National Archives catalogue reference WO 171/1248

 

Abbreviations

AAC

ACC

APTC

A/Tk

Bde
BLA

Btn

CCS

CO

Coy

Div

DZ

FUP

I/C

LMG

MG

OBLI

O Group

OR

Pln

RE

R Sigs

SP

Army Air Corps

Army Catering Corps

Army Physical Training Corps

Anti-Tank

Brigade

British Liberation Army

Battalion

Casualty Clearing Station

Commanding Officer

Company

Division / Divisional

Drop Zone

Forming Up Place

In-Command

Light Machine Gun

Machine Gun

Ox and Bucks Light Infantry

Orders Group

Other Ranks

Platoon

Royal Engineers

Royal Signals

Self-Propelled

 

 

Month and year: September 1944

Commanding Officer : Major B.A. Wilson MC

 

17th September 1944

Place: Fairford

 

1000 - The Battle of ARNHEIM  Coy strength 180 and 6 Officers.  The Company took off in 12 Stirlings as the pathfinder force for the 1st Airborne Division.  No.1 Platoon were directed to D.Z. "Z", No.2 Platoon to D.Z. "X", No.3 Platoon and H.Q. to D.Z. "S".  The journey was almost uneventful, with the exception of a little light flak fired at one aircraft of No.1 Platoon.

 

1300 - Platoons were most accurately dropped in the correct places and what little opposition there was was quickly overcome.  Navigational Aids were immediately set out and 20 minutes later the first gliders appeared.  The landings were effected without opposition and all the gliders reported that they had no difficulty in seeing the markings of their correct areas.

 

Place: Holland

 

1345 - The 1st Parachute Brigade were dropped on D.Z. "X".  The drop was accurate and Battalions were well together.  So far the enemy had made no serious attempt to interfere with the landings.  During the course of the afternoon some enemy opposition was encountered, but the D.Z. and L.Z's were kept clear.  The night was quiet, all the Company being concentrated round H.Q. at a farm called REIJERS CAMP.

 

18th September 1944

Platoons moved out during the morning to mark D.Z. and L.Z's for the second lift.  No.1 Platoon to L.Z. "L", No.2 Platoon to L.Z."X" and No.3 Platoon to D.Z."Y".  H.Q. remained on "S" to supply aids.  Enemy opposition was encountered in all landing areas and Platoons had stiff fighting to drive the enemy back and to hold them whilst the second lift landed, also having to put out ground aids under fire.  The difficulties were aggravated by the lift being delayed some three hours.  The enemy were however kept in check and the lift landed with comparatively few casualties.  Company H.Q. was heavily attacked by M.E.109s.  The Company rendezvoused at 1800 hrs at the Farm and moved at 1900 hrs to take up new positions in the area of HALT OOSTERBEEK HOIG, up to this time we had had only one casualty, Cpl Jones who had been killed.  The move was carried out without opposition in the dark and the new position was established by 2300 hrs.  The night was uneventful.  A horse and dray was commandeered to move heavy equipment.

 

19th September 1944

No.1 Platoon moved out again to L.Z. "L" to supply navigational aids for the third lift i.e. the Polish Glider element.  They had to beat off a heavy enemy attack when the gliders were landing.  No.2 Platoon supplied aids for the supply drop.  During the afternoon the enemy started a movement on the Company position and I decided to take up a new position on some high ground overlooking the previous one, which gave us a field of fire of approximately 150 yards and forced the enemy to attack up hill across a road with wire fencing.  The Company dug in to the ground of a house called "OMMERSHOL".  We were reinforced by 2 Officers and 30 men of the 4th Para Field Squadron R.E. and some 60 Glider Pilots under Major Jackson.  The enemy did not make any serious attempt to attack during the night but patrols were active.  No.1 Platoon who had been cut off rejoined soon after darkness and occupied the line as shown in sketch map.

 

20th September 1944

1000 - The enemy tried to cross the road to the right of our position and also moved up on the left flank through the wood evacuated by the Borders on the previous night.  Our positions were heavily mortared and some casualties were sustained.  The enemy were repulsed with heavy loss.  Later in the day he attacked approx. one company strong supported by mortars and an S.P. gun, which was knocked out by us with a P.I.A.T..  The night was comparatively quiet.  During the evening the enemy called on us to surrender.

