Major Bush at the Arnhem Investiture at Buckingham Palace

Major Alan Bush


Unit : Headquarters, 3rd Parachute Battalion

Army No. : 160544

Awards : Military Cross


Major Alan Bush was Second-in-Command of the 3rd Parachute Battalion. His flight to Arnhem was not at all a pleasant one, he later remarked that he was "the only person to have vomited my way into Europe. I was sick all the way, even though I had flown many times. It wasn't apprehension, because it all went like a practice drop; it was the petrol and oil fumes that did it."


On the advance to Arnhem on the 17th September, Major Bush was with Battalion HQ when the leading elements encountered Krafft's blocking line. An armoured vehicle appeared on the scene: "I was behind a tree, and he put the burst of fire meant for me into the base of the tree; he was in danger of cutting the tree down. A man from our Intelligence Section was near me. I told him to throw a grenade, but he froze, statationary as a startled rabbit. I have to admit that I couldn't throw my grenade; I had forgotten to prime it. I ran back, zigzagging, for fifty yards and hid in the undergrowth. The intelligence man was taken prisoner."


Bush was not happy with the decision, made by Major-General Urquhart and Brigadier Lathbury, to halt the 3rd Battalion overnight. He later wrote, "That was the start of the great cock-up. I felt very sorry for Colonel Fitch. Urquhart needed to get back to Division, and Lathbury wanted to get forward to the bridge. If we had not had those two with us, Fitch would probably have followed "C" Company around that route to the north, but he could hardly move without the approval of both the divisional and brigade commanders - a hopeless situation."


On the following day, Bush was with "B" Company, along with Fitch, Urquhart and Lathbury, as they advanced into Arnhem, however the Company soon outran the remainder of the Battalion who were meeting resistance in the rear, and when "B" Company themselves met opposition they remained in a position of stalemate until darkness fell. During the day, Bush saw a German patrol very close to the house in which he was sheltering, "...only twenty yards away. I could see every bit of their equipment. I remember one had a big fat arse and I thought, "What a target!" They were being very casual. Three of our men were ready to open fire, but I ordered them not to. RSM Lord was there and he nodded approval; you can't start a battle with the divisional commander and the brigadier in the same house.


On Tuesday 19th September, the remnants of the 3rd Battalion moved forward alongside the 1st Battalion and 2nd South Staffordshires in an attempt to break through to the bridge, however they were caught in a lethal cross-fire and many were killed or captured while the survivors were compelled to withdraw. "The Colonel called an O-Group with myself, the Adjutant - Charles Seccombe - and the IO. We were about 250 yards from the pavilion. The Colonel was sitting with his back to the German mortar fire, which was coming down steadily, foot by foot, along the bushes. I could see it coming and said we must get out of there. He told me to get the men back; most of them were behind us; the Colonel was as far forward as anybody. I moved back and found about thirty of our men and told them to run straight back to the pavilion. One or two were badly injured in the arms or shoulders, and I told these to go straight up the slope so St Elizabeth Hospital. I don't know whether they made it; with any luck they should have done. I expected to see the Colonel and the other officers in the pavilion soon after, but they didn't arrive." Lieutenant-Colonel Fitch was killed by a mortar explosion, which also left Lieutenant Vedeniapine, the Intelligence Officer, mentioned by Major Bush, badly wounded.


Thereafter, Bush led the survivors of the 3rd Battalion back to Oosterbeek, where he was given command of the remnants of the 1st Parachute Brigade. His conduct throughout the battle led to him being awarded the Military Cross. His citation reads:


This officer has served with his Battalion since its formation in September 1941, and he previously fought gallantly in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy.


During the airborne operation at ARNHEM, September 17th-25th, 1944, he was wounded on the first day and became separated from his unit. The following day he attempted to rejoin his unit but was taken prisoner. Through his resourcefulness and eagerness to fight he escaped and rejoined the remainder of the Division which was still in action.


He was given command of the 1st Parachute Brigade sector on September 22nd, and so successfully did he reorganise it that its front was never broken. On September 25th, while gallantly leading a counter-attack he was again wounded, but continued to lead his men until the end of the operation. Throughout at great risk to himself he constantly visited his men in every forward position, and his personal example was at all times enheartening and inspiring.


Major Alan Bush was evacuated across the Rhine when the 1st Airborne Division withdrew, although the journey to the south bank was made somewhat more precarious when the boat's engine failed half-way across. "I thought I had heard every oath in the English language but I heard a few new ones from those Canadians until they got it going again."


See also: Maj Waddy.


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