came round from a sedative to find himself wearing a hospital gown and bandages all over his legs, and was taken to another room where surgeons sedated him again. He woke later with five other men on stretchers inside a moving vehicle.
They arrived at a large building in Eindhoven, in what may have been a school hall with a stage; from there he was taken to hospital in Brussels. By then more aware, Raphael asked for food and water but a nurse told him that he might have a stomach wound so was not allowed food yet. He was again sedated and awoke this time in a train. The next thing he remembers was a hospital perhaps near Lichfield, which was full of wounded men. According to his army records, the date was 1 October 1944.
His right leg had been stitched but the other was left open as it was gangrenous and painful to the touch or any movement. The nurses kept asking him whether he played football or danced – he thought they were angling to tell him that he would lose his leg. Further operations and constant dousing of his left leg with sulfinamide powder followed. He carries enormous scars on his legs to this day. Then came a new drug, penicillin, which finally cured his wounds. Several weeks had elapsed since he had been brought back to Britain, in a hospital full of immobile and badly wounded men. He was also – as he describes – a little "bombhappy" with shock and much of his memory of this hospitalization is a blur. He does remember that when his mother came to visit, the first thing she did was feel for his legs, to check that he still had both of them. He says he was never frightened at all during the battle but admits to fear of losing his leg, a prospect that filled him with horror.
Soon Raphael was sent to a medical recovery camp near Bedford and went to daily physiotherapy in Bedford Hospital, where on one occasion he fell down some stairs as his legs gave way; full recovery was some way off. On another visit to the hospital, he experienced a disgraceful piece of antisemitism. An RAMC sergeant was giving him some physiotherapy when a Jewish-looking elderly soldier passed the window; the sergeant said to Raphael that he was a Polish Jew in the Intelligence section and added: "you would not find Jews like that fighting where you were". So Raphael showed him his ID disc which clearly said "Jew": the sergeant gasped and was full of apologies. After that, on every visit to the hospital, the sergeant constantly apologized to Raphael for what he had said.
Raphael was finally demobbed on 11 September 1945, having served 2 years and 178 days, and was given the 1939–45 and France and Germany Stars and War Medal (which he collected only in 1997, persuaded by his son). While he had been away, his family had moved to 29 Ashill Rd, Stanmore. After the war, Raphael married and had a son and daughter, although, sadly, his daughter died in a climbing accident some years ago.
One day in early 1947 or 48, an old primary school friend, Monty Harris, contacted Raphael. (6) Harris, a charismatic figure, was born Monty Schaff or Schiaff, the son of a Jewish immigrant tailor, Jacob, and his wife Hilda Harris (whose maiden name Jacob took as the family surname on naturalization). He was a year younger than Raphael and later attended the Davenant Foundation Grammar School in Whitechapel, which he left aged fifteen to work in his father's fruit wholesale business. Harris had suffered from rickets as a child and was totally unfit for the forces. However, after 1945 he became involved in the smuggling of arms into Israel for the Haganah and Irgun, the embryonic Jewish army. Harris was allegedly a member of a militant group called the Hebrew Legion (though both later denied this), consisting mostly of Jewish ex-servicemen and women who supported Israeli independence. (7) Harris knew that Raphael had been in the forces and asked him if he could obtain substantial quantities of aluminium powder and iron oxide, to make the explosive thermite, to smuggle to the Land of Israel for use in the coming War of Independence. Raphael believed that this was a worthy cause, since he strongly supported Jewish rights there, especially as the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews had by then been brought into the open and a pro-Arab British government was preventing Holocaust survivors from entering Mandate Palestine.
Raphael had opened a business in South Wales and was able to obtain the items Harris wanted. These were delivered in Raphael's truck to Harris's former fruit warehouse at 14 Gravel Lane, Whitechapel, just off Middlesex Street ("Petticoat Lane"); here Harris kept chemicals, gun cotton, primers, fuse wire, and ammunition, stored under boxes of pickles and foodstuffs, ready to be taken to the Land of Israel. However, Harris (then living in Southgate, north London) had come under suspicion: MI5 and Special Branch were watching the warehouse, using, among other methods, policewomen disguised as costermongers and welfare workers. One early morning the warehouse was surrounded by uniformed police from Bishopsgate police station. Harris, aged 23, was arrested, arraigned at the Guildhall, and remanded in custody. (8) MI5 had also seen Raphael's car outside the warehouse and knew that Raphael was acquainted with Harris. One day, the police telephoned him in South Wales, requesting an interview when he was next in London; Raphael suspected that it concerned Harris.
On his next visit to London, Raphael was summoned to a chat with Special Branch at Scotland Yard, where he admitted to knowing Harris over many years and to having visited the warehouse once or twice. Released, he returned to his parents' home but on arrival was met by a police car which brought him back to Scotland Yard. Detective Inspector George G. Smith said that Raphael was a liar, that he had been four times to Gravel Lane and not twice. Raphael answered that he could not honestly remember. When he was asked how long he had stayed on each visit, he said only a few minutes to drop items. Again released, he went home and was for a third time called back to the Yard, where Smith again said that he was a liar because he had been seen on one occasion for more than an hour at Harris's warehouse. Raphael replied that this might have been so, as on one occasion he had felt ill and had used the toilet there. Smith asked him where the toilet was and Raphael was able to describe exactly its location. (9) Clearly, all this was a psychological tactic to wear Raphael down and to get him to admit to some kind of guilt.
In due course, Raphael was called to give evidence at Harris's trial, at which Harris appeared with another suspect called Nathan Raymond Burns, aged 23. (10) The trial was held at the Old Bailey before Justice Sable in October 1948, Harris and Burns being defended by Derek Bennett KC. Under cross-examination, Raphael told the truth as he knew it: he said that he had thought that the chemicals which he had supplied were to be used to make paint and that for him it was just a business transaction. Harris was convicted and jailed for seven years for possession of explosives, (11) Burns was acquitted, and Raphael not implicated. He stresses that he did not testify against Harris but merely gave his own story. The newspapers covered the trial in great detail. (While Harris was in prison, Raphael visited him several times in, probably, Leeds, where Harris joked about having to sew mailbags though he had never wanted to be a tailor.)
