Captain David Allsop
Unit : Headquarters, 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron
Army No. : 105457
Awards : Bronzen Leeuw
David Allsop was born on the 4th August 1917 at Bakewell, Derbyshire, the youngest son of George Allsop (1874-?), and Mary Hutchinson (1876-?), of Woodbine, Bakewell. Before the war he joined the Territorial Army and served in the ranks of a battalion of the Manchester Regiment, in which he was granted an emergency commission as a Second Lieutenant on the 29th November 1939. He was promoted to War Substantive Lieutenant on the 29th May 1941, and transferred to the Royal Regiment of Artillery on the 1st November 1941.
In May 1942, Allsop volunteered for the Airborne Forces, and was transferred to the Reconnaissance Corps and posted to the 1st Airlanding Reconnaissance Company on the 28th of that month. This unit subsequently became the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron, and Allsop sailed with them to North Africa in May 1943. On the 7th August 1943, he was promoted to Captain and given command of "C" Troop, which he led during the landings at the Italian port of Taranto in September 1943.
On his return to the UK, Allsop attended parachute course 111A, at R.A.F. Ringway, 10th - 17th April 1944, and became the Squadron Second-in-Command. At Arnhem, on the 17th September 1944, Allsop was responsible for conducting the glider-borne element of the Squadron to the rendezvous, where they were to meet the parachute element under Major Gough. The area selected for their landing was believed to have been a 'stubble field', but was in fact a ploughed potato field which made the landing slightly more hazardous. Allsop wrote, "I remember my glider pilot, Robbie Boyd, suddenly shouting, God - I've bogged it, when he realized that he was coming in too steeply for the soft ground. Just then, the floorboards came up and hit us in the face."
The primary objective of the Reconnaissance Squadron was to set out immediately for Arnhem Bridge and hold it until the 1st Parachute Brigade arrived, but they were soon brought to a halt by the German blocking line around Wolfheze and could make no headway. Allsop wrote, "Each movement we made was blunted by an enemy force in front of us." Having withdrawn his men from the area, Major Gough left to locate Major-General Urquhart, and ultimately fell in with the 1st Parachute Brigade, becoming cut-off from the Squadron at the bridge. In his absence, Captain Allsop assumed command. On the 18th September, he received orders to scout the area around Heelsum, so he despatched "A" and "D" Troops to carry out this task, leaving "C" Troop under the command of the 1st Airlanding Brigade around Wolfheze.
During the fighting at Oosterbeek, the Squadron was placed under the command of Brigadier Hackett. Allsop recalls, "[He] seemed to have the idea that it was good for the chaps in the slit trenches to see him walking about, and so he tended to ignore the firing. When Hackett came and talked to you, it wasn't crouched down in a hole in the ground - you got out and strolled around, as if you were at Henley!"
During the evacuation on the night of the 25th September, Captain Allsop was twice wounded, yet he made it to the other side of the river and despite an injury to his thigh he managed to walk unaided to Driel, where his wounds were dressed and he was subsequently evacuated to the UK.
For his leadership of the Squadron during the battle, Allsop was awarded the Dutch Bronze Lion:
At Arnhem, this officer took over command of the Reconnaissance Squadron after his Commander had become a casualty. From the time the Divisional perimeter was formed on the 20th September until the positions were evacuated, the squadron under the leadership of Captain Allsop was always where the fighting was thickest.
The initiative and resource shown by this officer was quite outstanding and the excellence of his leadership both then and during the subsequent withdrawal enabled a large proportion of his men to be evacuated. During this withdrawal Captain Allsop was wounded in two places but in spite of this he managed to make his own way across the river.
This officers gallantry, fearless leadership and devotion to duty were outstanding.
On his return from sick leave he resumed command of the Squadron and was promoted to War Substantive Captain/Temporary Major on the 26th December 1944. He commanded the Squadron on its deployment to Norway from May to August 1945. On their return to the UK, it was Major Allsop's sad duty to oversea the disbandment of the Squadron in November and December 1945.
Allsop was released from the Army in April 1946. He became President of the Recce Squadron & Para Squadron RAC in 1980, and died in Poole, Dorset, on the 9th September 1987. The following appeared in the 1st Airborne Recce Squadron Newsletter No.22, November 1987:
Dear Friends, It is with deep regret that I open this edition of the newsletter with the sad news that our Commanding Officer and President of our Association, Major David Allsop, passed away on the morning of 9th September. Capt. Allsop (as he was at the time) was Troop Commander of C. Troop. He served with the Squadron in North Africa, Italy, Holland (Arnhem) and Norway. For the Arnhem operation he was in command of the glider party at Tarrant Rushton. During the battle of Arnhem, when Major Gough was trapped down at the bridge, Capt. Allsop took command of the Squadron fighting in the Oosterbeek areas and along with remnants of the Squadron was trapped in the "Cauldron" (Der Kessel).
On the night of the break-out from Oosterbeek, on reaching the flat polder approaches to the Neder Rijn, he was wounded in the thigh by German mortar shrapnel but managed, with assistance, to reach the comparative safety on the other side of the river.
Having recuperated from wounds, he re-joined the Squadron at Ruskington and took over Command with the rank of Major.
On VE Day, he flew with the Squadron for duties in Norway. Duties in Norway completed he returned to England with the Squadron and remained Squadron Commander until the Squadron was disbanded.
My own epitaph and memory of Major David Allsop would be - "He gave cadence to the saying, 'An Officer and a Gentleman', this he was at all times both on and off parade. In civilian life as President of the Reconnaissance Squadron Association, he was advisor and friend, always a Gentleman in the true sense of the word."
He will be remembered and sadly missed by all who knew him. Jack Watson, Honorary Secretary/Editor.
Thanks to Bob Hilton for this account.
See also: Recce Squadron War Diary.
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