Lieutenant Bernard Stanley Lockett

 

Unit : "A" Troop, 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery

Army No. : 312164

Awards : Mentioned in Despatches.

 

Lieutenant Ben Lockett was attached to "A" Troop shortly before Operation Market Garden, to oversee matters of discipline and rations, therefore acting as an unofficial Second-in-Command.

 

"I was A Troop, 6 prs and I think we assembled complete at the L.Z. Unfortunately I was only attached to the Troop at the last minute because {Lieutenant} Eric Clapham {CO "A" Troop} was detailed in some capacity with {Major} Bill Arnold {CO 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery} and, therefore, my memory of individuals is non-existent."

 

"...I do remember whilst running up to the turning point at the approach end of the LZ seeing a Hamilcar proceeding at rate of knots obviously without airbrakes. It ran out of field and buried its nose-wheel in the ditch or more correctly dyke, cartwheeled, stopped with the tail pointing straight up. A gun (I am sure it was a 17 Pr) and a truck were catapulted through the top of the fuselage and some men I am afraid. An awful mess."

 

"Whilst we were sorting ourselves out at the assembly point, a group of female SS appeared in the care of a Platoon of Para's - a very bolshey lot and not my idea of members of the opposite sex. I think they were put into tennis courts not far away."

 

"On the morning of the 19th I was in position with one gun outside the Princess Elizabeth Hospital, the time between 7-10 a.m. We were, and had been, continually pestered by Jerry's Bofors sited across the Rhine behind the dyke (very clever!). I don't think they had particular targets, just kept pounding... An effort was made to position a 6 Pr in one of the houses which overlooked the river, but any such attempt brought forth eruptions from the Bofors, so the idea was scrapped."

 

"A figure approached me - at first unrecognised - because as a comparatively newly posted lieutenant to the Division, I did not appreciate that I was passing the time of day with my Divisional Commander... This was my first sight of my Divisional Commander. As a very new subaltern he was only just short of God. I hadn't a clue as to who this individual was, Eric's {Clapham} demeanour was very respectful and it was only as the conversation got under way that I realised the very exalted personage standing next to me. He seemed somewhat bemused and completely out of touch with reality. When I understood that he had been holed-up, the thing began to make a bit more sense but he was apparently unaware of the very dangerous position he was in. It became obvious that he must be moved away and pretty 'd' quick... Eventually I dispatched my No.1 with The General to make his way to Divisional H.Q. - or at least where we hoped it was."

 

"My recollections of detail on the tuesday morning were quite clear until I read Eric's {Clapham} account. He probably has a much better memory than I. There was a discussion on whether we would mount an MG on the ammunition carrier which had been welded to the jeep bonnets. I tossed with somebody as to who would take it down into Arnhem and having a 'go'. Frustration and a complete lack of information was beginning to get under my skin because obviously conditions at the bridge were pretty 'By' and we seemed to be sitting on our fannies doing absolutely 'FA' about it. It must have been about now that I was hit."

 

"...I was directing the fire of the 6 pr in an altercation with a Tiger, elements of which had been marauding around most of the night. Anyway the Tiger won, I received the coup de grace and finished up in the P.E. Hospital along with {Captain} Norman McCloud {CO 17-pounder Group, 1st A/T Battery} and numerous other types. I distinctly remember handing my binoculars and sidearms over to somebody (I have always thought it was Eric) since it was very evident that I was not going to take very much interest in the future proceedings."

 

"My most vivid memories of the 17th, 18th and 19th September 1944 are of frustration and disappointment - I was commissioned into the crack Division of the Allied Armies and immensely proud of the fact! But there did seem to be a lack of determination to get to that Bridge and give some support to the poor "Bs" down there."