 

21st September 1944

0700 - The enemy attacked early and a fairly large force was seen to be moving up the wood on our left flank.  Mortaring was heavy.  An S.P. gun brought up on our left flank caused some casualties until knocked out by No.1 Platoon and the Sappers.  The enemy continued to try and break in during the most of the day, suffering very heavy casualties.  During the afternoon the K.O.S.B's on our right flank were heavily attacked and forced from their position.  This was later reestablished.  As a result of the aforementioned attack we were joined by the two 6 pounder A/Tk guns and a section of mortars from the K.O.S.B's which were of great assistance.  We could have held on now indefinitely.  Orders were received to withdraw to a position in the 4th Para Bde area under whose command we were to be.  Area is called "HARTESTEIN".

 

22nd September 1944

0230 - The Company were successfully withdrawn without opposition and rested by 4th Para Bde H.Q. for the night.

 

0500 - The Company took up their new positions in houses in the Eastern perimeter between the two C.C.S's (see map).  Apart from mortar fire the enemy appeared to be unaware of our position and no attack developed.

 

1600 - Two patrols were sent out, one from No.3 Platoon and one from No.2 Platoon.  The object being (a) to try and contact 10th Para Btn East of our position on the main road and (b) to try and push our line further out.  Both patrols came under heavy M.G. fire and contact could not be made with 10th Btn..  Casualties were 1 killed and 2 wounded.  It appears that the enemy were well dug into strong points about 400 yards to our front.

 

23rd September 1944

0300 - No.3 Platoon moved up and took over the positions occupied by 10th Btn. who were withdrawn into reserve.  This position is very isolated and I objected to occupying it.  The Brigadier however insisted as it protected the C.C.S..

 

0715 - No.3 Platoon's position was heavily attacked with 1 Mark IV Tank and 2 S.P. guns supporting Infantry.  Fired at, at close range, the houses which they occupied were quickly destroyed and their automatic weapons made useless.  It was therefore decided to withdraw them back to the main position.  This was accomplished, but the Platoon had 15 casualties.  One S.P. gun was destroyed.  The enemy continued to feel forward towards our front during the day and No.1 Platoon were subjected to heavy fire.  They on the other hand took heavy toll of the enemy trying to occupy the C.C.S. and destroyed a truck full of ammo.  Also a motor cycle and side car.

 

24th September 1944

By first light it was seen that the enemy had occupied the C.C.S. at the cross roads between No.3 Platoon and No.1 Platoon and a considerable amount of sniping came from this area.  The enemy further infiltrated behind No.1 Platoon position from their left flank and snipers were active.  A number of snipers were killed during the day.  The enemy continued to blast the area with 15cm. mortars, 88mm's. and S.P. guns.  They also started to set fire to the houses with Phosphorous mortar-bombs.  A heavy attack was launched to the right of our front which was partly successful and some enemy endeavoured to infiltrate into our positions but were destroyed.  By this time no rations were available and water was very scarce.  However most of the houses occupied by the Company or nearby had some tinned food stored in the cellars.  Also most houses had tame rabbits.  H.Q. were fortunate to find a bath half full of water.  Raids for food and water were made by night, on one occasion the enemy were encountered and driven out of a house.  It was therefore possible to have two meals of a sort each day and sufficient water was found for one brew of tea.  Wine was the only other liquid and a fair supply was discovered.  In spite of the continuous shelling and mortar fire to which the Company had been subjected for 5 days and night making rest almost impossible, their spirits were at a very high level and there was no thought of submission.  At about 1100 hours No.1 Platoon reported some Polish Paratroops in their area, and at 1200 hours they relieved No.1 Platoon who stood down for a rest.