Israel won its Independence in 1948 and in August 1950, Monty Harris was freed on condition that he left the country. Honoured by the Irgun, he emigrated to Israel. In the early 1980s, the Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, came to London and asked to meet Harris. By then he had left Israel and gone to live in Dublin, where he had married his wife Myrna. He was brought over to London and presented by Begin with the Irgun medal ribbon for services to Israel’s Independence. Harris later returned to the UK and lived in Southport. (12) In 2004, I succeeded in obtaining the 1948 Israeli Independence medal ribbon for Raphael for his services to Israel.
In September 2004, Raphael, other GPR veterans, and I attended the 60th anniversary commemorations at Arnhem and Oosterbeek, which took place over four days (it was the first time Raphael had attended any commemoration). Other Jewish Parachute veterans included Gerry Flamberg MM (awarded for gallantry for destroying a tank at Arnhem), Gerald Levy (who was only seventeen when he parachuted into battle and was in the "Cauldron") and Lieutenant Lewis Golden obe (Mil., awarded for gallantry at Arnhem); and Helen Barnet née Keen, a former Jewish wren officer whose brother Denzil had been killed at Arnhem. (13) At the wreath-laying at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Oosterbeek, before the Prince of Wales and Queen Beatrix, Raphael laid the Star of David poppy wreath for AJEX. It was an emotional moment.
13803084 Sergeant Ernest "Sim" Simion
Ernest Simion or Simeon of 16 Flight, 2 Wing, GPR, F Squadron, AAC, was killed at Arnhem on 20 September 1944, aged 24. He was a German Jewish refugee born in Berlin on 8 August 1920, the son of Eva or Erna Simion of Hampstead and Gunter Levy (they later divorced). Ernest came to the UK in 1939 and worked as a mechanic in Co. Down, Northern Ireland. He was interned, then freed, and joined the Pioneer Corps and later the REME, being stationed at Corsham and Ilfracombe. At one of these locations he met the Jewish Chaplain Rev. Abraham Pimontel. (14)
Ernest joined the GPR at Fargo on Salisbury Plain. (15) The AJEX museum archive has an undated letter and photograph from his cousin Wolf Simeon in London, and a letter from Ernest's co-pilot Staff Sergeant Ron P. Gibson, written on 23 November 1944 from the sergeants' mess at RAF Broadwell in Oxfordshire. (16) Gibson recorded that they took off in their Horsa from Tarrant Rushton, on the first lift to Arnhem, and continued:
I only knew "Sim" for a very short time, but what I knew I liked. We had a smooth flight over Holland on Sept. 17th . . . [with] a jeep, a 6lb. anti-tank gun and two of the gun crew from the 1st battalion the Border Regiment. . . . after passing the farmyard at the end of the runway, we flew into some low lying mist, and at 300 feet flew in a wide circle that led us back over the airfield as I sweated beneath my clothes. We were dressed in full battle order with heavy cloth [camouflage] smocks over our tunics. At Cirencester I handed the controls over to Sim. The Dakota [tug aircraft] began to climb and at 2000 feet we were in clear air . . . we could now see the entire column of tugs and gliders before us. . . . a second train was also approaching from the Berkshire Downs. Our legs grew numb as the air became colder and I asked Sim to pour some tea from the Thermos flask. . . . we saw one of the gliders cast off and turn back, heading for Hatfield aerodrome. We later heard it was because the tug aircraft engine had failed. We passed Aldeburgh [on the Suffolk coast] at noon and Sim turned south east over the North Sea. I crawled back along the fuselage and over the gun and trailer to carry a full mug of tea to the Borderers in the rear seat, passing the mug through a gap between the trailer and the plywood roof. One was a short dark corporal from Birmingham, the other a taller, fair Tynesider. . . . we had met them on the towpath just 20 minutes before we left and shaken hands and chatted and had a smoke. After we landed we never saw them again.
At 12.45 we passed over the dunes [on the Dutch coast] and we ran into some flak . . . black smudges of thudding smoke. Our tug pilot pulled us to starboard and into some cloud to avoid [it] . . . we could only see 12 feet of the tow rope in front of us. Sim dived the glider down and on emerging from the cloud the tug was 1000 feet below us; the rope tightened with a jerk and in twenty minutes we reached our first turning point at Hertogenbosch.
Then we flew below cloud over flooded Lower Holland. . . . as we approached the landing zone at Arnhem we could see some big fires blazing in the town and along the railway line on one edge of the ploughed field where we had to land. We released from . . . 3000 ft and had to weave our way through a host of gliders that all seemed to aim for the same point. We touched down in a ploughed field on the side of a pine wood . . . unloaded the gun and jeep . . . it took half an hour hacking the tail off with brute force and an axe. . . . there were few enemy in the woods at that time. . . . it was eerily quiet. . . . then Sim and I threw our packs on the Borderers' jeep and hitched a ride with them and drove off to our rendezvous at 1.30 [pm] on the south west corner of LZ "S".
About 60 Glider Pilots were lying under the trees and others were patrolling the path by the railway. We were to then march off towards the town park and dig in for the night but as we continued a sniper’s bullet whizzed by and so we dived for cover in a hollow between the fields and the embankment. Then the Colonel walked by and ordered us to wait. Sim chatted to a Dutch boy who had appeared and then two of our scouts re-appeared with our first prisoner – a grey-faced little man in a shabby uniform and peaked cap – not frightened but a bit dazed.
In the evening we passed through . . . Wolfheze, where people stood by their garden gates, waving and saluting and pushing apples and pears into our rucksacks [and] met our first opposition down the village streets . . . snipers and an armoured car.
We took up positions in the gardens of the houses and . . . just before dark moved into a little pinewood. . . . we dug ourselves foxholes along the edge of the wood . . . for the soil was sandy. During the night we took turns on patrolling the edge of the wood . . . on the following morning I was separated from Simion . . . as he was sent forward. In the morning I joined up with Simion again and . . . there was an enormous amount of firing all around us. In the evening [of the 19th] we moved out to . . . Oosterbeek Park with the First Air landing Brigade in a beechwood . . . and dug ourselves in [but our lines were] very thinly held. I was separated from Simion again. He was in a foxhole about 50 yards from mine. . . . all through the night we were mortared. On the early morning of Wednesday a party of Jerrys . . . suddenly . . . burst through the corner of the woods where Simion was and threw some grenades into the backs of the trenches . . . [and] another party of SS troops dashed across the road under cover of Spandau fire and killed or wounded [Simion's group] with submachine guns and grenades. . . . I looked down to Simion's corner and saw it occupied by the SS who were hauling our wounded out of their trenches. I saw one man standing up being searched by an officer but couldn't recognise him as Simion. I made a dash and was able to join the rest of our squadron who had drawn back. . . . this is all the information I can give up to the moment Simion was missing.
