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Fred Glover

Private Frederick Glover

 

Unit : "A" Company, 9th Parachute Battalion

 

Then following is my recollection of events just prior to and immediately following my landing on 'D' Day June 6th 1944. The thoughts and occurrences referred to reflect my personal experiences and are as accurate as I am able to recall.......... It is 12.30 am June 6th 1944 and I, together with my comrades am sitting beside the runway at Harwell, the airfield from which we shall take off for Normandy. Our role is to, upon seeing a signal from the ground, to crashland by glider onto the casements of a gun battery and support the remainder of the unit who will launch an assault from outside the perimeter wire.

 

As I wait my thoughts go back to the day when A Coy were asked to provide volunteers for a special mission. There were no specific details but every man stepped forward; it was decided that, as far as possible, only those that were unmarried would be selected. We would be led by Capt Gordon-Brown and referred to as the G.B. Force. A very accurate model of the battery was used at each briefing session and a replica built on a site at Westwood Hay. Rehearsals were carried out by day and night until we were familiar with all aspects as regards the layout of the defensive capability of the objective. The next move is into a secure transit camp and it is now that we learn of the precise location of the objective Merville! Everyone waits for the order to go but there is a delay of 24 hours and we once more check weapons and equipment; play cards and as far as is possible in the circumstances, try to relax. Morale was high, we were led by first class officers and confident in ourselves. My main concern was to play my full part, do well and not let down my comrades or the Regiment. At last the waiting is over; trucks carry us to the airstrip and now we have only to wait....

 

My mind has been recounting the events of the last few weeks but am brought back to reality by a flurry of activity as the order to emplane is given. I struggle to my feet and stand in line; it is the strangest feeling, as though I am a participant in what is happening but also an observer. I climbed aboard and take my seat at the rear end of the glider, getting as comfortable as possible despite the bulk of equipment and weapon. Although never mentioned, we know that our arrival will not be a total surprise to the enemy; air drops will have already taken place and no doubt they will be on high alert. The timing of the assault was crucial as to go in any earlier may have indicated a landing on what was to become known as Sword beach; bearing in mind the location of the battery.

 

My mind becomes active again as I try to recall the layout of the target; where were those M.G. [Machine Gun] positions? and what about the flack gun? would we crash land as intended between the casements. The engines of the tug aircraft roar as they taxi down the runway; there is a jerk as the towrope slack is taken up and we become airborne. In a very short time we shall be transported from the peace of the English countryside into the heat of battle. As the flight progresses, there are attempts at humour and someone tries to start a sing-song but very soon it lapses into silence except for the odd sound that a glider makes in flight; we are all thinking our own thoughts. For myself I am mentally checking weapons; grenades primed? magazines loaded? fighting knife readily to hand? will it come to that? Someone shouts that we have crossed the coast; thankfully there is no flack near us and we proceed without incident. Like all others I am sure my main hope is that I shall prove equal to the task, support my comrades and uphold the honour of the regiment.

 

The movement of the Horsa slows followed by the curious swishing sound of a glider in free flight; we are over the target. As we start our descent there is ack ack fire hitting the fuselage and there are flashes and sounds as though someone is trying to smash down a wooden door... Suddenly, for some reason both of my legs momentarily lifted off the floor. I didn't realise at first that I'd been hit, there was no pain or anything... I feel a sharp pain in my left leg and almost immediately a blow to my right thigh as the shrapnel finds me. A number of others are also wounded but we still expect to come down on target. There are shouts for us to brace ourselves for a crash landing. Due to the fiasco of the drop of the battalion and the loss of most of the equipment, there were no flares to indicate to the glider pilot that our comrades were in position. In the event we came down in the edge of an orchard just beside the path leading to the battery... Within a few seconds the machine crashed, the tail section came adrift, with Ron Sharp, a flame-thrower under his seat, still strapped in and struggling to get free which thankfully he did... The Horsa disintegrated and I tumbled out into a ditch running beside the path. A fire fight started at once and shouts in German could be heard. It is discovered that the enemy was moving to reinforce the battery and it was some consolation that although we had not actually landed inside the objective, a useful contribution to the action had been made.

