CSM Robert Edward Grainger

 

Unit : "D" Company, 10th Parachute Battalion

Army No. : 6395864

Awards : Bronze Star, Mentioned in Despatches

 

CSM Grainger was slightly wounded when a bullet passed through his helmet and struck his right ear, during heavy fighting on Tuesday 19th September. He went to the mental hospital in Wolfheze for treatment, and, when the Germans took over the area on the following day, he and other British soldiers being treated there were told by the hospital staff to pretend to be mental patients. Despite the fact that Grainger's army boots were quite visible under the blanket which he wore, the deception was not spotted, and he and his comrades maintained the pretence by indulging in some bizarre displays of insanity when the hospital was evacuated a week later. As the column passed through a wood two miles to the north of Wolfheze, the airborne contingent took their leave, after thanking those who had risked so much to shelter them.

 

Thereafter, Grainger became one of many dozens of airborne troops who were hidden by the Dutch Resistance in the Ede area. It was a period which was extremely traumatic for him to endure, as he was intensely claustrophobic and had to spend 18 hours a day lying in a human-sized trench in the ground, covered with a lid with earth piled on top. Thanks to a chink of daylight and an extraordinary display of willpower, he was able to survive these conditions for four days until he was taken to the much more favourable conditions of Berkelaan 16; a cottage next to the German barracks in Ede.

 

Wearing civilian clothes, he was able to venture outdoors, but on one occasion this was nearly his undoing. He was walking around Ede with Geraldine Nijhoff, whose mother owned the cottage, when a group of captured airborne men were marched by. In frustration he kicked the wheel of a parked motorcycle, which, to the horror of all, promptly fell over. He hastily picked it up, whilst Geraldine apologised to the angry German despatch rider who owned it.

 

In October 1944, Grainger was asked by Major Tatham-Warter to undertake a reconnaissance of the riverbank in company with Captain Tom Wainwright of the 156th Battalion. Over two nights, the pair carried out this perilous assignment and so scouted the route along which the Operation Pegasus evaders, themselves included, were to make good their escape on the 22nd October. For his conduct during the Battle of Arnhem and its aftermath, CSM Grainger was awarded the US Bronze Star. The citation reads:

 

During two days of heavy and enforced fighting on the 18th and 19th September in the woods West of Arnhem this CSM's company was heavily engaged and suffered a large number of casualties in officers and men. CSM Grainger was continually in the forefront of the battle leading and encouraging the men, and by his devotion to duty was an example to all. Later, when himself wounded, he attempted, under heavy fire and across completely open ground to rescue the company clerk who had been wounded.

 

He was later taken to a hospital in enemy hands and showed great initiative in escaping and evading captivity for over four weeks.

 

When it became necessary to patrol the river front with a view to crossing, CSM Grainger went with Captain Wainwright for this task. This necessitated two long and extremely difficult night patrols through an area very strongly held. The final success of this evacuation was very largely due to the skill and determination of this patrol.

 

Grainger was also Mentioned in Despatches:

 

After being wounded in the right ear on 19th September 1944, Grainger was taken to a civilian hospital at Wolfheze. A week later, when this hospital was being evacuated in response to orders issued by the Germans, Grainger and 2 other paratroopers were led out by members of the Dutch Red Cross, who pretended that they were escorting lunatic patients. The three men were taken towards Ede, where they went into the woods. Almost immediately they found shelter and were hidden by various civilians until their journey to Allied lines was arranged.

 

On 19th and 21st October Grainger accompanied an officer on extensive reconnaissance to find a route for the immediate mass evacuation of Allied service personnel. When this took place on 22nd October Grainger and the officer acted as guides, and it was to a large extent due to their excellent work that sixty men reached safety.

 

Robert Grainger later retired from the Army at the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major.

 

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