Corporal Ronald Herbert
Unit : No.7 Platoon, "S" Company, 1st Parachute Battalion
Written by Ron Herbert's son, Kelys. If anyone has any information on him, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
My Father Ron Herbert served with the 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment, 7 Platoon, S Company, from 1941 to 1946 - sadly he died age 62 in 1981 - a quiet and gentle man, which seemed strange considering his experiences during the regiments' campaigns. I was 24 when he died and myself serving at the time as a professional soldier missed out on learning about his experiences. He would never talk at length however I pressed to learn of several experiences which may spark the memories of some of his living comrades.
North Africa. He recalled his first experience as a 19 year old reinforcement to what he recalled as "Pancho Villas Mexican bandits". He made his first mistake in order to get his feet under the table with the veterans - he volunteered as radio operator and runner - his first patrol ended up on the wrong end of an ambush resulting in the death of the officer who he was operating for. Then I recall he told me of an attack on a hill at night, consumed with G10 Rum. They secured hill from the Italians and were counterattacked all that night with shell and mortar.
Sicily. He came down upside down, landing on a cactus and injuring his arm. He told me in later years of the ambush of German transport on a bridge using Gammon Bombs and the injured Germans calling for their mother or mutter in their language. Some paras tried to help but were forced back by fire; he emphasized to me that the average German soldier was just like us. He said later they were ordered to get out by swimming the river and to get back to there own lines in small groups - his stopped to eat on the way back at a farm house. There was a stand off at a farm house between a Sergeant Padriano (spelling?) and a German officer negotiating the possible release of prisoners held by the Paras in the farm house, resulting in the officer being shot by Padriano whilst trying to whistle a warning to his German comrades. The farm house was mortared. Dad was close to Padriano when he was killed by a grenade - head injury.
Italy. A mined ship killing lots of Paras - washed up on beaches - which resulted on in him never eating sea food.
England. Norfolk training - long marches with full equipment.
Arnhem. He recalled Major Lonsdale's speech in the church, and the initial battle at Oosterbeek. Three tanks attacked them, and a machine-gun firing at a pond on a fixed-line killed two twins, parting the hair of one. An 88mm anti-tank gun at the end of the street was causing difficulties in the Battalion's area, and an officer asked him to get in a Jeep and rush the gun. Herbert instead persuaded the officer to allow him to approach over the garden walls instead, which he nevertheless found to be a terrifying experience as he had no idea what was on the other side of each fence as he jumped over it.
The age old question boys unknowingly ask - "did you shoot any Germans Dad?" My request met with an unusually stern answer, it is not good to hurt anyone, even the Germans, as most were just like us with mothers and families. However as a soldier myself many years later and having experienced my own real taste of active service and contact, we shared a few experiences over a beer and with a sad face Dad confessed that he had indeed taken his revenge on a German - he shot him with a sniper rifle whilst the German walked through the carriages of a stationary railway compartment. No more was said, but I suspect he had more than his fill of killing and avoiding being killed.
Palestine. He became a Provost Corporal and did something strange - he handed in his stripes. He couldn't adjust to the peace time army, having experienced the loss of so many mates, and he found himself unable to put men on charges just for having dirty boots. He wanted to home, he said. Dad was a Roofer before the war and remained one thereafter. Gentle, quiet, kind and well loved by all who know him, I can't help thinking that he must have been very different back then to have survived and maintained his mental strength - as he said "It's Okay doing it once, it's doing it again and again whilst knowing what's coming your way boy" - asked how he did it, he said "I looked at the next man and said if he can do it then so can I."
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