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Norman Swift in 2006

Norman Swift in 2006

Lance-Sergeant Norman Swift

 

Unit : "A" Troop, 1st Parachute Squadron

Army No. : 1878392

 

The following are Norman Swift's memories of Arnhem as related by his son, Tim Swift. The first paragraph relates to entries in the Squadron war diary.

 

"He doesn't remember "digging in" anywhere prior to arriving at the school, but does remember the fight at the square, where the "stores" that were damaged were in fact the squadron's rum ration, which was in a stone jar carried on a small trolley? None of them were very pleased about it getting hit!"

 

"On entering the school building he was told off to look after two upstairs rooms on the first floor at the south end of the school. One  room had windows looking south over the river and bridge, and west over the approach ramp to the bridge. The other had windows looking east over the road, close to where the current monument to the school building is now situated. As far as he can remember the only occupants of the two rooms were sappers from his section of A-Troop and two signallers from the 2nd Battalion."

 

"They spent almost all of the fighting inside the rooms and he only left it on a couple of occasions, once to go down to the basement and visit a mortally wounded friend, and once when directed by Capt. Mackay to take one of their canvas buckets and collect gammon bombs so that the two of them could attack a Tiger tank which was near one of the windows. Fortunately, as he was going back up stairs to where Capt. Mackay was standing halfway up, the entire landing and ceiling collapsed around them and he didn't have to face the Tiger tank."

 

"One other time that he left the room was to launch a grenade attack with other sappers through a window on the landing (at the time when the Germans held their ill-fated briefing in the garden of the school). It was a large window with just a simple cross piece and his grenade somehow managed to miss the large open spaces and hit dead centre on the cross. It fell back in amongst the chairs that were piled up under the window as blast protection and he shouted "grenade!" as a warning and everyone dived for cover. Fortunately no-one was injured other than a few cuts and abrasions."

 

"He remembers Sapper "Poacher" Payne coming into the rooms at one stage on his hands and knees carrying a mess tin full of warm tea! They each got a sip and my father reckons it was one of the best sips of tea he's ever had. He also clearly remembers Para's from the school shouting out their war cry of "Whoa Mohammad" whenever there was a lull in the fighting and hearing the answering calls from surrounding buildings. As the battle progressed and the perimeter shrank, the answering calls became fewer and fewer until on the Wednesday morning (20th) there were almost none at all. (Just after the war, on the first anniversary, my father was in a restaurant with my mother and some other Arnhem survivors in Amsterdam when the door suddenly burst open and two Battalion Para's in full uniform and very drunk rolled in and shouted "Whoa Mohammad"; immediately my father and all of the other Para's already inside the restaurant answered loudly and all of the Dutch clapped and cheered)."

 

"After evacuating the school, my father met up with Sapper "Pinky" White who was carrying a stretcher on which was the wounded Major Lewis (3rd Battalion). The other stretcher bearer had been either wounded or killed and my father helped him to carry it. A German ordered them to take him into a basement and leave him, but as they were going back up the stairs Major Lewis asked for some water so my father returned and left his water bottle and was talking with the Major for a while before the German returned and carried him back out onto the street."

 

"After being grouped up and searched, the survivors with my father were marched off by the Germans and he remembers that although there were aircraft attacking the streets through which they were marched, the Para's all marched in the middle of the road singing "Roll out the Barrel" and other popular songs. The Germans were not very impressed."

 

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