 

When the shooting subsided my wounds were examined and it was found that shrapnel had passed through my left leg but a piece was lodged in my right thigh and it would need surgery to remove it...... I dragged myself from the wreckage and was surprised to find that I could walk, albeit with some difficulty; a comrade who I did not recognise assisted me to the perimeter wire... we went towards the direction of the Battery. He was obviously aware of the situation... I was a bit shocked of course, I knew I'd been hit but not the extent... After the action, the battalion had to move on to the next rendezvous; I tried to keep up but fell farther and farther behind... By this time my legs were becoming painful to the point where I could walk no further... Rather stupidly, somebody got out a pack of playing cards, "See if you can follow the trail. We've got to get on." He was dropping bloody playing cards down!... I was overtaken by a group led by Capt Gordon-Brown; it was decided that I should stay put with two wounded Germans and wait for the arrival of our troops advancing from the beach. One of the enemy was in a bad way and morphine [was] administered to him. As will be seen, this action was to have a crucial effect at a later stage.

 

Some hours later I was astonished to see a figure strolling along the top of the bank towards us. He was unarmed but carrying two large haversacks marked with very large red crosses. As I recall, he said that he belonged to the non-combatant corps, hence the reason why he was not bearing arms. As he examined our wounds, shouts were heard from across the field and the voices were undoubtedly German. It was a patrol coming our way; they wore the insignia of the S.S.... There was nothing could be done but wait as they approached other than dismantle my Sten gun and smash the firing pin. Unfortunately I had overlooked the fighting knife and a Gammon bomb... There seemed to be a rather hostile atmosphere and I realised that it was the fighting knife fitted at my side which was the cause of the excitement. As one of them reached down to remove it, he noticed the Gammon bomb in my smock pocket and this created further angry remarks. I'd pushed some 9mm ammo into the plastic to aid its fragmentation. The tension eased when the least injured of the two Germans who had been with us apparently pointed out how they had been treated, wounds dressed, food etc shared and I think most important, that morphine had been provided for his comrade. At this, the whole situation changed and with smiles and handshakes I was placed on a stretcher and transported to what I concluded was a field dressing station. On arrival, my legs were examined and dressed; the stay was very short because shells began to fall in the area and I was again in transit and wondering what the future held in store for me.

 

As I was stretchered from the ambulance a glance took in what was obviously a Field Hospital. There was just one large Chateau-like building; the patients being housed in long huts similar to a Nissen. Surgery was carried out in the building and I was taken there. First there was an anaesthetic which consisted of a gauze placed over the mouth and nose with some chloroform then applied. I recovered to find myself lying on a bed in one of the huts. Looking around it seemed that there were men from many units but none that I could recognise. There is only one incident that comes to mind and that was being approached by a rather sad looking German orderly who asked me, and I quote "When are your buddies coming for you?" It transpired that he had been a waiter in New York just prior to the war.

 

The location of the hospital was in the area of Pont de l'Eveque. As far as I am able to recall, my stay was for 3 days and the procedure of being loaded into an ambulance was repeated and off I go again. The next location turned out to be a hospital building which I was informed had at one time been known as the American Hospital, for what reason I have no idea. There were, as I remember, three floors and we were housed at the top, there being small wards leading off from a long corridor. One incident I recall was of a soldier from the 15th Scottish Division on his own in a room, empty except for a straw palliase, on which the man lay naked. An orderly explained that he had received a wound to one side of his head and he could not control his bodily functions and he had to be left in this situation but was being treated. I saw this soldier some weeks later and his condition had improved considerably. Anyone reading this, and who was present will I am sure, recall the rather ancient German orderly who distributed melted cheese on bread from a basket over his arm and could never understand why he was always short. He never realised that we were using various means of distracting him from his task while others helped themselves to his wares. Surprisingly, there was never a query from the kitchen. It was not all good humour however; there was one particularly unpleasant individual in the person of a middle-aged nursing sister. She delighted in making treatment as painful as possible, sometimes distressing other nurses who were present.

 

During this period I contracted a mild form of tonsillitis and was conducted to an annex where a doctor gave me a prescription which eased the discomfort. It was then that I learned that we were in or near the town of Evreux. There were many Hitler Youth working in the building and this was the only experience I witnessed of people actually raising their arm and saying "Heil Hitler"; it was an extraordinary sight. From time to time, groups of us where transported away and it was some time before we discovered that the destination was Paris. At first this was disbelieved but was eventually confirmed. It seemed to me that if there was any chance of avoiding finishing up in a P.O.W. camp somewhere in Germany, perhaps in Paris with the help of the resistance this might just be possible.

