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Fred Moughton

Lance-Corporal W. Fred Moughton

 

Unit : Medium Machine-Gun Platoon, Headquarters Company, 3rd Parachute Battalion

Army No. : 6399824

 

Fred Moughton, originally from Great Yarmouth, joined the British Army in 1938, aged 17. He became a member of the 3rd Battalion's Machine-Gun Platoon, and described the opening phase of Arnhem as "a beautifully sunny Sunday afternoon, the jump was no problem. There were a few Germans around, but they soon cleared off. Not surprising with 1800 men landing on them."

 

Though senior officers saw it differently, many of the Battalion's men were appalled when they were ordered to halt overnight in Oosterbeek on Sunday 17th September, and Moughton observed that it was at a time when "we were being held up by twopenny-ha'penny opposition". As a direct result of this decision, German resistance ahead of the Battalion strengthened and progress on the following day was slow, culminating in the Battalion's effective destruction during their final attempt to reach the Bridge on the morning of Tuesday 19th September.

 

Falling back from Arnhem, Moughton was with a group of nine others under the command of a corporal. Awaiting fresh orders, they occupied and fortified two neighbouring terraced houses, knocking the wall down between them so they could move from one to the other. The house afforded them a good view of the road below, along which a company of German infantry and a Tiger tank soon came. Moving forward on either side of the road, their casual manner betrayed that they were not aware that the paratroopers were lying in wait up ahead. Moughton and his comrades took full advantage of this fact and allowed them to approach to within point blank range before they opened fire. When the order was given, at least seven or eight men fell to the ground instantly, but those who were escaped unscathed quickly found cover.

 

The only anti-tank weapon the airborne men had available was a solitary gammon bomb, which exploded harmlessly on the railings bordering the house when it was thrown by a man from an upstairs window. Luckily the tank was so close to the house that it couldn't use its main armament against the airborne men, but its machine-gun riddled the downstairs rooms, firing through doors and windows. All of the British troops, except for one man who remained on the stairs to cover the front door, went upstairs where they took up positions in the bedrooms and bathroom, giving them four windows to fire from.

 

The Germans did not know how many men were defending the building and so cautiously surrounded the house before opening fire. This fire was returned and Moughton and his comrades were able to hold out for about an hour, by which time the futility of their situation had become obvious. Two men tried to escape out of the back door, hoping to reach the river about 100 yards away, but both were shot before they had covered much ground. Inside the house there were only four men still able to fight, the three others being badly injured from single wounds, one to the shoulder, another to the leg, and the other in the stomach.

 

The commander of the Tiger tank spoke good English and called for the men to surrender, promising them that they would be well treated. Realising that they had no sensible alternative, the men agreed to lay down their arms. Walking out the front door, they had to step over the bodies of two Germans whom they had killed. This act angered their comrades and the man walking in front of Moughton was hit over the head with the butt of a rifle while he himself received a similar blow to his arm, however the tank commander quickly put a stop to this mistreatment. The paratroopers asked for permission to go back into the house to bring out their wounded, but they were told that the Germans would take care of them.

 

The group was taken from this building and held overnight in the cellar of a house which served as their makeshift prison. The night was not spent comfortably as the cellar was submerged beneath two feet of water. On the following day, Moughton and other prisoners were marched for twenty miles until they reached a railway siding, where they were loaded into cattle trucks for transportation into Germany. Conditions were most unpleasant during this journey, with fifty men held in each truck for the next five days. Moughton was freed from his prisoner of war camp in 1945. He rejoined the Parachute Regiment and was due to leave for Palestine with them during the following year, however he was demobilised before the move could take place.

 

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