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Staff-Sergeant Geoffrey Thompson

Staff-Sergeant Geoffrey Thompson in Hospital, 1945

Staff-Sergeant Geoffrey Thompson

Staff-Sergeant Geoffrey Thompson

 

Unit : No.8 Flight, "D" Squadron, No.1 Wing, The Glider Pilot Regiment

Army No. : 3320254

 

Geoffrey Thompson was originally called up for service with the Highland Light Infantry, before being transferred to the Royal Artillery and then volunteering for Airborne Forces. He took part in Operation Tonga, the First Lift of the 6th Airborne Division to Normandy in the early hours of the 6th June 1944. His Horsa, carrying a 6-pounder anti-tank gun, Jeep and two crew of the 4th Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery, landed successfully on LZ-N near Ranville. With other Glider Pilots, he was withdrawn to the UK within two days.

 

On Monday 18th September 1944, he participated in the Second Lift of Operation Market Garden, landing troops of the 4th Parachute Brigade, possibly from the Motor Transport Platoon of the 10th Parachute Battalion, on LZ-Z near Wolfheze, although he should have come down on the adjacent LZ-X near Renkum. His second pilot on both missions was 7662022. Sergeant Ron Crawley. Staff-Sergeant Thompson was wounded at Arnhem and taken prisoner. The following is his account of the operation:

 

"The glider load of our Horsa was a jeep, trailer, ammo, petrol and 5 men. Chalk No ? Take off from Keevil on the 2nd lift, Monday 18th September. Towed by Stirling of 196 Squadron. Passed over Aldeburgh, Suffolk on northern route. Escorted over North Sea by Typhoons, who attacked flak ships on approach to Schelde Estuary. A number of gliders had to ditch. Arrived safely over Hertogenbosch and finally landed safely on L.Z. 'X' at Wolfheze, near the Lunatic Asylum. We came under a lot of small arms fire. After a long delay we unloaded safely and progressed through woods towards Oosterbeek."

 

"Low level attack Tuesday A.M. by F.W. 190's setting haystacks on fire and bringing many tree branches down. We reached the H.Q. at Hartenstein."

 

"Mortared heavily over the next few days, many casualties. I took part in many forward patrols in the H.Q. area."

 

"Supply drops tragically going into area's occupied by Jerry. The bravery of supply crews was outstanding and heart-breaking in the extreme."

 

"On the Sunday I was observing enemy positions across the street, hand grenades were thrown at us and we had to pick up and throw them back quickly. An 88mm gun was brought up near the cross roads and fired on the house we were occupying demolishing the gable end. I received shrapnel in the head and arm and temporarily blinded. I was taken by a medic to the Dressing Station."

 

"On the Monday the Dressing Station was evacuated and all wounded were taken by truck to a barracks at Apeldoorn. I remained there until considered fit to be moved, approximately a week. 60 men put into cattle trucks and wired in and transported to Fallingbostel, Stalag XIB. I think the journey took roughly four days."

 

"I was at XIB approximately 4 weeks and only had one shower at the adjoining camp, later to learn it was Belsen. My head bandages were now removed and my sight greatly improved. Once again 60 men put into cattle trucks and secured. Passed through Berlin and arrived at Sagan 8C Camp opposite Stalag Luft 3, notorious for the shooting of 50 R.A.F. men. I was held here until late January 1945, when Russian guns could be heard. We were given the option of waiting for the Russians or marching West. Along with a colleague, Sergeant Gordon Wright, we decided to march in a party of approximately 200. We faced one of the worst winters for many years clad only in battledress, a Russian issue coat and one blanket."

 

We walked approximately 30 to 40 kilometres per day and many nights slept in the open, huddled together for warmth. We were approximately 20 kilometres from Dresden when it was bombed, our sentries were most upset.

 

"About a week later, on the autobahn we were mistaken for Gerry and shot up by 6 U.S.A. Mustang [fighters] and our party received many casualties. We had been on the march for about 6 weeks and I had developed frostbite in both feet and was also suffering from severe dysentery. We persuaded the guards to transfer us to a hospital. Gordon Wright and I were put on a train to Stalag IXA, Zeigenhain, and was hospitalised. Fortunately my stay was short lived, approximately a week. Later the camp was overrun by Pattons U.S. armour and I was transferred to a hospital in Frankfurt on Good Friday, 31st march 1945. I was there approximately 10 days and received medical treatment and welcome food, but could only eat very small amounts and my weight was down to just over 6 stone."

 

"We were evacuated to Frankfurt airport and flown back to the U.K. and I was transferred to hospital at Seacroft, Leeds in mid-April and was there until being discharged in December 1945."

 

 

A newspaper article reported the following upon his release:

 

ARNHEM HERO IS RELEASED

 

Mrs. Geoffrey Thompson, of Norton, has been officially informed that her husband, Staff Sergeant Thompson, Airborne Forces, who was a prisoner of war in Germany, has been released and is now in hospital in England.

 

Staff Sergeant Thompson, a glider pilot, was captured at Arnhem. He has been in the Army five years and is the son of the late Mr. Robert Thompson and Mrs. Thompson, of Swinton, Malton.

