Captain Arthur Edgar O'Grady
Unit : No.1 Forward (Airborne) Observation Unit, RA
Army No. : 255022
Awards : Member of the British Empire
The following diary was kept by Captain O'Grady during the battle, written on the back of Message Form paper.
Night 21-22 Sept. Area heavily shelled. Good support from Corps Arty [Artillery] on other side of Rhine. Communication extremely difficult. Jerry jamming our net particularly between 0230 hrs and 0630 hrs however we shelled them back like hell.
22nd morning. 0700 hrs enemy 105 How [105mm Howitzer] shelled us incessantly. Casualties very heavy indeed every offr [officer] & man not wounded helped carry wounded into A.D.S. [Advanced Dressing Station]. Pretty shaky experience for everybody, shelling continued until 1200 hrs. Hilary slightly wounded, Mahy seriously, Graves slightly & Deane killed. Never has the use of a deep slit trench ever been appreciated so much. [?] airburst effect on shells as striking trees produced a terrific hail of shrapnel increasing casualties. Poor old doc, he worked like hell & was absolutely overrun at time period with stretchers with wounded fortunately not all serious. Quite a few dead unfortunately. Everyone frantically hoping like hell the 2nd Army reach us tonight. G1 [General Staff Officer 1 - Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Mackenzie] and CRE [Commander Royal Engineers - Lieutenant-Colonel Eddie Myers] got across river to join up with 2nd Army to liaise. 2100 hrs onwards Poles ferried across the river (approx 60-70). News at midnight that we are to expect 5 DCLI [Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry] in Ducks across the river. Spirits much higher. No further news of DCLI. Heavy shelling 0345 hrs. Heard about 2100 hrs that Norman Walker [Major, 1st Airlanding Light Regiment] had been killed - a great loss.
...or early [?]. Being sniped & mortared & shelled like hell at odd periods thro' the day but men are magnificent every man jack doing his stuff to keep out the hun. G1 great chap with CRE ferried across the river to join the Poles & link up with 2nd Army when they arrive. Great news just heard that fwd [forward] elements of HCR [Household Cavalry] armd cars now linked up with Poles over the river... [Text indecipherable, but refers to the arrival of the 2nd Army's artillery within range of Oosterbeek] glad because we are providing a hell of a lot of tgts [targets] for them. It's grand to get on the blower pass a ref [reference] [?] on after to hear our shells whistling over on the hun... The optimistic lot say Arnhem is in flames & Jerry is evacuating the town - a bit premature I think but hope they are right. What a hell of a day but we are still holding out against big odds.
23 0612 getting light now. Being shelled like hell. I believe the Bosch has been calling on our troops to surrender saying that we are surrounded shells blast us to hell if we don't. He's certainly trying hard but we are determined to hold out. We have now been going six days. It seems like six months. No food for two days & precious little sleep. Still some wounded rolling in. What I wouldn't give for a cigarette, a good bath some food & a sleep for a week. No air support for three days now. We could do with some Typhoons to shoot up these blasted mortars that are causing all [sentence ends].
Sunday 24th Sept. Usual morning hate - very heavy mortaring & shelling at dawn till 0900 hrs. Short respite. Here they are again my god how much longer must we put up with this. Casualties are still pouring in & quite a few dead. There's a poor chap moaning in the corridor. I believe his spine is spattered with shrapnel. There are some ghastly wounds. Doc is a marvel I don't believe he's had 4 hrs sleep in three days. The heroes in this battle are numerous. Truly was it said in the papers a while back that every airborne man should get the V.C. after this show if we can hold out a few more days we shall be proud of the impossible task we have done. It has been absolute hell diving in & out of trenches, eating fighting & sleeping in trenches not knowing whether we shall be alive in an hours time. By jove I have been lucky so far just being able to dive from my wireless set into the slit trench each time just making it & being blown in with the blast. I wonder who invented the mortar, little did he know he would be responsible for the loss of so many young lives. I shall never forget this battle now [?] & old as long as I live.
Every man jack has been [? ?] with sub units about 50% casualties in some cases about 80% they have dug in & held their sectors against continuous shelling & mortar fire. No food for three days now [?], that we all had has been given up for the wounded. What I wouldn't give for a good cup of tea, a cigarette & an arm chair. Hardly any sleep too but we are all still amazingly cheerful. The brotherly spirit is magnificent people breaking a biscuit into 4 pieces so that someone would have something however little. [?] officers breaking [cigs?] in half to keep going. Unfortunately my large pack containing several bars of choc & 200 cigs benefited the bosch when Kit was shot up in town in my jeep. He is damned lucky to get away with a leg injury. I haven't heard of Buck, Tom, Dudley, John, Bill or Steve or Ken since D+2. I wonder whether they are still alive. All our wounded are bosch prisoners now we had to save their lives as he was shelling the hospital [?] in which some of our tps were so we left the area & hoped he would too but the swine marched in & occupied. [?] I believe last 150 of his troop [?] from our [?] in the hosp. knowing we wouldn't shell. However, give him his due as he is evacuating all the wounded out of the battle area. There's a blasted sniper around [? ?] Col Murray has been testing him to see if he's a good shot by putting a steel helmet on a stick round the corner.
