Sapper Donald A. Wann
Unit : Headquarters, 9th (Airborne) Field Company
Army No. : 1953623
Tony Wann joined the 9th Field Company shortly before the Operation Freshman disaster in November 1942, when two gliders containing men of the Company crashed whilst attempting a raid in Norway; the occupants being killed upon impact or executed by the Gestapo after interrogation.
As a part of Company Headquarters, he flew to Arnhem from Keevil on Sunday 17th September. The following is a newspaper article about Wann which appeared in the Northampton Chronicle and Echo on the 10th October 1944, entitled 'Arnhem His Third "Hot Spot" - Northampton paratrooper's tank exploit'. However it must be noted that although the text appears to come directly from Tony Wann himself, it was in fact related to the newspaper via his father.
Sicily, Taranto - Arnhem. Twenty-one-years-old Sapper Donald A Wann, of the Airborne Division, whose home is at 23 York Road, Northampton, has taken part in landings at all three "hot spots".
When seen by a "Chronicle and Echo" reporter at his home, Sapper Wann had a word of comfort for the relatives of men who have been reported missing at Arnhem.
"Most of them," he said, "will be prisoners-of-war, as they fought to the last round and it was just a matter of time before they were taken prisoners by the Germans.
GAVE HOTEL A "MISS"
He considers himself lucky in being in the first wave to land near Arnhem on Sunday, September 19, at about 1.30 in the afternoon because the Germans were taken completely by surprise. There was no "reception" in the form of anti-aircraft fire which greeted the gliders which followed.
Their rendezvous was a hotel and they set off down the road, but, when nearly there, were told by a member of the Dutch underground movement that the hotel was occupied by 200 S.S. troops. "So naturally we changed our mind," he said.
SHRAPNEL IN HIS EQUIPMENT
A day or so afterwards Sapper Wann and an officer went out after two German tanks which had been reported in the area. Armed with Piat guns, they discovered the tanks, one a small flame-thrower type and the other a larger one.
"Taking cover," said Sapper Wann, "we fired and knocked out the small tank, but we did not get the larger one, which was supported by German infantry.
"They scouted and discovered our position, and the officer accompanying me was killed by shrapnel. But the large tank was turned back. The next morning I found two pieces of shrapnel in my equipment."
The Sky Troops carried food to last for two days, and all Sapper Wann had to eat in 10 days besides this were two tins of soup which he managed to rescue from a container which was dropped by parachute.
To make matters worse, the Germans put snipers in the path of a well about 500 yards away.
END OF THE SNIPER
An ingenious method of dealing with enemy snipers was described by Sapper Wann. When one of the many snipers was discovered and could not be hit, a message was run back to the artillery about two miles away. "The artillery then fired upon the tree in which he was ensconced, and wiped it out - and three or four trees in that area."
He had warm praise for the pilots of the gliders, not only for their accuracy in landing, but for their courage in the fighting.
"These pilots," comments Sapper Wann, "are perfectly entitled to make their way back to our own lines or not do anything, but they split up into groups of 10 or 12 and seemed to be killing Germans all over the place."
"LIKE QUEUING FOR PICTURES"
Describing how, after the withdrawal, he and his comrades made their way back over the river, Sapper Wann said "Instead of shouting and pushing, the troops were marvelous. They waited in a queue, 'like queuing for the pictures' - for about three hours in pouring rain and bitter cold."
On the other side a great reception awaited them and this was repeated at the aerodrome where they landed in England, and where they had a great feast.
"The Germans treated our men all right," he told the reporter. "To quote an instance, a party of Germans captured the small hospital in Arnhem where our wounded were, but after looking round they left without touching anyone or anything.
"And when the Germans wanted to fetch wounded from our lines they just came over in an ambulance, collected them and drove back without being fired upon. We did the same thing."
Sapper Wann joined the Royal Engineers in May 1942, and volunteered for the Airborne Division later in the year.
He attended Northampton Town and County School, and was later on the staff of Messrs. Brown and Henson, architects, St. Giles' Street, Northampton.
Wann attended several reunions in the post-war years, but did not revisit Arnhem until 1977, which provoked old nightmares to return. He died shortly before the 50th Anniversary in 1994.
Thanks to Gary Wann, son of Tony and webmaster of The Assault Glider Project, for this story.
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