 

1500 - No.2 Platoon reported considerable enemy movement on their right flank and it was clear that the enemy were bent on seizing the other C.C.S. situated on the right of No.2 Platoon.  This area had previously been held by some Glider Pilots who had been removed at the request of the Germans so as not to endanger the wounded in the C.C.S.  It appeared at one time as if the enemy attack would swing round the back of our position.  I therefore moved 1 Pln who were resting to the H.Q. area in close support.  However having gained possession of the C.C.S. the enemy made no further move.  No.1 Platoon took over part of No.3 Platoon's line, both platoons being down to a rather low level in numbers.  This considerably helped to consolidate our position which was further strengthened by 8 Glider Pilots with a Bren Gun.  During the afternoon two Mark IV Tanks were reported in front of No.3 Platoon.  Later a message was received from the German Commander via one of our Medical Officers in the C.C.S. situated at the cross roads.  The message was to the effect that unless I agreed to vacate a house some 30 yards from the C.C.S. at once he would send two tanks against my position and blast me out.  In view of the fact that this house was of great importance to my position and if in enemy hands would have made my position extremely insecure, I sent back a message to the effect that I would only agree if the German Commander would withdraw his men from the vicinity of the C.C.S. and his tanks for a distance of 1 mile.  Further that he would make no further advance in the area of the C.C.S. until all casualties were cleared.  If however he would not agree to this I should remain in the house in question and if his tanks attempted to advance I would blow them up.  To add colour to my threat Pte Dixon No.3 Platoon ACC Cook sneaked out with his P.I.A.T. and destroyed one of the tanks.  The P.I.A.T. bomb striking the back of the tank where presumably ammunition was stored, as after several sharp reports the tank blew up burning for some hours.  The remaining tank was moved back and enemy troops in the vicinity of the C.C.S. withdrew.

 

25th September 1944

The left flank remained quiet during the morning but the whole Company front was submitted to very heavy bombardment and an increasing number of light phosphorous mortar bombs were fired.  More houses caught fire as the result.  The enemy made an unsuccessful attempt to infiltrate into the right of our position which cost him casualties and an attack on our left was driven off in the afternoon.

 

1600 - A conference was held at Div H.Q. at which orders to withdraw over the river that night were given.  The Independent Company were to form the rear-guard at the river at 2230 hrs.

 

1800 - An O Group was called and orders issued to form up the Company along the wood, later vacated by 4th Bde., with No.1 Platoon as head of the column.  The Company to be in position ready to move at 2145 hrs.  At approximately 2100 hrs 30 Corps Artillery supporting the Div. opened up a terrific bombardment on a wood which was occupied by the enemy just South of our position and through which we had to pass.  This bombardment was at 2115 hrs answered by the enemy who put down everything he had into our area, making the forming up of the Company very difficult and hazardous.  To add to the difficulties the enemy set fire to almost all the houses we were occupying.

 

1925 - The Company started to move out.

 

2200 - The Company moved up from F.U.P.. It was now raining hard and the enemy guns and mortars were a little quieter.  Two halts had been made so as to keep the Company closed up, when at approximately 2220 hrs whilst proceeding through the wood recently shelled by our artillery the head of the column was halted by a German M.G. post which immediately opened fire with at least two L.M.G's.  The Commanding Officer and one Officer at the head of the column became casualties and part of the leading section.  Little confusion was caused however and the enemy shooting became wild when '36' Grenades were thrown back at them.  The 2nd i/c reformed the Company and taking a right hand sweep reached the river with the majority of the Company and crossed to the South bank, where the C.O. later rejoined being only slightly injured by a bullet grazing his nose and right eye.  After passing through the 43rd Div. the Company were embussed and taken to barracks at NIJMEGEN.

 

26th September 1944

On calling the roll it ascertained that 5 Officers and 115 O.R's had been brought safely back across the river.  Of these 6 were removed to hospital as their wounds were too severe to stand further travel.  Thus out of 6 Officers and 180 O.R's 5 Officers and 115 O.R's were known to be safe.  A very high percentage considering the sustained fighting in which the Company had been constantly involved.  A further party of six men (unwounded) were known to have reached the river but unfortunately lost touch and failed to cross.

 

27th September 1944

Place: Nijmegen

 

After one night and one and a half days in NIJMEGEN the Company were embussed and taken to LOUVAIN, where they spent the night.

 

28th September 1944

Place: Louvain

 

1500 - The Company were taken to BRUSSELS airstrip and flown to SALTBY Airdrome near GRANTHAM in American C.47's.  Thence back to barracks at NEWARK.  During the operation the Company destroyed 1 Tank MK.IV, 3 S.P. Guns, 1 Truck of ammunition with driver, 1 Motor Cycle Combination, 28 prisoners were captured and the number killed must have been well over 300.

