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Sergeant John Bradbury

Sergeant John Bradbury

Sergeant John Alfred Bradbury

 

Unit : No.22 Flight "D" Squadron, No.1 Wing, The Glider Pilot Regiment

Army No. : 14547304

 

Sergeant Bradbury was a Glider Pilot of "D" Squadron and he flew to Arnhem on Monday 18th September, having previously seen action during the Normandy landings when he carried a unit of the 2nd Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry to their landing zone on the Second Lift. He kept a diary during the Battle which was published in an article in the "Beeston Gazette and Echo" on Saturday 9th June 1945. This article is repeated below:

 

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Friday, September 15

14.00 hours:- Briefed for large airborne operation over the Rhine. Told if a success it will bring the war to an early finish. Our task is to take the bridge over the Rhine, and hold it for 24 hours until the Second Army arrives to relieve us. We are landing 45 miles in front of our present front lines.

 

Saturday, September 16

Operation to take place to-morrow. Two waves are to go in, and one on Monday. Write last letters home. Given Dutch money, maps, escape kits, etc. We are taking two jeeps, two paratroops, plus signals equipment, and ammo.

 

14.00 hours:- Briefed again. We go in at 10.00 hours Monday. Told to fly over Ostend, down Albert Canal, then turn north through Belgium to Holland, and then over the Rhine. We are the fifth glider of our squadron of 90.

 

Sunday, September 17

11.00 hours:- First wave of 90 gliders took off O.K. Operation on.

 

15.00 hours:- Final briefing. We are to attach ourselves to "A" Company of the paratroops {156th Battalion} and fight as an independent platoon. Everyone very enthusiastic about it all. Want to see the war over. I am taking a machine gun with 200 rounds, three hand grenades, and two smoke grenades.

 

Monday, September 18

Our D-Day. Big turn-out to see us off.

 

11.00 hours:- Take off. Capt. Muir first, Chalky White second, Mansfield third, Blackie fourth, then us. We are off. Take off successful.

 

11.05:- I am piloting. Ron (the other pilot) lighting a cigarette. Two paratroops are in good spirits. This is Ron's first operation. I am still fresh from D-Day.

 

11.20:- Flying over Bristol.

 

11.30:- South Wales below.

 

12.03:- Flying back over drome. All gliders taken off. Weather getting worse.

 

12.30:- Oxford below. Paratroops in the back, quiet now- busily chewing sweets.

 

13.00:- Can see London to the right. It sure is a big city.

 

13.05:- Thames Estuary below. Weather improving.

 

13.30:- Approaching open sea. This is my second operation flying away from Blighty. Wonder how long it will be before I see it again.

 

14.35:- See the Belgium coast.

 

14.45:- Ostend below. Another glider goes down, making three. We are now second in formation.

 

14.55:- Flying down Albert Canal. Yank formation to our right.

 

15.00:- Weather bad. Turned north.

 

15.10:- Now over enemy territory. Greatly excited.

 

15.15:- Yank formation goes down.

 

15.20:- Tug reports ten minutes to go.

 

15.25:-Five minutes to go. Can now see the Rhine. Flak too darned near. For goodness sake we've been hit under the fuselage. Still fly O.K. Hit again! Boy, it's just like being slapped with a big plank. Can see landing area below. Say cheerio to tug. On our own now. We dive, do a left turn, then a right turn to avoid this darned flak. Put on - flap and stick nose down. Do slight turns to left-right to lose height: 100 feet-50 feet-check! Looks like a good landing. Touch down-landing successful. Our job now is to unload. There are two flak holes in the bottom of our glider. Lots of artillery about and small arms fire.

 

16.00 hours:- Arrived at R.V. Advanced to main road where brigade massed together.

 

17.30 hours:- Our objective is to get to Arnhem to the bridge and assist the 2nd Battalion all ready there.

 

17.45:- Few snipers causing trouble. Advance very slow; trouble ahead.

 

19.00:- Dark now, but our flight is keeping together.

 

20.00 hours:- Enemy fighters straffing the column.

 

23.00 hours:- Hell let loose in front of us-80 m.m., 20 m.m., and small arms fire.

 

24.00 hours:- 1st Battalion ambushed.

 

Tuesday, September 19

Firing continues most of the night. 08.00 hours:- Ordered into attack.

 

10.00 hours:- We have certainly come up against more than we expected. Prisoners taken by us say they have only just been flown from Germany.

 

14.00 hours:- Planes try to drop badly needed supplies but they land in enemy territory.

 

15.30 hours:- Germans attack our right and left.

