Staff-Sergeant Maurice Alexander Bramah

 

Unit : "A" Squadron, No.1 Wing, The Glider Pilot Regiment

Army No. : 2765856

Awards : Military Medal, Croix de Guerre

 

Staff-Sergeant "Jock" Bramah flew a Horsa glider, Chalk Number 69, from Harwell carrying two medical Jeeps and a trailer to LZ-V. His co-pilot, Sergeant Ron Bartley, related the following in the book "One Night in June" by Kevin Shannon and Stephen Wright:

 

We were on the track that led to the landing zone, but when we were some miles off the Normandy coast we ran into flak and a patch of dense cloud or smoke. Everything went haywire and I felt a twang as the tow-rope broke. This was bad! A second later we came out of the cloud but could see no sign of the land at all. Gave the order to prepare for ditching and JB [Bramah] was at the controls in a jiffy. I was out of my seat and started to hack an escape hole through the roof of the fuselage. I shouted to the two passengers to do the same and hardly had the words left my mouth when the noise of their hacking came to my ears. Fear lent speed to our actions and the cutting was well under way when JB shouted that he could see the coastline and also thought that we could make it. I returned to the cockpit just in time to see the coastline disappearing underneath us. I could distinguish the houses on the seafront and one or two bursts of tracer greeted us, passing through the starboard wing. I could now see nothing but woods underneath and it looked as if a crash landing was inevitable. It was straight into an orchard with an airspeed of around 100 mph. I can't recollect the actual landing, though I'm sure I didn't lose consciousness, for when I began to take note, I was on the ground with the cockpit crushed into matchwood above me, still creaking as it settled.

 

I whispered 'JB' and got a grunt in reply. However, he was only stunned and the next second we were struggling to free ourselves. My back hurt like the devil! JB passed out the rifles and ammo, which took some finding and extracting from the debris, and then we thought about our two passengers, Harpo and Marx. We called them quietly and got no reply. Considering the state of the glider, with her tail, in which they had both been sitting, perched on top of a tree, we said that they must be dead. The next second they emerged from the darkness and were immediately relieved to find us alive and kicking. They in turn presumed that we had gone for the usual Burton! We posted one as sentry and set about trying to extract a jeep. The time would now be about 1am. Our own Dakotas and other tugs overhead were dropping bombs [to disguise the airborne landings as a routine bombing raid] that came all too close. This, however, was probably a good thing, as it covered the noise we were making ripping up the glider.

 

As dawn approached our chances of even salvaging one jeep seemed remote. However, with the driver giving her full throttle and the rest of us pulling and levering, she suddenly shot herself free. The wheels were buckled to blazes, one of them almost horizontal, however she went! That was a lot, but our luck was right out. The orchard, in which we had landed, was situated in a tiny valley which was ringed by sturdy trees. There was no way out for the vehicle. We searched every corner and eventually ran the jeep into some marshy ground, from which it was impossible to extricate her. There was nothing for it but to abandon the hope of saving anything and move out on foot without further delay. We had no idea where we were, although I later discovered that we were in the vicinity of Blonville, some eight miles as the crow flies from our LZ. We moved off through the forest in the hope of contacting some more of our troops, all of us walking like cats on a hot tin roof, expecting a tripwire or other booby trap at every step.

 

I remember telling myself to breathe normally or I'd choke, I was so keyed up. We'd picked up two stray parachutists soon after moving off and nearly blundered straight into a helmeted Jerry sentry right in the middle of the forest - couldn't see what he was guarding though! Somebody said 'Shoot him.' I didn't agree. We drew back and bypassed him on the right. Hell of a lot of noise coming from what we took to be the direction of the beach - probably the battleships softening things up before the main landing begins. We just managed to dodge down while a Jerry platoon passed along a small path in front of us. We seemed to have landed bang in the middle of Jerry activity. We then decided to follow our survivor's training and contact someone local and when we got to the edge of the forest we saw a house not far away.

 

JB knew some pidgin French and crept forward to make contact. He returned with the news that there was an injured para officer hiding in the top of the barn and that we were all to join him and plan from there. I led, with the others spaced line astern, across a small field towards the barn. We were spread nicely across the field when machine-guns opened up. I spun round like a top and hit the ground. Picking myself up, I raced to a corner of the barn and when I looked back, all the others were lying spreadeagled and still, where they had fallen. A woman opened the back door of the house, about eighty yards away, and calmly emptied a jug or pot onto the ground. Bloody ridiculous! Trap? I don't know and never will. I thought all the lads were dead and made a hell of a sprint back across there, though a hail of bullets, and dived into the forest and under a small bush. I couldn't run another yard as my lungs felt as if they were bursting. I tried to wrap myself round a tree, but couldn't hide the effing rifle! There were Jerries in the wood, shouting and shooting at random. I lay there all day, my back hurting like hell. On checking my kit, I realised why I had spun on being hit. My two large ammunition pouches were in shreds, with segments of the grenades lying in the bottom. The grenades were primed... am I still alive?

 

As evening fell I couldn't understand why it was so quiet. I must have been further from the beach than I imagined. My thoughts drifted to the fact that I should have been back in the UK by now, lapping up all the glory, and leaving this kind of lark for the PBI [Poor Bloody Infantry]! As I made my way carefully down the valley side I saw a cave on the other side and spent the night in there.

 

Sergeant Bartley was seen in the cave by a young local Frenchwoman, who for the next few days kept him supplied with food. He then left this position and took shelter with Monsieur Paul Haricot of the French Resistance, who already had several men of the 6th Airborne Division in his care. On around the 20th June "Jock" Bramah arrived. Despite appearances in the aftermath of the ambush, he had not been killed but badly wounded in a lung. Coughing up blood and drifting into a coma, he was left where he lay by the Germans who assumed that death was imminent. By the following morning, however, he had recovered sufficiently to drag himself to the Bois Bluche farm in the Chemin du Bois. He was temporarily hidden beneath a bridge until he was taken to the home of Monsieur Salesse, where his wound was dressed each day by a local nurse, Mademoiselle Marie-Louise Le Franc. His hiding place was betrayed by someone, and on the 16th June a party of Germans arrived. When they entered his bedroom, Bramah shot two of them with his Sten gun then took cover beneath the bed when a grenade was thrown into the room. He then immediately escaped the house by sliding down the stay cable of a telegraph pole before disappearing into the night as the Germans set fire to the house. After being sheltered by another French family, he met up with Ron Bartley. The party changed their position each night, and despite an aborted attempt to find a way through to the Allied lines, they ultimately spent eighty days in this way until they finally met up with American troops attempting to close the Falaise Gap.

 

For his actions during this period, Staff-Sergeant Bramah was awarded the Military Medal and the Croix de Guerre.

 

Staff-Sergeant Bramah was pilot of a Glider which landed east of the River Dives on the night June 5/6th owing to a broken tow rope over the coast. In spite of landing in an orchard there were no casualties to the occupants. This N.C.O. was finally found in Caen, having successfully evaded the enemy with the help of the Forces Franšaises de l'IntÚrieur [French Resistance] for seven weeks. During this time he had greatly assisted other evaders and himself killed several German soldiers. His courage and initiative, having been slightly wounded the first day, was quite outstanding.

 

"Jock" Bramah participated in the Battle of Arnhem and was one of the few to make it out, however he was tragically killed during a climbing accident whilst on leave in Scotland.

 

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