Simion is buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Arnhem Oosterbeek cemetery in grave 3.B.4.
289605 2nd Pilot Sergeant Hyman/Henry "Wally" Woltag
Henry "Wally" Woltag had been a member of the Jewish Lads Brigade and joined the Royal Army Service Corps in September 1941, based at No. 8 Training Battalion at Matlock in Derbyshire. He was married and his wife was noted on his AJEX Jewish Chaplain card as Mrs. B. Woltag of 101 Edgware Road, London. His card also shows that he was seen by Rev. P. Cohen on five occasions in 1941–2.
Hyman was 2nd pilot to his good friend John McGeough, a Catholic lad born in Dundalk, Eire. (17) According to John, Wally was an outgoing, exuberant London man, always smiling alongside his more serious Celtic mate, and both spent much time together propping up the bar in the sergeants' mess or with Wally leading them both in seeking the company of the fairer sex whenever they could. John had met Wally when he came as a new intake to Tarrant Rushton; he took an immediate liking to him, so picked him as his 2nd pilot. Wally had trained on Tiger Moths at RAF Leuchars and worked through Hotspurs and Horsas to Hamilcars, and in John’s estimation was a good pilot. At Tarrant they were attached to RAF 644 Squadron, who flew Halifax bombers.
Before Arnhem, the glider pilots at Tarrant spent hours training as infantry at Bradbury Rings near Wimbourne. They undertook special training for D-Day but, in the event, stayed as reserves in case they were needed after the first wave of landings; they were disappointed not to take part. Many operations were cancelled, as is well known, and John and Wally were constantly alerted and then stood down. Then came the sudden call to serve in the battle for Arnhem; the only special preparation was briefings by Intelligence officers as to the proposed landing site.
John and Wally took off with C Squadron just like a practice run; morale was high and, John explained, "in our Horsa was a jeep and medical trailer, a Bombardier and 4 gunners of the RA, and an RAMC doctor, Lt Derek Randall, who chatted to both us pilots as we made our way to war." Sadly, they witnessed a Horsa crashing near Bristol in an accident; it blew up and all the men were killed. Rendezvous was over Aldeburgh, where they met up with hundreds of other tugs and gliders. The massed flight of hundreds of aircraft meeting over the North Sea was astonishing, with below them dozens of air–sea rescue vessels in case of mishaps.
"Our first sight of Holland was Schouwen Island, then to Nijmegen and then we turned towards Arnhem. We soon recognised the bridge at Arnhem and the LZ at Wolfheze (Zone 'Z'), just south of the railway line." John and Wally wore camouflaged paratrooper smocks over their uniforms, normal army boots and khaki trousers, and red berets, with a helmet for landing and fighting. They also had standard RAF watches and carried sten guns as their personal weapons.
There was no flak at all and I prepared to land in a field on heathland between two woods. At 2,500 feet I pressed the red knob about three miles out, and cast off as the tug flew off with the tow rope dangling behind. Checking for other gliders carefully, I flew for a short while as Wally said, "For goodness sake get down; you never know what is going to happen." I glided in and touched down at about 85 mph on Dutch soil in a ploughed field. Other pilots came in above us and did not judge it right and crashed into the woods beyond; but our orders were not to assist but just unload and proceed from the area as soon as possible. We went to the tail unit and undid the four quick release bolts to remove it, and drove the jeep and trailer down the ramp; it was 13.40 hrs and we had been in the air for 3 hrs 10 mins.
As more Dakotas and Paratroopers arrived, we noticed nearby a crashed Hamilcar on its back; the crew were all dead including a friend of ours, Sergeant Brackstone. The RA men dispersed to their unit and Lt Randall took the jeep and trailer to set up his rap [Regimental Aid Post] about a mile away. We met up with a GP officer and a dozen other GP's and made our way to Arnhem via Wolfheze and Oosterbeek. We bumped into the freed inmates from the local asylum, wandering about terrified as their nurses tried to gather them up. Soon we realised how dangerous it was when a tow rope, with its heavy metal couplings, and dropped by a tug from above, almost hit and killed us. One Dutch lady invited us in to her house and gave us water and some apples. Then we dug in overnight on the far side of Wolfheze near some woods. We also saw our first German prisoners and one was a woman [later identified as a female Luftwaffe telephonist, named Irene Reimann].
That night the woods were set on fire and they had to move away; next day they travelled on to Arnhem, passing the German car with the dead bodies of General Kussin and his staff. Then they arrived at the Hartenstein Divisional headquarters, which was a mass of activity and movement; their job was to defend the rear of the house from attack. There was massive, constant, and terrifying shelling but no German infantry attack. They used empty supply containers to cover their slit trenches and give some small protection. Here they remained for the rest of the battle, in their trenches, ready to repulse enemy attacks. They also had to carry out reconnaissance patrols:
On one patrol to the junction of Mariaweg and Utrechtseweg, we were pinned down on the road surface by heavy machine gun fire from enemy hidden in one of the many houses. We lay on the roadway till firing ceased after 20 minutes. Maybe he could not depress the gun and so was missing us. Then we took the opportunity to return to the Hartenstein. . . . and all the time it was not possible to delineate ours or the enemy's front line except in the Hartenstein grounds. . . . constant vigilance was required and we fully expected that at any time the Germans would attempt to overrun our positions, but our morale was high and we were determined they would have to fight for every inch of ground. Intense barrages of mortar and tank fire rained down on us day and night, increasing in ferocity as time went on . . . our casualties mounted. Nothing was worse than seeing comrades killed and even more distressing was the cries of pain from the wounded and our inability to do much for them. Our dead were piled by the rear wall of the Hartenstein HQ.
On another occasion, a sniper's bullet passed right between the heads of John and the man patrolling ahead of him. While near the Hartenstein on Monday 22 September, John and Wally were both hit by shrapnel from the same shell in one of the many mortar attacks on the grounds of the HQ. John was hit badly in the left hand and Wally was peppered all over his back. John made his way to the rap but for some reason Wally did not follow; John was taken prisoner when the HQ was overrun, and they never met again till after the war.