 

15.45 hours:- No use. We are out numbered and outfired. Ordered to retreat.

 

Narrow Escape From Death

Sergt. Bradbury kept up this hour-by-hour description of the action until he was captured. He mentioned how on one occasion he narrowly escaped death when suddenly confronted by a German armoured car. It advanced to within a short distance of him, spraying a deadly barrage of fire, and then there was a tremendous explosion and it went up in flames. He described how they were surrounded and then beat of numerous bayonet attacks.

 

How He Was Captured

Recording his own capture, Sergt. Bradbury wrote:- The enemy put in an attack from the rear, the right and the left simultaneously. We return fire and knock them down like nine-pins, but it is useless. They keep coming. An officer behind shouts, and we look round and see them waving a white flag. We throw our guns forward and put up our hands. There are 120 men left who can walk, including ten glider pilots, out of a whole brigade of nearly 3,000 men - "a Battle of Annihilation". The Germans praised our fighting qualities. Sergt. Bradbury managed to conceal his diary during the searches which followed capture, and from time to time he was able to make further entries.

 

Fanatical German Shot

He mentioned that during the march away from the fighting line a fanatical German machine-gunner opened fire on them, killing three, and injuring two more. The German officer in charge of the prisoners, walked over to the gunner, spoke to him, and then shot him dead. The march continued through Holland, the friendly Dutch people giving them the V-sign whenever the Germans weren't looking. The day after capture, the prisoners arrived at a Dutch prison camp, they were searched again and given black bread. Their bed was in some stables.

 

In Cattle Trucks Without Food

At one time Sergt. Bradbury wrote that he was confident they would be liberated, but with the passing of time this hope faded. An entry in the diary made on Sunday September 24 reads:- On the move towards Germany. No chance of being liberated now. The next day they arrived in the North Ruhr town of Duisburg, and then went on to Coblenz, Mainz, and near to Frankfort. Most of this journey was done in cattle trucks without food. They arrived at an army camp at Limberg {Stalag XIIA} on the Thursday, and despite the fact that everyone was in a terribly weak condition they were searched again and made to stand on a parade ground for four hours, still without food. Fortunately, however, the Red Cross at the camp were able to give out one parcel between every four men.

 

First Wash In 13 Days

Later in the day, Sergt. Bradbury, with the remaining glider pilots, and a number of R.A.F. aircrew, were entrained again and taken to Frankfort for interrogation. Here treatment by the townsfolk was none to good, and one airman was kicked by a civilian. Saturday, October 1, was a big day for them, they had their first wash in 13 days-but still no food. Then they were asked where they had come from, their home aerodrome, and other questions of this nature. Naturally they refused to disclose this information, and Sergt. Bradbury was pushed into a cell and kept there by himself the rest of the day. The prisoners were threatened with starvation if they refused to talk, but they kept quiet, and fortunately the Germans did not carry out their threat.

 

A Long March

Later, Sergt. Bradbury, with the other airmen prisoners, was taken to an R.A.F. prison camp at Bancau. When it looked as though the Russians would break through to this camp, the prisoners were made to march 280 miles to another Stalag near to Berlin. It was here that they were released by the Russians in April. For nearly a month they were confined to camp, and then arrangements were made for the journey home. Sergt. Bradbury brought home along with other souvenirs, a notice that had been erected in the camp after the liberation to the effect that in January 1945, Hitler ordered that all prisoners of war should be shot. Having discovered the information, Allied Intelligence withheld the news of the danger the men had been in until they were safe. In that particular camp the German commandant declined to carry out the instructions, although Sergt. Bradbury said he had heard that in some camps preparations were made to carry out the order, but the Americans arrived in time to prevent it being carried out. Sergt. Bradbury arrived in Beeston last week, and is now on six weeks leave.

 

Born In Beeston

Joining the forces eighteen months ago, Sergt. J. A. Bradbury originally served in the Seaforth Highlanders, but was quickly singled out as suitable for a commission. He passed all examinations and subsequently transferred to the Glider Pilot Regiment, gaining his wings and sergeant's stripes. His first "taste" of action was on D-Day, when he took part in the first landings in Normandy. Later he paid two or three more visits to the fighting zone, each time being at the controls of his glider. He took part in the landings at Arnhem, and when our troops were ordered to fight their way out, he was reported missing. John is the second son of Mr. and Mrs. F. Bradbury, and was born at 3 Villa-street, 20 years ago. He was educated at the Beeston Fields Senior Boys' School. From leaving school until he joined the services he was in the employ of Mr. G. F. Knowles, of High Road, Beeston. He is a former member of the Beeston squadron of the Air Training Corps.

