Gunner Len A. Clarke

 

Unit : No.4 gun, "E" Troop, 2nd Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery

Army No. : 1100167

 

Len Clarke was a layer on the fourth of E Troop's four 6-pounder Anti-Tank guns. He had flown to Arnhem with the Second Lift on Monday 18th, and were attached to the 1st Para Brigade, 11th Battalion, and 2nd South Staffords, as they made their final attack.

 

While the 2nd South Staffords were fighting hard around the St Elizabeth Hospital on Tuesday 19th, Clarke and the men of his gun crew had sited their gun in the front garden of a house, affording them a view right up the street towards the Hospital. They eventually brought their 6-pounder to bear on a tank that was moving cautiously towards them from the Hospital. Lieutenant Bob Glover, E Troop's commander, relieved Len Clarke of his laying duties and aimed the gun himself. Clarke was a little irritated by this and pointed out to his commander that he was the layer, "Yes, and I'm the officer", came the reply. At close range three rounds were fired, all were hits and the tank was immobilised. The crew then withdrew their gun from the area.

 

As the Lonsdale Force was gathering in Oosterbeek during Tuesday afternoon, E Troop accompanied some men of the South Staffords along the Utrechtseweg main road that led to the Hartenstein Hotel. German infantry and armour had tracked their progress, flanked their position, and were about to attack them from the north. Some South Staffords men ran from that direction shouting "There's some bloody Tiger tanks coming". Len Clarke thought this a silly thing to say as there was supposed to be very little armour in the region, especially Tiger tanks. Nevertheless, Lieutenant Glover set out to oppose the threat and asked for only Clarke to go with him. Len was unhappy about this as it was a highly dangerous thing to do and he'd only been married for six months. No one else volunteered, so Clarke agreed to go. He and Glover were about to set off in the jeep towing their gun, when a small tank appeared over 200 yards away. Clarke fired a shot and hit it, forcing the tank to withdraw.

 

The crew then manhandled the gun to move it into another position outside the Schoonoord Hotel when another tank appeared moving down the Stationsweg. Clarke ordered that his men turn the gun, drop the trail, and then get out of the way. They protested that he couldn't fire it like that as it wasn't dug in and they hadn't put the cross-stay in to hold the two arms of the trail. Clarke insisted they hadn't got time for that, and so operated the gun himself while another man loaded it. Everyone else got out of the way. Clarke took out the tank by firing three shots at its hull and the join of the turret. Another tank appeared immediately after and moved passed the one Clarke had just knocked out. Again he destroyed it with another three shots. He recalls that as the gun wasn't dug in, the recoil from each shot sent it back about fifteen feet.

 

A Captain of the South Staffords had witnessed the courage of Len Clarke and Bob Glover, and he took their names and said he was going to recommend them for decorations. However this was never submitted for an unknown reason. The South Staffs officer was not known to either man, so it is possible he may have been killed later in the battle. However, on the spot, Lieutenant Glover promoted Clarke to Sergeant.

 

Not long after this incident, the Germans heavily mortared the area. The bombardment killed Lieutenant Glover, and Len Clarke was badly wounded. He later lost a leg.

 

Back to 2nd Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery

Back to Biographies Menu