Sergeant John Wallace in 1944

Sergeant John Wallace


Unit : "A" Company, 2nd Parachute Battalion

Army No. : 72808


John Wallace, of Glamorgan in Wales, was born on the 26th June 1921, and before joining the RASC (TA) in August 1939, he had been employed as a salesman.


'On 17 Sep 44 we took off from Saltby aerodrome. We were briefed to be dropped in a stretch of land 5 miles W. of Arnhem. At 1355 hrs we dropped on our appointed rendezvous. We advanced into the town and took up our positions on the N. side of the river. About 2100 hrs a German convoy of 4-5 vehicles carrying oil, petrol, and ammunition, was set on fire. We were continually shelled by mortars, tanks and armoured cars. No infantry attack was launched by the Germans. On 20 Sep, we managed to mount and hold the bridge for the space of an hour when we were forced to retire to the Bn. H.Q. which was situated a short way from the bridge we were holding. On several occasions we were told that our tanks were coming to our aid. If they did come we were not there to see them. Around 2000 hrs on 20 Sep a German officer came in to the H.Q. carrying a white flag. He asked us to surrender otherwise a number of heavy guns would be brought to bear on us. Major Tatham-Warter refused but allowed the Germans to take the wounded both German and British away. The medical orderlies who took the wounded out of the H.Q. never returned.'


'Major Tatham-Warter split the party at H.Q. into two parties of 50. Some anti-tank and R.E. personnel were mixed up in the parties. About 2300 hrs the Germans opened up a terrific barrage of shells, moaning minnies and mortars. We were instructed to break up into small parties and try and contact either the 9 Brigade or A/Landing personnel. It was during this barrage I received a wound in the calf of my right leg. Pte Baker of the same Bn. B Coy. stayed with me. We hid ourselves in a destroyed house, crawling into a hole in the debris. For two days we stayed in this 'hot house'. On 22 Sep we moved off to another house nearby where we found a good cellar containing a fair amount of food. Here we stayed until 28 Oct.'


'Periodically Germans would enter the house but fortunately not once did they search the cellar. Within a week of being here we tried to get through the town. A number of streets were blocked off and Germans were living in houses either side of the barricades. We made an attempt to cross the river.  When we saw the width of it we decided against it. We thought that if we attempted to cross it with all our kit we should be no better off. As our artillery was shelling the road over the bridge we had been defending, we thought that it would only be a matter of days before our troops would enter Arnhem. Continual organised looting by the Germans confirmed our opinion that they were going to evacuate the town. On 28 Sep we both went off in search of food. Pte. Baker went into one house. I went into another. Although both of us were wearing British battle dress the Germans on the few occasions we got near them made no attempt to capture us. As they were not expecting British troops in the town we presumed they thought we belonged to them. On leaving the house I saw Pte. Baker being taken down the street escorted by 3 or 4 Germans. I returned to the house, stayed for an hour and then decided to make a break. I made for the bridge which had been bombed about 3 weeks previously. I discovered the broken iron girders stretching across the river were only a matter of inches below the water. I crawled across to the other side of the river. This was around 1800-1830 hrs. I made my way across the fields looking for a possible contact.'


'On hearing German voices I hid in a nearby haystack. There I stayed until 1800 hrs on 29 Oct. I ran across a patrol of the 101 American A/B Division. Whilst I was following the river in a westerly direction, I was challenged. I stopped and shouted Kamerad thinking he was a German. I was taken back to Platoon H.Q. and from there to Coy. and from there to Regt. and finally to 30 Corps. At each place I was asked to give any information I had picked up. This I gave to various I.O's. Finally I was sent to Brussels.'


Thanks to Philip Reinders of the Arnhem Battle Research Group for this story.


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