Lance-Corporal Alan Aldcroft

 

Unit : 4th Parachute Squadron

Army No. : 2020229

 

Alan Aldcroft joined the 4th Parachute Squadron in 1943 and served with them in Italy. When they returned to England and a prolonged period of frustrated inactivity followed, many men took to going AWOL by adopting a lax attitude to honouring the terms of their leave passes. Aldcroft had married a local girl in June 1944, and he was amongst those who added a slight extension to their weekend pass.

 

'I'd been made a full Corporal on the Friday and was busted back to Sapper on the Monday. I returned late from the leave on Monday and was cycling back to Glaston from Stamford when I bumped into Major Perkins taking the Squadron out for a route march! My Wife cried her eyes out when I told her as she'd just sewn on my new stripes. When Arnhem came along they had to make me back up to L/Corporal.'

 

'At Arnhem we landed under fire on GINKEL Heath on the second day, on the third day we were under fire over the railway line. Moaning minnies and shelling kept us pinned down, by this time we had lost some of the Squadron. Lt. Harris and the rest of us made a recce and found on the other side of the Railway was a lager of tanks. We found out later that it was Gen. Model reforming his division.'

 

'Our small group were among the last to leave the area of the culvert under the railway, Charlie Salmon and I had been manning a Bren and we saw the Germans crossing the opens fields. We went through the culvert and the rest of the Squadron had already moved off, soon we got pinned down by heavy mortar fire in the woods. We could hear the German armour moving about to the north of us. After many hours pinned down we met up with the Brigade HQ group and with them tried to fight our way into our lines. Our group was told to clear some Germans that were stopping us moving forward, they had machine guns on top of barricades of piled up logs firing across the tracks and rides. Lieutenant Harris was in front of us throwing grenades and he went down, I think he was wounded in the leg. Geoff Morrison was shot and killed, I saw the bullet pass right through him and out of his back, we couldn't get to him because of all the shooting. Driver Bower was wounded in the hand and Charlie Salmon was shot through the face, we put Charlie on top of a jeep trailer, bloody fools that we were! Charlie told us to get him off the trailer as the bullets were whistling everywhere, we lifted him off put him on the ground and gave him a shot of morphine before we left. Squadron Sergeant Major Marriott was with us and was wounded in the back of the neck, I put his arm around my shoulder and helped carry him as we were all taken prisoner.'

 

Charlie Salmon died of his wounds whilst in the POW hospital at Apeldoorn.

 

Alan Aldcroft was amongst a column of British POW's being marched away from the Renkum area, when a German corporal climbed out of his trench and opened fire upon the helpless prisoners with a captured British machine-gun. Lieutenant Skinner of 261 Field Park Company was killed instantly and a number of men were wounded, including Captain Muir of the Glider Pilot Regiment, who died of his injuries on Monday 25th September.

 

'It was about 11 o'clock in the morning and the weather was fine and clear. We were being marched as a group of prisoners, when for no reason a German soldier started firing into us with a machine gun. We all hit the deck as fast as we could but some men were hit. I was within a yard of Lt. Skinner when he was shot. We formed a circle round him, checked he was dead; he had a bullet wound in the centre of his forehead, so we checked he had nothing to identify him. We did, however, find a letter he had received from a nurse at Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow, which we destroyed. Captain Muir, with Lt. Skinner, was at the front of the column, but it all happened so quick, the guards got us back into column and marched us off. I heard later that a German Officer shot on the spot the soldier that fired into us but I didn't see it. We did see a German Officer go to the Machine Gunner and take him away. There was no reason for the shooting, we were in a column with Guards all round us.'

 

'We were taken to a Rail Station at Haarskamp and taken to Limburg, which was hellish. We were taken first to an R.A.F. Stalag and then sent back to Limburg. From Limburg we were put in a cattle truck, taken to Stalag 4B, near Leipzig. We were then put out to Merseburg on Arbouts Komando, in other words "work party". We were bombed out twice at Merseburg by the R.A.F. and American Airforce, who were after the Luene Petrol Factory, and the Buna Chemical Works at opposite ends of Merseburg.'

 

'As the Allies got nearer, we were told that we had to march east, joining up with other P.O.W's on the way. When we got to a place called Wurzen, on the River Elbe, the seniors in the party refused to cross the Elbe, to cross it was going into Russian occupation, so the sentries left it to us, and we wondered back west, and the Americans released us.'

 

Alan Aldcroft currently resides in Lincolnshire. My thanks to him for contributing his story to the site, and also to Steve McLaughlin, author of 4 Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers for his assistance.

 

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