 

It is time for me, together with a number of others to leave; we are put aboard a rather ancient coach with the entry for passengers at the rear. The fairly large windows afforded us quite a good view and this was to prove advantageous as will be seen from what was to follow. We drove slowly through the town and passed a group of what was obviously some unfortunate foreign workers who began to wave, call out and raise their arms in a clenched fist salute. At this, the only guard, seated at the back by the door, leaped out and went berserk, drew a pistol and rushed at the workers shouting and waving the gun in the air. Meanwhile the driver, totally unaware of what had occurred and seeing he had a clear run, put his foot down and started to make off up the road. The guard, suddenly aware of the situation, did a quick about-turn and still waving his gun and shouting, began chasing the coach down the road. Only a few seconds elapsed before his comrade realised what was happening and stopped; the guard arrived sweating profusely and looking very sheepish. All in all it was quite an event, worthy of inclusion in an episode of 'Allo, Allo'! I have often wondered what would have happened had we turned up without him. The eastern front perhaps?

 

It is true, we are in Paris; there is no mistaking the Eiffel Tower as the coach passes under it on the way to our destination, which turns out to be the Hospital [Ortzlazarette] de la Pitie [on the Boulevard de la Hospital]. On our arrival, French hospital staff stretcher us inside making various gestures like 'thumbs up' etc; we are among friends. Soon beds are allocated and it is time to take stock. The ward is situated on the top storey and there is just one guard who turns out to be quite a pleasant chap who showed pictures of his family and expressed his fear of being sent to Russia. There is no complaint as regards the treatment received and rations are the same as that provided to the staff. It is clear that any further movement will be to a camp somewhere in Germany with the fittest being the first to go. In view of this it seems wise to exaggerate one's condition and this some of us did. We had a visit from a propaganda unit; American cigarettes were handed out and photographs taken. As a non-smoker I did not warrant any attention and was not troubled.

 

One interesting character in the ward was a Naval rating who had landed with the 9th; as a wireless operator his task was to direct gunfire from HMS Arethusa on to the Battery should the attack fail. Unfortunately he had trod on a mine and had lost a foot. Our morale was very high although tinged with some concern as we had been made aware of the use of the so-called V weapons. I still wonder how we got away with singing one of the songs from what I think was a Disney cartoon which included some very derogatory remarks about the Fuhrer. I was reminded of this recently by Terry Jepp (now Jefferson), a comrade and friend who I had the good fortune to meet at this time.

 

Our French friends told us that there had been an evacuation of some of the German personnel and it was feared that there might be plans to move the wounded at short notice. Terry and myself had become acquainted with several young French hospital staff; I will not name them as I believe they are already on record in an item by Terry which can be seen in the Battery Museum. Sufficient to say that they were of considerable assistance to us and are always remembered. It becomes obvious that vigilance is becoming lax and the Germans themselves are aware of increasing activity by the Resistance and it appears that the time is fast approaching when a decision has to be made.

 

Although feigning difficulty moving very fast, I had made myself available to move between wards helping in any way that I could; this enabled me to get a picture of what was happening. German wounded were being shipped out with some haste and I discovered that some of our own people had also gone, all walking wounded. It was at this time that I decided to see if our friends could assist as I knew that there was little time left and with the Germans now seemingly more and more concerned with their own predicament, and my movement around the building being taken as read, I reasoned that short of walking through the main gate there should be no difficulty. This being the case, it was agreed that at nightfall I would get down to the ground floor and if manageable, would get out of a window in the washroom and if successful, drop down a wall into the grounds of the infirmary next door and from there led away by someone who would be waiting.

 

At the appointed time I did as planned and everything was fine except that the height of the wall had not been determined and as it was dark I had no means of knowing. The fall was a disaster; I reopened wounds and was in some pain. However, help was at hand and willing hands bore me away. Looking back, I have to say that to class it as an escape might be considered a little over the top; I felt more like a small boy absconding from Boarding School. Where I was taken is still a mystery to me; sufficient to say that as the night wore on I acquired a taste for Cognac which has never left me.

 

The following day my helpers brought a doctor to have a look at me. What was revealed next came as a shock; he said that I would need to go back into the hospital as there was an evacuation taking place and the Germans were leaving all Allied wounded behind. At this I felt a little sheepish; it seemed that the efforts of the previous night had been for nothing and I could have stayed put. Probably, to make me feel better, he explained that this situation had only been made known that afternoon and Allied walking wounded had in fact been shipped as late as 11pm that day. Naturally I still like to believe it was worthwhile and have convinced myself that I would have been on that last shipment. There was some lively discussion and Jean-Luc, who appeared to be in charge of the group and spoke good English, told me that the situation was by no means stable and there were pockets of die hard Germans and collaborators firing from various vantage points. At this I agreed it would be wiser to wait until the following day.