Hyman's Jewish Chaplain card says that he was seen in Sutton Emergency Hospital on 21 December 1944 by Rev. Paletz (?), where he must have been recovering from his wounds.
After the war, John was posted with the GPR to Palestine in 1946. When Wally, who had been discharged, found out that John was there, he told him to visit some relatives in Petak Tikvah (near Tel Aviv). John went with a friend but as they walked along the street fully armed, the stares of the people made them feel uneasy. Wally's relative was shocked though polite and courteous when told why they had come. But it was clear that the visitors were an embarrassment given the security situation at the time. So the two soldiers made their excuses and left.
John (aged 86) contacted me on 22 April 2010 to talk about Hyman, after seeing my article of that year in the Eagle, the magazine of GPR veterans. He said that Wally had been his best friend and he had seen him many times after the war. Wally appeared to live abroad part of the year, was a businessman, and had been married several times but they had lost touch in the 1980s and John did not even know if he was still alive. John died in 2012 and nothing more is known of "Wally".
14623984 2nd Pilot Sergeant Louis Hagen/Haig/Levy MM
Louis Hagen was born in Potsdam, Germany, on 30 May 1916, the second son of five children. (18) His mother and father, a banker, moved in high circles and this brought them into close contact with various members of the social elite, including friends of Prince Bernhard. (19) The young Louis, known to most as Büdi (an abbreviation of Brüderlein, little brother), practised boxing in the family's own ring in their Bauhaus-style villa, and was privately educated. He had little to show for the experience, since he was, as he freely admitted, a dunce. At school Hagen and Claus Fuhrmann became friends and their relationship proved to be mutually beneficial: Claus helped Louis with his school work, while Louis acted as his minder. In 1934 the effects of Nazism were felt in the Hagen household when an anti-Nazi joke which Louis had written on a postcard to his sister, concerning Hitler's Brownshirts, the Sturm Abteilung, was discovered by a housemaid who denounced him to her Nazi boyfriend: he was sent to the Schloss Lichtenburg Concentration Camp at Torgau (in Saksen-Anhalt on the Elbe, a good 100 kilometres south of Berlin). There he was beaten, starved, and did hard labour; the guards would strip him naked and force him to crawl, saying, "cry for your Jewish mamma!" He also witnessed the murder of fellow prisoners.
Fortunately, Claus successfully appealed for Louis's release to his father, a judge and party member, and Louis was freed after four months' imprisonment. Following this, the Hagen family began the process of leaving Germany. Karl, the elder brother, departed that year, Louis himself left for England in 1936, the other children made their way out later, and in 1941 his parents used the Trans-Siberian railway to reach the us via Japan. In Britain, Hagen was employed in various positions including a steelworks in Oxford, and counted as his friends Aneurin Bevan and the biologist Peter Medawar. He enlisted in the Army and, like many other Jewish refugees, first served in the Pioneer Corps. All soldiers of German and Austrian origin were obliged to use a pseudonym in order to avoid mistreatment in the event of their capture, so Louis Hagen became Lewis Haig: "The army thought it was a great name because of the famous First World War general – and my friends because of the even more famous whisky." (20) He was accepted into the GPR at the end of 1943 and joined 22 Flight of D Squadron, 1 Wing. Arnhem was to be his first battle.
Hagen's Horsa was among the first to take off from Keevil in Wiltshire with A Squadron, on Monday 18 September 1944; he was flying as 2nd pilot to Staff Sergeant R. A. "Mac" Wheldon, carrying three men from the 156th Battalion, a jeep, and a trailer loaded with petrol. Louis clearly saw the Arnhem bridge as he prepared to land; turning to starboard, he made a perfect touch-down over a hedge on LZ-X. The two pilots leapt out to remove the tail in order to extract the jeep and trailer, while the paratroopers loosened the shackles on them and cut the control wires. Totally exposed, they were constantly fired at by snipers. Louis asked another paratrooper to place a trestle under the glider's body to support it while the tail fell off, but the tail did not budge. He found that the para had placed the trestle under the tail instead. Louis kicked the thing away but the fuselage broke off and the trestle became jammed in the fuselage, embedded in the ground. Everyone put their shoulders to the tail and it finally gave way after much sweat and cursing. Runners were fixed up, the jeep was driven off the glider, and everyone piled on to get away.
They took the jeep to the GPR rallying point at Wolfheze railway station. Dutch civilians greeted them with open arms at the Asylum and, in an effort to bridge the language gap, Hagen found himself acting as an interpreter. In the confusion, he was suddenly hailed as Prince Bernhard. The misunderstanding can probably be explained by the fact that everyone was eager for news of the prince and that Hagen’s understanding of Dutch was poor.
In the evening, 22 Flight were acting as the rearguard to the 156th Battalion's advance towards the high ground known as Lichtenbeek but, when the paratroopers encountered resistance on the edge of the LZ, they fell back to prepare for a dawn attack. Having spent the night dug in close to the railway line, Hagen was among a group of thirty glider pilots, led by his commanding officer, Captain Iain Muir, attached to A Company of the 156th. A Company were to lead the resumed attack but, as one of their platoons was still guarding the wounded on the 4th Para Brigade's LZ, they needed a replacement, which came in the form of this composite GPR platoon. As they approached the Dreyenseweg, the leading platoon was halted by heavy fire and, in spite of a desperate bayonet charge, the defence proved to be almost impenetrable. Unfortunately, the glider pilots were not able fully to support the advance of the paratroopers because they were pinned down at an early stage by fire that swept across their left flank from a forward machine-gun post, sited in a dell on the side of the road. Hagen was nearest this gun and, on realizing the threat, he attempted to destroy the position single-handedly: he managed to run to within 20 metres of it before he was forced to take cover for a while.
After the battle, Hagen wrote in Arnhem Lift (from which all the following quotations come): "I swore that if ever I got out of this hopeless position I would never be such a bloody fool again. . . . I wondered if I wanted to pray; that is what everybody is supposed to do in a position like this; but I just did not feel like it, and to calm and steady myself I watched a colony of ants go about their well-planned and systematic business." The Germans manning the post knew that Hagen was there but were not inclined to leave the safety of their position to flush him out. However, they were unaware that Hagen could understand every word of their bickering and he learnt how low their morale was. When he tried to run back towards friendly troops, he was fired on by both sides, but after a while he found men from B Company of the 156th, and emerged from the woods with his hands up. He told them that there were only young and dispirited Germans from where he had just come and that they could easily round them up. However, in spite of Hagen's glider pilot clothing and perfect English accent, the paratroopers suspected that he was a German trying to lure them into a trap. They let him go, though their suspicions were reinforced when, after they refused to help him, he ran back alone to where he had said the Germans were. Hagen was eventually able to report his information to an officer of the Battalion and thereafter occupied a position at the edge of the wood.