 

He married Miss Joan Mouncer, second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E. Mouncer, of Norton.

 

 

The following are extracts from an issue of the Yorkshire Post, April 1945:

 

LIBERATED PRISONERS RECOVERING IN LEEDS HOSPITAL

 

Starved Men Put on a Stone and a Half in a Week.

 

Norton Glider Pilot.

 

In the same ward was Staff Sergt Geoffrey Thompson, a 25-year-old glider pilot, of Commercial Street, Norton, Malton, talking to his wife, Joan, and his sister-in-law, Miss Vera Mounser. A former Artilleryman who volunteered for gliders, he was wounded and captured at Arnhem.

 

He, too, is suffering from malnutrition, and also from frostbite in his feet, which he got because the soles of his boots were in holes on the march from Stalag 8C, near Breslau.

 

"I managed to struggle on," he said, "until we were 30 miles from our destination, Stalag 9A, near Cassel, and then I was put on a train."

 

They first heard of the American advance in that camp from the guards, who, with the German defences crumbling, were not above giving away a little information in exchange for a cigarette. But the speed of the American advance took them all by surprise. They waited day by day to hear the sound of the guns as a herald of liberation. That sound never came; the American flying columns were running riot round the countryside, and they were at the camp gates before even the Germans knew they were so near.

 

END.

 

Geoffrey Thompson passed away on the 27th February 2017, aged 97. The following is his obituary as it appeared in the Yorkshire Post on the 3rd March 2017.

 

One of the last surviving British Airborne Forces glider pilots who was involved in two of the most significant operations of the Second World War has died aged 97. Former Staff Sergeant Geoffrey Thompson, of Pocklington, east Yorkshire, died in hospital in York on February 27 after being taken ill at the Wold Haven nursing home in Pocklington, where he had been living since last October.

 

Mr Thompson was a volunteer glider pilot with Airborne Forces who flew troops and equipment into Normandy in Northern France as part of the D Day operations in June 1944. He also successfully piloted a glider carrying men and equipment during operation Market Garden at Arnhem, Holland, in September 1944, before joining the battle. Mr Thompson was in the attic of a house which was shelled and he was badly wounded.

 

Speaking after his ordeal, Mr Thompson said: “Hand grenades were thrown at us and we had to pick up and throw them back quickly. An 88mm gun was brought up and fired on the house we were occupying, demolishing the gable end. I received shrapnel in the head and arm and temporarily blinded.”

 

He was taken prisoner of war and endured ‘death marches’ between camps in Germany in the winter of 1944/45. Mr Thompson weighed just over six stone when the camp he was being held at was liberated by American troops. Mr Thompson said of his time as a POW: “It was an horrendous time. We had barely anything to eat, we were all wounded and the medical supplies were almost non-existent. After a while we were put on the ‘death march’ to change camps. We suffered from malnutrition, severe colds, and the soles of our shoes had worn off so we were walking barefoot in the snow.” Mr Thompson was admitted to Seacroft Hospital in Leeds where he stayed from April to September 1945 and underwent an operation on his left foot to amputate four toes severely damaged by frostbite.

 

He was an active member of the York Branch of the Parachute Regimental Association since it was formed in 1990. Branch chairman Donald Marshall, said: “He was a splendid, calm, knowledgeable, friendly guy. Geoff was a good, solid member of the branch. You could always rely on him.”

 

Mr Thompson was born on November 15 1919 at the North Star Temperance Hotel in Flamborough. He was the eldest son of Robert Thompson, a dairy farmer, and his wife Kate. He was originally called up to serve with the Highland Light Infantry before being transferred to the Royal Artillery and then volunteering for Airborne Forces with D Squadron, Number One Wing, The Glider Pilot Regiment.

 

He married Joan Mouncer in Norton, Malton, on September 30 1942 and the couple had a daughter, Jacqueline, and son, Richard. His wife Joan died aged 71 in 1993.

 

After the war, Mr Thompson worked as a shop manager for Walter Wilsons grocery chain until the mid 1950s and then became an insurance agent for Prudential for around five years. From 1960 to his retirement in 1984 he worked as a sales representative in the confectionery trade.

 

Mr Thompson’s daughter Jackie Frear, 70, of Pocklington, said: “He used to go over to Arnhem quite a lot for the reunions until about three or four years ago. He was a very sociable person, he got on with everybody.” His son Richard, 66, said: “He was a wonderful father and the grandchildren all adored him.”

 

In 2005, Mr Thompson and 40 other veterans were awarded the Chevalier of the Legion D’Honneur - the French equivalent of the OBE - during a ceremony at the French Embassy in London. The award was given to commemorate British soldiers who had taken part in the D-Day operations.

 

Mr Thompson leaves grandchildren: Sarah, 44; Jonathan, 40; Mark, 41 and Paul 39. He also leaves great grandchildren: Sam, 12; Oliver five; Elsa, 11, Bella, 10; Maggie, four, Thomas aged one and three-year-old Aaron.

 

Mr Thompson’s family said that all will be welcome at his funeral service to be held at 1pm on Thursday March 16 at York Crematorium.

 

 

My thanks to Bob Hilton for this account.

 

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