The following notes were compiled by Captain O'Grady concerning the establishment of No.1 Forward Observation Unit and his role in the war.
1. Salisbury Plain. [Major] Reg [Wight-Boycott] and I formed 1st FOU RA Apr. 1944. Hand picked officers & men.
2. Unit billeted in Lady [Vander Elst's?] Harlaxton Castle Grantham where I had dual role of Adj[utant] & Q.M. [Quartermaster] & we equipped the unit - there about 3 months.
3. June/Jly moved unit to old Farm House just outside Swindon Wilts 'WROUGHTON' almost adjoining 'D' Day Hospital where we did our training.
4. When the various airborne ops were muted we were dispersed, i.e. OP [Observation Post] Officers & signallers to join their various Para Bns & others under canvas.
5. Part of unit at Arnhem
Capt. A.E. O'Grady
Capt. W. Swanson Whimster
Capt. W.S. Caird
Capt. C.J.S. McMillan
Capt. I. Gilman
Capt. C.W. Ikin
Capt. S. Birchmore
Capt. J.A. Brown (Topper)
Capt. W. Mallett
Capt. J. Langford
Capt. T. Miller
Capt. J. Buchanan
Capt. S. Stephens
Capt. R.J. Gow
Capt. K. Kennedy
Capt. D. Bowerman
Bdr. C. Jabobs
) survived & came back across Lower Rhine.
wounded taken prisoner
" " "
" " "
" " "
Killed on Arnhem Bridge
Severely wounded - died 23 Sep
Killed in Action
Glider Crashed in Channel. Survived.
Killed in Action
) survived & came across Lower Rhine.
Badly wounded - Taken Prisoner.
Killed in Action
) Crashed in Capt Kennedy's glider in E Channel & survived.
Died of severe wounds.
6. On return from Arnhem the unit was temporarily - during embarkation leave in Nissen hutted camp at Grantham.
7. The unit was reformed at Coleby near Waddington Lincs. The house in the background of the unit photo is Coleby Grange which was our officers mess & quarters.
8. Unit or part of it went to Norway May 1945. Bill Caird, Whimpy, Joe Whitton & a few others went to Oslo. I was at Stavanger was appointed some welfare officers & was responsible for initially billeting of all the units at Stavanger choosing & forming A, B Mess locations arranging entertainment for the troops - had films flown out from London. Arranged after a fortnight a welcoming party & dance at the Town Hall for all the Norwegian dignitaries & C.R.A. [Commander Royal Artillery] & Gen Urquhart to meet. A most successful evening thoroughly enjoyed by all concerned. I received the generals personal congratulations on the arrangements. I started a forces weekly newspaper called the Stavanger Star of which I still have a copy. Started a holiday camp for men of the zone. I was recommended for an M.B.E. by Bob Loder Symonds for work in getting going the local life - shops, entertainment, yacht club & general administration of the town. I had a special [comm the Mil Governor?] Olsen shipping magnate, Lord Mayor, leading male female college students, & leader of the underground which I chaired for a period until we got normal town life going again. I didn't get my M.B.E. which Monty's [?] I believe blocked but I did get recognition from the King Haakon of Norway in the form of a parchment & gong 'The Norwegian Star of Liberty' via the war office.
9. Shortly after returning to UK from Norway I was transferred to 49 Bde B.A.O.R. as a super numerary as requested & received a staff job 'A' at Ahlenberg HQ of Polar Bde with Brig Peter Lindsay where I remained until demob. The unit as a unit as far as I am aware broke up then, some to Palestine.
Captain O'Grady was, in fact, awarded the MBE in late 1945, recognising his role in raising No.1 FOU, and at Arnhem where he was responsible for the wireless link between Headquarters Royal Artillery and the 64th Medium Regiment at Nijmegen, also his work in Norway. His citation reads:
Captain O'Grady was Adjutant of his unit from its formation in June 1944 until December 1944. During this period the heavy work involved in forming, mobilising, training and taking part himself in the Arnhem action and in completely reorganising the Unit after Arnhem, fell largely on the shoulders of this officer.
Captain O'Grady proved himself fully equal to the task and despatched his duties with the highest distinction. At all times his efficiency, cheerfulness and tireless efforts often in the face of adverse conditions, have been not only an example but an inspiration to others.
Since landing in Norway this officer has shown further outstanding service as Welfare Officer and it is largely due to his initiative and unrelenting efforts that the welfare of his troops has been looked after so well.
See also: HQRA and 1 Forward Observation Unit.
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