At about 16:00 on Tuesday 19 September, he was making a cup of tea when the Polish gliders approached LZ-L. German anti-aircraft fire opened up on them as they descended: "They were so helpless: I have never seen anything to illustrate the word 'helpless' more horribly." As the 4th Para Brigade, with the Poles and 7th King's Own Scottish Borderers in tow, began to transfer their strength south of the railway line while being constantly harassed by the Germans, Hagen reached the Wolfheze crossing and witnessed the messy process. Deciding that this was not the way to proceed, he took it on himself to take 20 other men across and down to the Rhine where they would be safe from enemy action, although he realized that this was probably not the correct thing to do. Of his group, all but his friend Dodd decided to return to Wolfheze and Hagen never saw them again. As night began to fall, the two men were discovered by A Troop of the Reconnaissance Squadron. Separated from their unit, they returned to the Squadron’s headquarters, opposite the Hartenstein, and spent the night in a trench outside.
At 06:30 on Wednesday 20 September, Hagen and Dodd accompanied A Troop's No. 3 Section on a patrol towards the Oosterbeek Hoog railway station. Moving north through the woods along the eastern side of the Stationsweg, they encountered a self-propelled gun accompanied by infantry. "A tank advancing firing shells is the most frightening thing imaginable, and of all the experiences I had later on I was never more frightened than now. I believe that this is what makes a tank such a formidable weapon." Some of the men on the patrol were able to withdraw in a jeep, but Hagen and Dodd were cut off in the woods. On their way back, they hid in a manure pit in the garden of a house on the north-eastern corner of the junction of the Utrechtseweg and Stationsweg until they made contact with another patrol coming forward. The pair were then taken towards the Hartenstein and the GPR headquarters, where Hagen rejoined D Squadron and found six men from 22 Flight.
On Thursday morning, Hagen volunteered to go on a fighting patrol to clear a block of houses opposite the Hartenstein. Following this, D Squadron, now consisting of five officers and 50 other ranks, were ordered to take up positions in houses along the Stationsweg, south of those held by the 156th Battalion and the Reconnaissance Squadron, and here they stayed until the Division was ordered to withdraw. They occupied and barricaded everyone in two houses, with trenches dug to allow unseen movement from one to the other, but they had barely stepped foot inside the buildings before they were fired on from the other side of the road. Hagen based himself in the corner house on the Utrechtseweg– Stationsweg.
On Friday 22 September, reinforcements of the Independent Parachute Company arrived on the Stationsweg, which allowed the glider pilots to tighten their positions, and Hagen relocated himself to Stationsweg 18, the second house from the corner of Stationsweg and Paul Krugerstraat, where he stayed for most of the time. During the morning, a self-propelled gun made a cautious challenge to the British lines, its engine revving up, tracks creaking and grinding, being heard before it was seen, with the Germans shouting aggressively before the attack started. This became a regular event each morning over the coming days. On this occasion, the German attack was discouraged by Lieutenant Strathern and Hagen, who took a Projector Infantry Anti-Tank gun (piat) up to the loft where they were able to return fire through a hole in the roof without being spotted, and dominate the road along which the Germans approached. But still the gun came on, tearing bricks out of the house walls with its shots.
Later in the day, during a lull, the thoughts of the men turned to finding food and Hagen with Sergeant Stan Graham foraged for whatever was going along the length of the street. They called at the house of the Kremner family, at Stationsweg 8. Mrs. Kremner invited two glider pilots and men of the Independent Company to sign her guestbook and pose for a few photographs (one of which appears regularly in books on the battle but Hagen’s face is almost totally obscured in it). Hagen wrote in her book (as recorded in Arnhem Lift): "I do hope & believe that the mess we made of your lovely house was worth while + good luck for a happier future", signing it Lewis Haig.
As supper was served, Captain Ogilvie, the kilted commander of D Squadron, received orders from Brigadier Hackett first to discover where the Germans were withdrawing their men and equipment to, and secondly if they were occupying the houses on the Paul Krugerstraat. Twice on Friday night, Hagen and Sergeant Graham went out to find answers to these questions. They succeeded in locating their primary objective and described it as a large open area which formed part of a country house, containing a hill and two very large oak trees with benches around their base. Returning to Hackett's headquarters at the Hartenstein, where Hagen angered the Brigadier by placing a dirty finger on his map, he recommended that an artillery bombardment be laid down on the Dennenkamp woods where the base seemed to be fed from, the position itself being too close to the British lines to fire on.
On Sunday 24 September, during the routine morning attack a splinter severed a vein in Hagen’s hand as he manned a Bren gun, but he refused to leave the front line. Another assault came in the evening and in the confusion Hagen threw all his grenades into a house neighbouring his own on the Paul Krugerstraat, not realizing until it was too late that there were no Germans in the house, only British. Fortunately, he had been too quick with the grenades and his comrades were able to throw them out again just in time. Hagen wrote: "I was never more grateful for being a fool!"
That night, Hagen and Captain Ogilvie, who grew close during the battle, travelled to the Hartenstein to report their position. On Monday afternoon, 25 September (which was Yom Kippur), they learned that the Division was going to pull out. At about 22:15 the troops in their part of the perimeter began to make their way to the riverbank in the rain, but once they arrived it became clear that the prospects of being evacuated were fading: the embarkation point was being fired on and no boats could be seen moving across the river. Hagen and Ogilvie decided to risk swimming but halfway across Hagen got into difficulty and in panic abandoned his possessions and any excess weight he was carrying. He reached the other side safely but could not see Ogilvie anywhere; it was not until he was back in England that he discovered that Captain Ogilvie had drowned, hampered by a wounded arm and weighed down by his kilt.
