Lieutenant Eric George Woodman
Unit : No.8 Platoon, "C" Company, 7th Parachute Battalion
Service No. : 182357
Awards : Military Cross
Lieutenant Woodman commanded No.8 Platoon, "C" Company, 7th Parachute Battalion, but in Normandy, due to officer casualties, he was quickly promoted Captain and served as Second-in-Command of the Company. For his conduct throughout the campaigns in North-West Europe, he was awarded the Military Cross. His citation reads:
For outstanding leadership and gallantry in action from 6th June 1944 to 8th May 1945. During this period he made two operational parachute descents behind the German lines and was in the forefront of practically every action fought by the battalion during the period. His contribution to the battalion's effort over this prolonged period has been beyond all praise. He performed countless acts all worthy of the highest praise. Three typical ones are cited.
During the difficult period of holding, which followed the Normandy drop on 6th June 1944, Captain Woodman was commanding a company; his splendid example and cheerfulness under any circumstances acted as a tonic to his men. His own gallantry under fire inspired them. At the end of this period he was the only officer left in the company but the morale of his men was, if possible, even higher than it had been at the beginning.
In August 1944, during the follow-up, he led an extremely successful company patrol action which was almost a model of what such action should be. His personal gallantry during this was again outstanding.
On 7th/8th April 1945, the company of which he was Second-in-Command, made the assault on the bridge at Neustadt. Woodman led the assault troops himself and kicked at the explosive charge as he passed them and succeeded in severing some of the fuses. The bridge was blown as the troops were crossing, and heavy casualties were suffered. Woodman, with a dozen men only and himself wounded, managed not only to rout the enemy garrison, but also to hold a small but most valuable bridgehead until reinforcements could be got over to him the following morning. He also managed to organise first aid for his many serious casualties even though no medical orderlies had crossed the bridge in his party.
He was eventually evacuated with his own wounds but returned to the battalion within three weeks and took up his appointment again.
Woodman remained in the Army after the war and retired at the rank of Colonel. He passed away on the 14th January 2016, aged 94. The following obituary was printed in the Daily Telegraph on the 25th January.
Colonel Eric Woodman, who has died aged 94, was awarded an MC in 1945 for a number of operational parachute drops into German occupied territory.
On D-Day, June 1944, Woodman was in command of a company of 7th Battalion (Light Infantry) The Parachute Regiment (7 Para), which jumped into Normandy to support the glider-borne, coup-de-main force that had captured the bridges across the Orne River and the Caen Canal. They were so badly scattered on landing that, by three o’clock in the morning, less than half the battalion was at the forming-up point. Only a few supply containers were retrieved so that they were short of heavy weapons when German tanks and self-propelled guns engaged them at first light. The attacks increased in intensity during the day and by the evening Woodman was the only officer left in the company. Together with elements of 2nd Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 7 Para managed to hold the bridges until relieved. Nobody who was there ever forgot the moment that contact was made with the precarious beachhead force. The commandos arrived and they had a Churchill tank with them. Unmilitary it may have been but soldiers threw down their rifles and hugged one another.
Eric George Woodman was born at Northfleet, Kent, on January 17 1921 and educated locally. He served in the ranks for 20 months and, in April 1941, he was commissioned into the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment (QORWKR). Throughout the Second World War he served with 7 Para, seeing action in the Ardennes in the winter fighting of 1944 to 1945 and, in March 1945, in the forced crossing of the Rhine when he was dropped behind enemy lines.
On April 7, 7 Para was ordered to seize Neustadt, north-west of Hanover, and its bridge on the River Leine. On the approach, their three-ton lorries came under heavy fire from machine guns and there were casualties from large mines laid in concrete pipes under the road. The bridge was being prepared for demolition. Woodman, who was second-in-command of his company, led a charge across it. He kicked at the explosives as he passed and managed to sever some of the fuses. The bridge was blown behind him, wounding him and causing very heavy casualties, but his small force routed the garrison and held a vitally important bridgehead until they were relieved the next morning. Woodman was awarded a Periodical MC covering the 11 months from D-Day.
After the war, he was granted a Regular Commission and accompanied 7 Para to the Dutch East Indies and then Palestine. A staff appointment in BAOR was followed by a posting to Malaya. In 1961, the QORWKR was amalgamated with the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) to form the Queen's Own Buffs. Woodman joined the latter that same year. He commanded 1st Battalion The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment from 1963 to 1965 when he moved to the British Army Staff Washington DC as GSO 1. He took the opportunity to visit the Golden Knights parachute team at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. When the Team learned that they were entertaining a parachute veteran from the Second World War, they took him up for a free-fall drop. He held a number of staff appointments before retiring from the Army in 1975 in the rank of colonel.
For the next 10 years, he worked for the security services at Woolwich. In retirement in Crieff, Perthshire, he enjoyed fishing and swimming. He married first, in 1947, Morag Cameron, who predeceased him. He married secondly, in 1986, Jennifer (Jenny) Hayes, who survives him with a son from his first marriage.
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