 

There were no incidents as I was escorted to the hospital but I was surprised to find that there were still some German staff making frantic efforts to depart; they ignored us. It became apparent that we were no longer under enemy control and during my tour I had the good fortune to meet up with Terry Jepp again; it would appear that he too had evaded the guard and in today's parlance "had it away on his toes". The next significant occurrence was my requisitioning of a firearm. I took a walk round the wards to see who remained; on the lower floor there were small annexes where I assume German officers had been housed and I took the opportunity to open the door of just one. There were items of kit stacked ready to move and behind the door a large valise. Without a second's hesitation my hand was in the partially open top and to my astonishment I was holding a holster complete with pistol and spare magazine. What I did next was a reflex action as I stuffed the whole thing inside my shirt and got out of that area as quickly as possible. What the consequences would have been had I been caught, one can only guess but at best I am sure I would have been taken away with the remaining Germans.

 

Terry and I spent time with the friends we had made and the war had taken a turn for the better. Word began to spread that advance elements of General Leclerc's Free French Division were poised to enter the city and huge crowds began to gather in the boulevards. As the column moved so it was submerged under a sea of people; the vehicles and tanks could not be seen as the human tide swept over them. These were scenes that defy description and I feel privileged to have witnessed this historic occasion.

 

It was while we joined in these celebrations that shots were fired from a room on the upper floor of a tall building just behind us. Everyone went to ground and there was a lot of shouting and arm waving; Terry and I became aware that we had become of interest and realised that it was because I was armed. There seemed to be no alternative but to respond and so I made to move for the entrance to the building with Terry following, "To keep you company", as he put it and Arlette Lebrun saying "It is necessary to take great care". We made our way up the stairs with some difficulty, neither of us were too good at moving with any speed, and reached the top storey. At that moment a very elderly lady came towards us shouting and pointing to a room at the end of the corridor. We approached very warily; the door was partially open but there was no sound. On entering in the approved fashion, there was a movement from behind a curtain which was across one corner and I fired two rounds into it. I cannot be certain of whether or not I had hit someone because at that precise moment the room began to disintegrate around us as heavy fire came up from the armoured vehicles down in the road; it was no time to loiter and Terry and I felt we had done enough in the circumstances.

 

We both returned to the hospital and I believe that it was on this night that enemy aircraft dropped a few bombs on the city. During my wandering, two German orderlies who had apparently decided they wanted out of the war, took me first to a store where the German personnel kit was stored. Here I helped myself to various items of insignia and medals etc; we then moved on to an underground medical facility, operating theatre, X-Ray dept. etc. This building was situated just inside the main gate and had a large swastika in stone over the entrance.

 

I think it was about now that Terry and I lost contact and we went our different ways. For several days I was with Jean-Luc and his group but I was of limited use although did go with them on a couple of occasions. One of the Free French had given me an American carbine which was useful as there was still sporadic skirmishing taking place. It became increasingly clear that I was in urgent need of medical attention as there was an unpleasant aroma about me and so an American liaison officer was contacted. Arrangements were made for me to be taken to their field hospital and then moved on.

 

The carbine I passed to the group and then I sought out Marc Vincent, one of the original group who befriended us and gave him my parachutist's smock. Little enough but I think he was pleased. Gathering my few belongings I board a Jeep and am driven to an American field hospital and receive a warm welcome and treatment; my stay is for a few hours, only then it's on to an airstrip, aboard a C47 and off to England, but I do not know where. The crew ask me if I have any war mementos and I produce the items obtained from the hospital storeroom. These are eagerly snapped up for a little cash and I shall arrive home a bit better off than I left.

 

Fred Glover's wounds were treated in an American military hospital, and in October 1944 he was fit to rejoin the 9th Battalion, and served with them during the actions in the Ardennes, and in March 1945 the Rhine Crossing and Advance into Germany.

 

My thanks to Fred Glover for granting permission to use his story on the site. He has also placed the following notice in the Veterans Ads section of the site. "I am seeking to make contact with any comrade who served in the 9th Para and was a member of the G.B.Force. It would be of particular interest to hear from anyone who was in the glider piloted by Staff Sergeant Kerr and with the troops under the command of Lt Pond. We were hit by flak over the Merville Battery and crashlanded on the edge of a small orchard beside the rough road used by the Battalion in it's approach march to the objective. Those there will recall that we were immediately involved in a fire fight with enemy troops. I hope this may have stirred a few memories. segolene1623@yahoo.co.uk"

 

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