After travelling to Nijmegen in an ambulance, Hagen proceeded with many others in convoy along the Nijmegen–Brussels road to Louvain, passing streams of transports, tanks, artillery, jeeps; in parts the road was being shelled by German guns, and British tanks acted as shields. All the way to Brussels the road was lined with burnt out German and Allied armour and lorries and graves with Allied or German helmets on them. At Louvain they were fed in the late afternoon and in the evening went pub-crawling and made friends with the Belgians. Next morning they embarked for England. Hagen and three other men were returned to their barracks at Keevil airfield on 29 September. There they found their quarters exactly as they had left them but 18 beds were now without owners. Reflecting on his experiences, Hagen wrote: "Then I knew that I had a complete picture of myself. The seven days had given me seven years of experience and confidence; I knew what I was like. . . . Then I went to sleep."
For his actions in these seven days, Hagen was awarded the Military Medal, recommended by Captain Ogilvie, and the investiture took place at Buckingham Palace. The citation reads: "Through the action at Arnhem, 19th to 25th September 1944, Sergeant Haig showed outstanding leadership and example to the men. He volunteered continuously for patrolling and after hard fighting each day carried ammunition through enemy fire during the hours of darkness. In spite of being injured whilst firing a bren gun he refused to leave his post. At all times he was a fine example by his complete disregard for his personal safety. He instilled great confidence in the other ranks and was in large measure responsible for keeping the enemy away from the positions held." (21)
Towards the end of 1944, Hagen and other glider pilots were sent to India. After six months of waiting, they trained intensively for an assault on Japan by the Airborne elements of the 14th British Army but, fortunately for all concerned, Japan surrendered before an invasion became necessary. Louis was put out that he was not in Europe for the surrender of the Nazis. Despite a fervent belief in his own lack of intelligence, this did not prevent Hagen from embarking on a journalistic career. As he had grown tired of repeating his story time and time again, encouraged by his girlfriend, Dido Milroy, he had written a book of his experiences at Arnhem before he left for India. Arnhem Lift was completed in a fortnight and is written from his perspective as a tale of the ordinary soldier's battle. However, he also gives a few of his opinions on the wider objective, including criticisms of the training regime of the GPR. Needless to say, when he passed the manuscript to the commander of 1 Wing, Lieutenant-Colonel Iain Murray, he received a strong rebuke: "No Britisher would ever have let his comrades down by writing stuff like this. It lets down the whole regiment!" (22) Murray tried to ban it but while Hagen was in India, and without his knowledge, his girlfriend sent the manuscript to the War Office and obtained permission to publish, but anonymously, which followed in January 1945. It is believed to be the first book published about Arnhem and became a bestseller translated into nine languages. Hagen's gift for refreshingly descriptive writing was applauded by reviewers. The book became the basis of the Brian Desmond Hurst film, "Theirs is the Glory" (1946), which re-enacted the battle with some of the surviving participants.
Hagen worked at length for Phoenix, a forces newspaper in South-East Asia, and his travels took him to India, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Siam (Thailand), and Indo-China, where he was the first Western journalist to interview Ho Chi Minh. He was at various times attached to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, REME, and the Royal Artillery. Utilizing the many articles he had written as a journalist, he wrote his second book, Indian Route March, analysing the country from the perspective of a soldier, in which he was not in the least afraid to speak openly and be critical of a number of cultural or political questions. He returned to England in February 1946 but yearned to go back to Germany at the earliest opportunity, so took a job with the Sunday Express in Berlin, also working for Country Life and John Bull. Hagen was most fascinated by life in his native country under Nazi rule, and in Follow My Leader (1951) wrote about the era through the eyes of nine ordinary Germans, all of whom were known to him, four Nazis, three non-Nazis, and two anti-Nazis. Following this he published biographies of Joseph Goebbels (1953) and of the head of the Foreign Political Information Service of the Sicherheitsdienst, Walter Schellenberg (1956). On other topics, in 1958 he wrote an account of his journey through South America and in 1968 published an investigation into spying in Germany during the Cold War.
In 1950, Hagen married Anne Mie, a Norwegian artist, with whom he had two daughters, Siri and Caroline. Dividing his time between London and Norway, Hagen also established Primrose Film Productions, which created 25 children's films. He returned to Arnhem twice, first in 1948 to show his fiancée where he had fought, and again in 1994 for the 50th anniversary. He had not planned to attend because "the idea of parading with hundreds of old veterans like myself wearing rows of medals and red berets did not appeal to me." (23) At the age of 84, Louis Hagen died on 17 August 2000; he rests at Asker in Oslo, Norway, with a clear Star of David on the headstone. (24)
Jewish Glider Pilots Roll and Record of Honour, Second World War
The AJEX Jewish Chaplains cards and other sources have revealed the following known Jewish glider pilots of the war. There are certainly many more whose units were never recorded on these cards and so whose service in the GPR will never be known. Of the 1,334 glider pilots at Arnhem, for example, at least 22 were Jews. As the Jewish proportion of the UK population is never more than half of one per cent, the same proportion would yield no more than about 7 Jewish pilots; there were in fact three times that – a great and worthy overproportion.
6457987 Staff Sergeant J. Block, B Squadron, 4 Flight, Glider 132, Arnhem, escaped.
5572804 Staff Sergeant John Arthur Boorman, 1st Pilot, 1st GPR, killed in action, Italy, 10 July 1943, Cassino memorial, Panel 12. Son of Jacob and Rose and husband of Dora, of Catford, London.
Sergeant John Breitenbach/Britenbach/Brighton, 1st Pilot, E Squadron, D-Day and Arnhem, escaped; lived postwar in Knaresborough near Harrogate; information from comrade Larry Goldthorpe, formerly of York (telephone conversation, 3 April 2010).
Sergeant George V. "Peppi" De Liss/Deliss/Delitz, Pilot, A Squadron, AAC, Austrian Jewish friend of Louis Hagen, mm, whose Arnhem Lift he illustrated (telephone call, early 2000, with Sergeant Louis Hagen).
13046281 Sergeant Pilot Joseph [D. C.?] De Liss, Pilot, F Squadron, Flight 16, Glider No. 174, escaped. Brother of George De Liss. Information from his co-pilot L. Hugh Martin in Canada and his daughter, Clementine De Liss.
1491160 Sergeant Stanley Joseph Edwards
7090302 Sergeant Solomon Fineberg, A Company/Squadron, 1st GPR, North Africa and Europe.
3458590 Staff Sergeant Cyril Fisher, 1st Pilot, D Squadron, D-Day, killed at Arnhem 20 September 1944, Groesebeek memorial, Panel 8.
