Staff-Sergeant Arthur Shackleton
Unit : Headquarters, "B" Squadron, No.1 Wing, The Glider Pilot Regiment
Army No. : 942449
The following is Arthur Shackleton's obituary, as it appeared in The Telegraph.
Staff Sergeant Arthur Shackleton was a glider pilot who survived relentless enemy fire during the Battle of Arnhem.
Staff Sergeant Arthur Shackleton, who has died aged 96, took part in two major glider-borne assaults in the Second World War.
On September 17 1944 he was serving with the Glider Pilot Regiment, co-piloting a Horsa glider on Operation Market Garden. Their main objective was to capture and hold the bridges over the Lower Rhine at the Dutch town of Arnhem until relieved by ground forces.
Shackleton and his co-pilot, Major Toler, the squadron commander, were assigned to fly Lt-Col Derek McCardie, the CO of 2nd Battalion the South Staffordshire Regiment, together with five of his men and a Jeep and trailer.
Toler and Shackleton (who acted as the former’s bodyguard) established a command post in a cellar close to the Hartenstein hotel. By September 25, after days of relentless shelling and mortaring, mounting casualties and no sign of reinforcements, it was clear that the position was hopeless.
Toler, by then in command of the regiment, was ordered to make a strategic withdrawal across the river during the night. As they approached the bank of the river, they came across a file of airborne troops who were leaderless. Toler put Shackleton in charge of the group, but shortly afterwards they were ambushed and caught by an accurate burst of machine-gun fire. Shackleton, one of the few survivors, was hit in the shoulder but managed to stagger to the river.
He was reunited with Toler, who insisted that he be evacuated and put him aboard a small landing craft with the other wounded. In mid-river, the craft was hit by a mortar bomb. Shackleton, barely conscious, heard someone asking for help in “getting this body out of the river”. Feebly protesting that he was still alive, he was pulled out and taken to a field dressing station where the medical staff tried to remove the bullet and pieces of shrapnel from his body.
Arthur Shackleton was born at Halifax, Yorkshire, on October 24 1918 and educated locally. He was called up in October 1939 and, shortly after joining a heavy artillery regiment in Derbyshire, he transferred to the Glider Pilot Regiment. He subsequently became co-pilot to the squadron commander, Major Toler.
After Operation Market Garden he was evacuated to Britain and sent to St Elizabeth’s Hospital, Birmingham. Pronounced fit again, he attached himself to a draft of replacement pilots posted to his old squadron in Essex.
During the winter of 1944-45, based at Chelsea Barracks, he was part of a demonstration unit established to train recruits in the art of street fighting. They were equipped with German army uniforms and taken each day to the battle school site at Battersea, where they fired Spandau machine guns to add a touch of realism to the exercise.
One Friday afternoon, when they were due to go on weekend leave, no vehicle arrived to collect them. Shackleton and a comrade decided to walk back to barracks. The two uniformed “Wehrmacht unteroffiziers” marched down Queenstown Road, past Battersea Power Station and over Chelsea Bridge carrying their machine guns without once being challenged.
On the morning of March 24 1945, Shackleton took part in Operation Varsity, the forced crossing of the Rhine. On the final approach, enemy anti-aircraft gunners blew away a large chunk of his starboard wing and shredded his rudder. Despite heavy incoming fire, however, he succeeded in landing his Horsa without serious casualties.
Shackleton was demobbed in 1946 and spent most of the rest of his working life as a salesman with Dunlop before retiring and settling at Bournemouth.
Arthur Shackleton married first, in 1942, Nell Strong. She predeceased him, and he married secondly, in 1997, Margaret (née Frizzell), who survives him with a son and two daughters of his first marriage and a stepson and two stepdaughters of his second.
Staff Sergeant Arthur Shackleton, born October 24 1918, died December 28 2014.
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