 

 

Appendix

 

From Lieut.-Gen. F.A.M. Browning, C.B., D.S.O.
Headquarters British Airborne Corps

B.L.A.,

27th September, 1944.

 

Dear Major Wilson,

 

I have heard on every side how outstandingly your Company has done.  To have earned this special praise from such a gallant body can only mean one thing - that your unit is unsurpassed by any other in the world.

 

Please tell your chaps what a terrific reputation they have earned.

 

Yours ever,

 

BOY BROWNING.

 

Personal.

Major B. Wilson, M.C.,

21 Indep. Para. Coy.

 

 

Appendix "A"

Nominal Roll of Officers of 21st Independent Parachute Company who took part in the action.

 

43050

180067

121135

264944

168938

164948

Major B.A. Wilson M.C. (A.A.C.)

Capt. R.E. Spivey (A.A.C.)

Lieut H.D. Eastwood (O.B.L.I.)

Lieut C.E.K. Speller (A.A.C.)

Lieut N.H.H. Ashmore (A.A.C.)

Lieut J. Horsley (Border Regt.)

 

 

Appendix "B"

NOMINAL ROLL OF CASUALTIES SUSTAINED BY 21ST INDEPENDENT PARACHUTE COMPANY DURING THE BATTLE OF ARNHEM.

 

KILLED.

5948946

6842570

W/Cpl Jones J.A.

A/Sgt Thompson E.V.

5338078

14623901

Pte Fiely J.V.

W/Cpl Rodely J.P. = RODNEY?

 

WOUNDED - BELIEVED P.O.W.

4832371

5441349

2593201

10565391

5928271

1786229

14640782

7360854

14623912

7014945

6986281

2082798

14663891

6844927

5391704

Pte Alletson E.

W/Sgt Brown S.

Pte Cadenhead G.M.

Pte Dunbar T.

Pte Farrow K.

Pte Gray T. (Para. Injury).

Pte Hewitt D.

L/Cpl Jones E.G.

Pte Landon W.L.

A/Sgt Martin D.

Pte Mitchell H.

Pte Morris J.

Pte Sharlott A.

W/S/I. Nutter E. (MM) (APTC)

Pte Blinko G. (Para. Injury).

7627563

6982742

14402569

14200063

6346424

6850620

6106624

6853908

2819082

2045251

6984259

7902554

4975875

5349533

2082640

Pte Avallone L.

Pte Cameron J.

Pte Day D.

W/Cpl Eden P.

Pte Finglass G.

Pte Heath A.

Pte Hillier F.

Pte Jones J.

Pte Lloyd A.

L/Cpl Mitchell G.

Pte Moore W.

A/Cpl Sharman A.J.

Pte Cawrey V. (ACC)

Sigm. Bennett A. (R.Sigs).

A/Sgt Swallow B.C.

 

MISSING.

1085451

845368

3248615

5772762

11007971

2346776

887897

1602953

8793282

4039090

872196

6401666

4696133

6148334

14551208

164948

A/Cpl Bence A.R.

A/Sgt Cockings E.G.J.

Pte Dawson A.

Pte Faithorne P.

Pte Fletcher T.

L/Cpl Gyllenship W.J.

Pte Hallam A.

Pte James E.

Pte Laing A.

Pte May M.L.

Pte Morgan T.

Pte Overington P.

Pte Philpott A.E.

Pte Taylor K.

Pte Wilson J.

WS/Lieut. Horsley J. (Border Regt.)

14623928

14434383

5124947

14650990

1123306

5891305

14423273

7022654

3054000

14002666

5511421

2944185

14313329

1795474

2387719

Pte Bleach T.A.

Pte Curtis G.

Pte Davidson P.

Pte Ford H.

A/Cpl Gibson H.

Pte Gentry C.R.

Pte Hart J.

Pte James A.

Pte Marsland S.F.

Pte McEvoy A.

W/Cpl O'Brien T.

Pte Pardoe A.

Pte Reading R.

Pte Unwin P.

Sigm. Logan J. (R.Sigs).

 

MISSING - SINCE REPORTED DIED OF WOUNDS.

10664491

Pte Roberts K.