14869054 Sergeant Harold Bernard Fox, 1st Pilot, Beds and Herts Regiment, transferred to AAC.
1561122 Sergeant Ronald Franks, 1 Wing, D Squadron, 13 Flight, D-Day, died of wounds received at Arnhem while a POW, 22 September 1944, buried Oosterbeek, grave 3.C.3. Son of Harry and Rose of Edgware. He had an address at 27 East Street, Barking. Reports in Jewish Chronicle, 27 Oct. 1944 and 16 Feb. 1945 said he died of wounds as a POW on 22 October 1944. AJEX Museum, letter from his niece, Mrs. A. Sarner, and cousin, Alan Cass.
Sergeant W. Franks, 1st GPR
1806751 Warrant Officer Bertie Ginsberg (RAFVR), 1st Pilot, Operation Varsity, 2 Wing, E Squadron.
311473 Captain Leslie Glatman Sergeant Joseph Gold Sergeant Len Goldstein, refugee volunteer, mentioned in the Jewish Chronicle, 13 Oct. 1944.
4748602 Sergeant P. Graham
14417002 Sergeant Frank Ashleigh (Greenbaum), 1st Pilot, A Squadron, POW Arnhem 14623984
Sergeant Louis Hagen/Lewis Haig/Levy MM, 2nd Pilot, A Squadron, Arnhem.
14428984 Sergeant Harold Halmer, of 83 Mexborough Gardens, Leeds, served Arnhem. AJEX Museum, letter from the brother of his friend, Bernard Spencer.
6149848 Staff Sergeant Samuel Gregory Isaacs/Murray DFM, 1st Pilot, 2 Wing, E Squadron, 11/12 Flight, Glider 289, Arnhem, escaped; also served North Africa, Sicily, Italy, D-Day, and India. From Walworth Road area of London, son of Samuel and Rose. DFM citation reads: "This NCO has taken part in three airborne operations, Sicily, D Day and Arnhem. On each occasion he has shown the most skilful ability as a pilot and has landed his load safely in the correct place. His determination and coolness under difficult conditions has at all times been most conspicuous."
78782 Colonel/Squadron Leader Robert Kronfeld AFC, RAF, glider expert and planner of D-Day glider operations; husband of Margaret. Killed aged 43, testing an advanced military glider on 12 February 1948 at Lasham aerodrome, near Alton, Hampshire, and cremated at Golders Green cemetery, London. (25)
Staff Sergeant Mark Leaver(s), Glider 1003, escaped [to be confirmed]
1478958 Sergeant John Oliver Levison, 2 Wing, E Squadron, killed at Arnhem 19 September 1944, buried Oosterbeek, grave 17.A.12 (cross on grave probably in error). Son of Arthur and Lydia of Farnham.
Sergeant Louis Levy, G Squadron, Arnhem, escaped; later served in Palestine. AJEX Museum, confirmation from P. Reinders of Arnhem Battle Research Group and Eric Kemish, a veteran.
5125580 Staff Sergeant Bob Julius Levy, 2nd GPR, killed, possibly on training or of wounds, 12 April 1944, buried Birmingham, Witton Jewish cemetery, D 4 487. Son of Joel Woolf and Phoebe of Edgbaston.
Philip Lyons/Isaac, 1st GPR
14734186 Cyril Makoff, previously 12th Devonshire Regiment, POW D-Day
13106631 Sergeant Martin Maxwell/Meisels, B Squadron, 3 Flight, Austrian refugee, D-Day, wounded and POW at Arnhem. Before take-off he gave his tefillin (phylacteries) to a Christian padre for safe-keeping and got them back after he was liberated from Fallingbostel POW camp in 1945.
337730 Lieutenant Ernest C. Neuman(n)
401146 Flight Lieutenant Leo Braham Patkin RAAF, possibly attached, AAC/RAF Glider Pilots, killed 2 January 1944, buried Hanover, grave 1.G.14. Son of Maurice and Marie and husband of Claire, South Yarra, Victoria.
Lionel Pekarsky/Pack, Jewish refugee who led the De Havilland design and flying team for the heavy gliders used at Arnhem. He died in 2003; The Times obituary.
268115 Captain Sydney Leon Rapaport, formerly Royal Northumberland Fusiliers
2070307 Staff Sergeant Roland D.[?] Rose, D Squadron, 5 Flight, wounded and POW at Arnhem, escaped? Telephone call from comrade Ronald Rose, formerly of Lancashire, Bradford on Avon, 3 April 2010. AJEX Museum, "Jews in Wartime" notes, undated letter from his widow.
4914584 Staff Sergeant Ronald S. Rosenberg, 2nd South Staffordshire Regiment, transferred to E Squadron, GPR, POW at Arnhem, escaped? Lived in Brighton.
13801214 Lieutenant Abraham Rosenthal, served as Redferne, 1st GPR, served North Africa, Sicily, Arnhem [to be confirmed].
1596358 Sergeant Harvey/Harry Rossdale, 1st Pilot, co-pilot L. Hugh Martin (see Joseph De Liss), X Flight, Waco gliders, wounded Operation Dingson, mission to SAS in Normandy; discharged badly injured just before D-Day. Friend of Raphael Shovel.
14219614 Sergeant Theodore Albert "Teddy" Rubenstein, Royal Fusiliers, transferred to 2 Wing, E Squadron, killed at Arnhem, 22 September 1944, buried Arnhem Oosterbeek, grave 3.B.7. Son of Ernest and Annie of 23 Teilo Rd, Cardiff. He was killed by a flamethrower, described in a letter from the brother of a comrade, Captain L. Futter (see under "Possible Jewish glider pilots" below), and in the Jewish Chronicle, 2 Nov. 1945. He earned his wings at Luffenham, was 6 ft 2 tall, and popular with his comrades; two telephone calls from fellow paratroopers, Mr Hands and Mr Renard.
937965 St Sergeant Leslie T. or E. Sanders, A Squadron, escaped [to be confirmed]
14564670 Sergeant Raphael Shovel, 2nd Pilot, F Squadron, D-Day, wounded at Arnhem. Postwar award for assistance to Israel in its War of Independence.
13803084 Sergeant Ernest "Sim" Simion/Simeon, 2 Wing, F Squadron, 16 Flight, flew on the first lift in a Horsa glider, killed at Arnhem 20 September 1944, buried Oosterbeek 3.B.4. Son of Eva of Hampstead, London.
