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Frederick Hodges as a Prisoner of War

A newspaper clipping recording the recovery of Frederick Hodges helmet

Private Frederick Albert Hodges

 

Unit : No.20 Platoon, "D" Company, 1st Battalion The Border Regiment

Army No. : 14202223

 

I was one of thirty men inside my glider as we descended to the landing sight just outside Arnhem. As we came towards the sight it wasnít the crash landing which we were worried about more so the shots which were being fired from The Germans on the ground. The shots pierced the glider leaving holes everywhere and it was at this time that one of the stray bullets hit Ďstripí one of my comrades in his wrist. In some ways it wasnít the glider that we were worried about as we were carrying bombs on board and if one of them had been hit we would have gone sky high! Luckily though we landed, quite well actually and we went thought the drill of getting out the glider and lying down in a circle around the plane to check to see if there were any enemy advances. We waited there for 5 minutes in that position. Once we knew the coast was clear we stared to off load the goods onboard and wait for the rest of the soldiers to descend to the site.

 

It was after we had been there for a couple of hours that we had nearly everyone on the ground. I looked around to see hundreds of men with jeeps and guns. That gave me confidence that this mission was going to be a success and that we would all return home victorious. It was when the paratroopers came down though that I felt a real sense of anticipation. The planes were no more than 500 feet when the troopers were dropped. In fact they were so close to the ground that some of us waved to the number one who was waiting to be deployed and lots of them waved back to us. Then sky was then filled with hundreds of men gliding down to their drop site on the other side of the railway to us, which was an amazing sight to behold.

 

It was when we were all collected together that we were deployed to the different sites. I went to a village called Helsam to guard the crossroads. We knew that the Germans would want to try and attack the landing site where all the supplies were held and so defending the cross roads was to stop the Germanís getting any advance on the British. We dug in there for the night and rested up until what would be an eventful day.

 

Light the next day showed me the place where we were. The houses were small bungalows much like the ones in Cornwall, with large hedges surrounding them. From position in the trench I could see through a gap down the road to where the Germans were advancing. As I looked along the road I was the first to spot the movement which was coming our way. Soon we were swamped with Germans attacking our position, firing on us from 2 different angles. During this attack two of my fellow comrades were shot and killed by the German soldiers. It was after this that we made our move at night to another position where we met the Dutch resistance. Looking back on it now we should have made more use of them while we were there as it was shown they could be of help when the Americans used them. It was late when they appeared on the road where we were. In the road we had placed mines so that if the Germans drove along the road we could blow them up easily. These guys nearly drove over them but luckily the men in the ditches at the side of the road pulled on the string attached to them to move them out of the way. We donít know if a motorbike would have made the bombs go off but luckily we didnít need to find that out. The men, who wore orange armbands, gave us locations of the Germans and there movements so that we could avoid them on patrols.

 

It was late on in the night we moved to our final position of the mission, which was on the road outside Oosterbeek, which is the other half of Arnhem on the West side. We were situated there for about 8 days. When we first got there we started again to dig into trenches but as we did so the Germanís fired down Mortar bombs on us. I assure you we started digging a lot faster than usual! One thing, which I think is inaccurately represented in war films, is the amount of fighting that takes place as while we were dug in we were not fighting constantly.

 

One of the main concerns was for food to feed the soldiers. When we set out we only had enough food for 2 days and that soon ran out. The British sent parachutes with food containers inside but the Germans had advanced and when they were dropped the Germanís took them. We did get the odd one and managed to make a stew for dinner that night. The next day I broke into my emergency rations tin, which was a very rich chocolate. I had the sudden thought later on that maybe the Germanís had this on them as well. I looked out into the Field where four dead soldiers lay and my pal and me went out to check their pockets. We found a number of things including watches but we only managed to find 2 black biscuits! Searching through one of the soldierís pockets though I found something, which changed my whole perspective on the war. This soldier carried on him a picture of his wife and two beautiful children and it was then I realised that the men on the other side of the line were exactly the same as us. They had families they had left behind and somewhere a mother and children were weeping for this lost man in battle. We left the bodies as we found them taking nothing from them but the food they had.

 

Another parachute landed shortly afterwards and many of us thought it was full of food. The Germanís came out the retrieve it but we fired on them. They ran off before we could get a clear shot and so it was that the two sides started to fight over this basket. Eventually we pushed the Germanís back and took the basket only to be let down as the basket was filled with 25 gallon of petrol but no food!!

 

The next day while on look out I spotted some tanks in the distance. We knew that following the tanks would be infantry and so we got ready to attack. The tank took one glimpse across and caught my eye shooting me in the arm knocking me flat onto my back in the trench. I felt my arm go dead and for a few moments I thought it had been shot off. Looking down though I saw it was still intact. The medic, Danny Fowler, arrived next to me to bandage the wound up. While this was going on the fighting ensued between the British and the Germanís. I later found out that the shot had broken my arm in 3 places and to this day I have not regained my full movement back in it.

 

I saw the tank move forward to go around the corner next to the house we were in front of where I knew an anti tank gun was located. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the corporal climb up to man it, as he did sadly he was shot. We were not defeated yet though and by the time I was finished being bandaged everyone in the French tank was dead. The tank behind retreated and no other attempted attack our position again simply because a tank couldnít fit past on the narrow lane!

 

The wounded including myself were taken down to the cellar of the nearby house and I was one of the first to be lead inside. The next four days heralded an assault on our position and everyday it filled up more until bursting point where 30 to 40 soldiers lay injured inside. Next to me lay a badly wounded soldier Geordie Long from Newcastle who sadly didnít make it back to see his family again. We had no food supplies left whilst we were down there but luckily we found some pickled apples and every so often some potatoes would be brought down dug up by those brave few who continued to fight on.

 

It was now ten days since our glider had first touched down and the decision was taken to try and get us to safety across the river. That night it poured with rain and by morning we surrendered to the Germans with little way of escaping. Lieutenant Green who was also wounded put up the white flag and it wasnít long before the German forces surrounded us. We were all given a cigarette and I looked back over what had been our hiding place these past few days. The ground was littered with dead bodies German and British alike, it was a disheartening sight to see. The house we had sheltered in was completely gone and nothing was left but a mound of bricks and roof tiles.

 

We started to be lead away shortly after to a school in Appledoorne and it was only then that I threw my helmet away. I never thought I would see it again after that day but it was later found and is now the museum of my Regiment, The Kingís own Royal Border, in Carlisle Castle. There was great press interest in my helmet, which made the news in 7 different newspapers and I even tried it on for one last time. Amazingly it fit better than when I had it during the war!

 

A few days after arrival we were quickly shipped on by rail in a cattle truck to Stalag 11b in Folenbostal. Food was scarce in the camp and it was everyman for himself, as we scavenged everywhere we could to find anything we could. The hunger was terrible as it was constant and for weeks on end. It became an obsession to find food anywhere you could. It was on one of these self made missions that I passed the office glancing in and noticed no one around. I saw my chance to look around and took it quickly. I looked through draws and draws but all I could find were hundreds of photographs, which the Germans took of us when we arrived at the camp. I quickly found mine and shoved it into my pocket. I have only seen a few similar pictures to mine from other soldiers and I am unsure what happened to the rest. I stayed in Stallag 11b until the end of the war.

 

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