 

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The same newspaper printed an article on Saturday 25th November 1944, entitled "Beeston Parent's Anxious Time". The article reads:

 

Reported missing at Arnhem, it is now known that Sargt. John Alfred Bradbury, a glider pilot, whose home is at Villa-street, Beeston, is now safe and well, although a prisoner of war in Germany. He was reported missing on September 20, and from that time until last Saturday, when they received a post-card from him, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Bradbury, spent an anxious period, as they were still worrying over another son, Sergt. Frank Bradbury, who was reported missing in May, 1943, while serving in Coastal Command.

 

Piloted Glider To Arnhem

Joining the forces eighteen months ago, Sergt. Bradbury originally served in the Seaforth Highlanders, but was quickly singled out as suitable for a commission. He passed all his examinations, but subsequently transferred to the Glider Pilot Regiment, gaining his "wings" and sergeant's stripes about six months ago. His first "taste" of action was on D-Day, when he took part in the initial landings in Normandy. Later he paid two or three more visits to the fighting zone, each time being at the controls of his glider. He then took part in the landings at Arnhem, and when our troops were ordered to fight their way, he was reported missing. There followed a period of silence, unbroken until last Saturday, when the welcome post-card was received. He mentioned that he was quite fit and well and was being transferred to another camp. The second son of Mr. and Mrs. Bradbury, John was born at 3 Villa-street, 20 years ago, being educated at the Beeston Fields Senior Boys' School. From leaving school until he joined the services he was in the employ of Mr. G. F. Knowles, of the High-road Beeston. A former member of the Beeston squadron of the Air Training Corps, John originally volunteered for the R.A.F., but was rejected at Birmingham, owing to stomach trouble.

 

Missing From Patrol

Mr. and Mrs. Bradbury's eldest son, Sergt. Frank Ronald Bradbury, R. A. F., has been missing for about 18 months. Volunteering for aircrew duties nearly four years ago, he quickly graduated as a wireless-operator air-gunner. For several months he served with Bomber Command, taking part in a number of operations over German territory. He was transferred to Coastal Command, being reported missing on May 18, 1943, from a North Atlantic patrol.

 

Despite the long period of waiting, Mr. and Mrs. Bradbury have not given up hope, and are longing for the day when they will receive the news that he is safe. Born in Villa-street, 22 years ago, Ronald was also a pupil at the Beeston Fields School, and prior to joining the R. A. F. was employed as an assembler with Messrs. Ericson Telephones, Ltd., at Beeston. A former member of the Beeston Company of the Boys' Brigade, he showed a keen interest in the ambulance classes.

 

Third Son In Navy

Mr. and Mrs. Bradbury have a third son in the forces. He is Thomas Bradbury, serving with the Royal Navy at Malta. Tom volunteered for service about 18 months ago, when he was only 17 years of age. After receiving his preliminary training he was sent abroad, and has been in the Mediterranean for the past 12 months. He writes home regularly, and has mentioned several other Beeston servicemen with whom he has come into contact. Like his two elder brothers, Tom was also born at 3 Villa-street, and attended the Beeston Fields Council School. Prior to enlisting in the Senior Service, he was employed at Chilwell. Mr and Mrs. Bradbury's home in Villa-street is situated in a row of five or six houses, and it is a proud record that from these few homes ten people have left to join the services. The Bradbury family itself, together with relatives, has quite a number of representatives in the fighting services.

 

Other Serving Relatives

The first is Signaller Jack Harrison, R. E. M. E. of 21 Dagmar-grove, Beeston, who has been in the Army over four years, and has seen service in North Africa, Italy, and lately in Greece. He is a nephew of Mr. and Mrs. Bradbury. Two other nephews in the services are William and Thomas Wayman, of 129 Wollaton-road, Beeston. William is serving in Italy with the R. A. F., while Tom is still in this country. Mr. Percy Bradbury (brother of Mr. Bradbury), of 1 Villa-street, Beeston, has been in North Africa with the R. A. F. for the past 2 years. Mrs. Bradbury's brother (Mr. Jack Shortof 40, Trent-road, Beeston) is serving in this country with the Royal Artillery. Another relative, Mr Frank Budd, is a prisoner of war in Germany. Two other nephews in the services are George and Jack Turton, of 13, Cross-street, Beeston. George joined the Sherwood Foresters shortly after the outbreak of war and was taken prisoner in February 1942. His brother (Jack) is serving in Italy.

 

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John Bradbury married shortly after his return to England and then moved to South Africa. He died during the 1950's, whereupon his wife and child moved to New Zealand, where they still live.

 

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