"Ikey" White, killed at Arnhem, eyewitness report [to be confirmed]
6846961 Sergeant Julius "Jules" Wisebad, D Squadron, killed at Arnhem, 18 September 1944, Groesebeek memorial, Panel 8. Mentioned in Jewish Chronicle, 6 Oct. 1944. Julius was from 5 Handley Road, Hackney, and had married on 2 June 1944.
289605 Sergeant Hyman "Wally" Woltag, 2nd Pilot, C Squadron, 1/2 Wing, wounded at Arnhem.
Possible Jewish glider pilots (Arnhem)
2149279 Sergeant L. Abel, C Squadron, 6 Flight, Glider 325, POW Stalag 11B 4128898
Sergeant F. Bratt, A Squadron, 17 Flight, Glider 924, escaped
261666 Lieutenant Herman L. Futter, Adjutant B Squadron headquarters, 1 Wing, Arnhem, escaped. With seven other pilots, he went on a tankhunting patrol on 21 September 1944. On the night of the withdrawal on 25 September, he was ordered to select GPR pickets to line the escape route down to the Rhine for the escape.
5347997 Staff Sergeant R. Ison, D Squadron, POW, Stalag 11B
4267924 Sergeant C. H. C. Lyons, F Squadron, POW, Stalag 11B
2885611 Staff Sergeant 1st Pilot Jack Needleman, killed 28 April 1944, aged 24, buried Glasgow, Glenduffhill Jewish cemetery, grave C 209. Son of Michael and Mary of Glasgow.
(1). For further reading on the Jewish contribution to airborne forces, other Special Forces, and much more, see Martin Sugarman, Fighting Back: British Jewry's Military Contribution in WW2 (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2010) and Martin Sugarman and Henry Morris, We Will Remember Them (London: Valentine Mitchell, 2011). If any readers have knowledge of other Jewish glider pilots not named here, or further information on those listed, and especially photographs, please contact me at the AJEX Jewish Military Museum (www.ajex.org.uk) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(2). According to his AJEX Jewish Chaplain card, his parents were then living at 61 Aberdeen Park, Highbury, London N5; interview with Bertie Ginsberg, May 2009.
(3). He met RAF Jewish Chaplain, Rev. Arthur Super, on 2 May 1943; AJEX card.
(4). His AJEX Jewish Chaplain card gives February 1942 and spells his alternative surname as "Ashley"; interview with Frank Greenbaum, May 2009.
(6). Interview recorded on 4 February 2001 (this part not taped, at Raphael's request). At the time of writing, Raphael lives in Bournemouth with his wife and frequently visits Israel, as he has done for decades, enjoying his favourite pastime of scuba diving at Eilat.
(7). See David Cesarani, Major Farran's Hat (London: Heinemann, 2009), 197–201.
(8). Daily Express, undated cutting (autumn 1948). See Cesarani, Major Farran’s Hat, 255 and his many references to National Archives files and newspaper articles at the time of the trial in 1948.
(9). Daily Express, 5 Sept. 1948, front page; Daily Telegraph, 30 Aug. 1948, front page.
(10). Burns was from Ferndale Road, Stamford Hill; South Wales Echo, 1 Sept. 1948, front page.
(11). It was believed that the explosives might also have been intended to blow up lorries due to be exported to Iraq, for later use against Israel.
(12). Harris's later life was plagued by tragedy: his younger son died as a teenager in a railway accident which was thought to be suicide, and his elder son, Kenny, who had been a promising sportsman, was badly injured in a rugby accident and became a quadriplegic. His friend Stewart Pactor related that when Harris died, in the late 1980s or early 90s, the Israeli government sent a military guard of honour of seven soldiers to fire a 21-gun salute over his coffin at Duke Street cemetery in Southport, where he is buried; telephone interview, 11 May 2013.
(13). Also present, but unknown to me at the time, was Christa Laird, the daughter of Lieutenant Rudolf Falck, a German Jewish refugee, Corps of Military Police, attached to the Airborne, killed in action on 25/26 Sept. 1944, who has no known grave. Christa and her son laid a wreath at the spot where Rudolf was known to have died; see Julie Summers, Stranger in the House (London: Pocket Books, 2009), 62–4, and Sugarman, Fighting Back, 353–4.
(14). AJEX Jewish Chaplain card.
(15). Telephone conversation (date not recorded) with Mr Price, who served with him, and fellow serviceman Richard Long.
(16). Ron P. Gibson, Nine Days (Ilfracombe: A. Stockwell, 1956).
(17). The following account is taken from London, Imperial War Museum, tape 29549, John McGeough, of Solihull.
(18). Personal information from The Guardian, obituary (by Melanie McFadyean), 22 Sept. 2000; the 1993 reissue of Louis Hagen, Follow My Leader (London: Allen Wingate, 1951). For his military career, see Louis Hagen mm, Arnhem Lift (1945; Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 1993) and Indian Route March (New York: Pilot Press, 1946).
(19). H. A. van Wijnen, Sprong in de Afgrond: Arnhem Geofferd aan de Ambities van Montgomery (Leap into the abyss: Arnhem sacrified to the ambition of Montgomery; Amsterdam: Balans, 1994), ch. 4 n. 1. Hagen visited the Prince again in 1994; Hagen, Arnhem Lift.
(20). Hagen, Arnhem Lift, 12. Louis's war story is told in his book but some highlights are recorded here.
(21). London Gazette, 9 Nov. 1944, p. 5130; citation in AAC Museum Records, Middle Wallop, Hampshire.
(22). Hagen, Arnhem Lift (1993), p. 114, suspected that Murray sent him to India because he had written the book.
(23). Louis Hagen, article written for the 50th anniversary of Arnhem in 1994, typescript in Hartenstein, Airborne Museum archive, G Squadron dossier. Louis's medals were stolen from his studio in London in the 1970s and he had to purchase replacements. I discovered the owner after Louis's death, who had bought them in good faith, but he nevertheless refused to return them, despite legal efforts by the Hagen family.
(24). Under "Deceased" in The Eagle (April 2001) is simply noted: "L Hagen MM, London late 2000." I thank Ruurd Kok of Leiden, the Netherlands, for his help and research and for his incisive investigation of Hagen's life and character, "In The Footsteps of Louis Hagen", Friends of the Airborne Museum Newsletter, 85 (Feb. 2002).
(25). Sailplane & Glider, March 1948, p. 81; Jewish Chronicle, 9 July 1971; thanks to Gina Marks of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain for this information.