Private William Joseph Ralphs
Unit : Medium Machine Gun Platoon, Support Company, 2nd Parachute Battalion
Army No. : 4128881
Private William Joseph Ralphs enlisted at Stockport on the 1st May 1939 at the age of 22. He was initially posted to the Cheshire Regiment but was later transferred to the Middlesex Regiment, with whom he served in France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. He was evacuated from Dunkirk in May 1940.
Ralphs applied to become a parachutist and qualified on the 14th December 1941. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion and joined the Medium Machine Gun Platoon. He was with the Battalion throughout their operation in North Africa and Sicily; at some point it is believed that he was either wounded or hospitalised due to illness.
At Arnhem, Ralphs reached the Bridge and defended the building closest to the bridge and the river. During the final day of the fighting, one of his comrades, Bill Murray, was caught in heavy fire and had his leg blown off. Despite coming under intense fire, Ralphs went out to collect Murray, who was brought under cover and survived. Ralphs was recommended for the Military Medal for this action, but in the event it was refused.
Ralphs was taken prisoner at Arnhem and sent to Stalag IVB at Mühlberg, where he remained until he was liberated by the Russians in April 1945. He returned to the Airborne Forces after the War and served until he was discharged on the 9th March 1946.
Thanks to Stuart Holdcroft for this account.
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