 

"Sometime after being taken to the St Elizabeth, looking down from a first floor window I have a vivid memory of seeing a German infantry type patrolling up and down. A sentry that made me POW. The psychological effect of this was appalling. I suppose I had anticipated every conceivable eventuality except becoming a POW. It was shattering; the old morale hit the floor. I was much depressed for some days, in fact until one of the medics told me there was another 'one of my lot' down the corridor. Off I went to investigate. It was Norman McLeod, unconscious, with a leg in plaster under a wire cage, the whole leg was very bloody. He looked about gone too - no colour very shallow breathing. Eventually I found an orderly who only shrugged when I queried Norman's condition. In 1944/45 during that winter my wife, who never missed Lord Haw Haw's broadcast heard that Norman was a POW had lost a leg and was to be repatriated. She also heard that Sergeant Doig {Gun Commander, "B" Troop} had been killed. During the seven months I spent in occupied territory I assumed Norman had died. I eventually knew that he was alive though it was not until 1953 that we met by accident in a restaurant in Glasgow. He became a very great personal friend and has been sadly missed ever since."

 

"Stressing the POW situation, the hospital was visited by a SS medical Colonel. He was turned out like something from a post-war Hollywood film, monocle, black leather greatcoat, Iron Cross and the inevitable jackboots; enough to put the fear of God into the likes of me who was very low at the time."

 

"The day the Germans decided to move the walking wounded, it was pouring cats and dogs. The International Red Cross were taking names and numbers at the door and at the bottom of the steps was a 3 tonner or some vehicle but no troops in evidence. Momentarily I gave a thought to escape, maybe it was the rain but I did not take advantage of the circumstances at the time, that came later. I walked down to the rear of the truck and inside were two or three Wehrmacht types, who had no intention of giving me a hand over the tailboard. They seemed to find it hilarious, that is to say until from the cab came a short and nearly as wide as tall Unterofficer. He was a typical Sergeant Major in any army and he straffed them in no uncertain terms. Believe me in german it was quite something, I almost felt he was a friend. Anyway the erks fell out of the back and almost lifted me in, that was after the Sergeant Major had thrown me a magnificent drill-square salute. The rest of the walking wounded did not appear until we were on the railway sidings some hours later.

 

"In the school in Apeldoorn I was a stranger amongst officers and I became an object of suspicion. They obviously thought I was a plant. My unfamiliar knowledge of the GOC also applied to his Staff and other senior officers of the Division such as Battalion CO's and the CRA {Commander Royal Artillery}. They were all naturally unknown to me and the situation became most unpleasant, not improved by my own aggressive attitude. I became as uppity as they were and personal violence was only just below the surface. During the next few months I had plenty of time to mull-over this incident, realising they were quite justified in their suspicions. It does show however the way in which circumstances change cases."

 

"Personally, all I wanted was to get loose and never mind the chat! We spent the whole day hanging around a Rail Siding, watched over by Belgium N.S.B. - most unpleasant types. Eventually, after dark, we moved off to the Fatherland. I left the party with a glider pilot before we crossed the Frontier, and spent the next 7 months behind the lines working with, and training, the Dutch Underground people, making life as difficult as possible for the enemy."

 

For the help that he gave the Dutch Resistance during this period, Lieutenant Lockett was Mentioned in Despatches. His citation reads:

 

Lieutenant Lockett who had been wounded in the face on the 19th September 1944 was a patient in St. Elizabeth Hospital, Arnhem, when it was occupied by the Germans on the 21st October 1944. Five days later he was entrained for Germany. Using a nail file, he and another officer unfastened one of the shutters; through this opening they climbed on to the buffers, from where they jumped on to the track. As Lieutenant Lockett was still weak, they made their way slowly, over a period of 2 days, to Olst. To secure medical attention for their wounds the two escapers approached a farmhouse and were well received. For fourteen days Lieutenant Lockett instructed members of the Underground in the use of small arms and explosives. Eventually he was safely conducted to Allied forces near Sliedrecht on the 17th February 1945.

 

Thanks to Rob Williamson, Ben Lockett's grandson, and Nigel Simpson for their help with this story.

 

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