Staff-Sergeant Raymond Ernest White

 

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

Army No. : 952832

Awards : Distinguished Conduct Medal

 

Staff-Sergeant White and his co-pilot, Sergeant Eason, flew to Normandy with the first glider lift in the early hours of the 6th June, carrying a Jeep, 6-pounder anti-tank gun and three men of the 4th Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery. The following is his official report on the flight and the subsequent events that took place on the ground.

 

Report on Operation "Tonga"

Glider No.115

1st Pilot - S/Sgt R. White (952832)

2nd Pilot - Sgt F. Eason

 

I was allotted Glider No.L.H.378 for the Operation which was loaded with 6 pounder A/T [Anti-Tank Gun] and Jeep with a gun crew of three.

 

2400 hrs on the night of the 5/6th saw us on the tow path for final check on loads etc., last minute details with tug skipper F/L Imber and crew. We had gone through this routine before on exercises so that it was hard to realise that this was the real thing.

 

0100 hrs approx. First glider away, just a matter of time now, the usual check up with co-pilot and gun crew. Feeling O.K.

 

0130 hrs Off we go with fingers crossed, slight slip stream trouble otherwise O.K. Usual forming up before crossing coast.

 

0320 hrs Approaching French coast. Gunfire observed and flak (medium) encountered. Tug pilot waving to avoid concentration over coast. Cloud and smoke encountered which made it rather difficult. Little while after flashing green signal observed.

 

0328 hrs Signal to pull off from Tug skipper. Away we go making for L.Z [Landing Zone] on starboard side - visibility poor, but green landing lights visible to co-pilot who advised direction of approach.

 

0330 hrs Landed and managed to avoid obstructions. Front wheel collapsed at end of run but otherwise everything O.K. Unable to run gun and jeep out tail owing to position of glider. Unloaded gun through front ramp, then tried to detach tail unit. Unable to remove so decided to blow tail off.

 

0445 hrs After a struggle, ready to move off. I joined other guns and moved into position with caution. Encountered enemy snipers.

 

0615 hrs Guns in position and digging in ready for action.

 

0830 hrs Co-pilot on look-out observes enemy tank movement on our left flank. Our gun well concealed but not very well sighted. We came under small arms fire and Sgt. Eason opened up on bren gun. By this time first S.P. [Self-Propelled] tanks in range of gun but gun layer did not consider that he could hit the tank.

 

In the meantime I had loaded round and had a look through the sights myself. By this time the tank was almost dead in front at 200 yds range and needed stopping. So I decided to have a go myself. Sgt. Eason kept the Nazis heads down by bren fire and I lay the gun ready to fire. The first round missed and so I immediately re-loaded and this time applied 200 range on sights.

 

The tank had stopped and I was expecting them to open up on us any minute and so I quickly sighted the gun and fired, this time it was a hit and the tank went up in flames. During this short time another tank had been hit by the gun on my left flank and also one that was almost unobserved from our positions was put out of action by a gun on our right flank.

 

So from our positions, 3 tanks were seen to be burning, and ammo was exploding in each at varied intervals. The infantry who were escorting the tanks were then engaged for the remainder of the day by S.A. [Small Arms] fire. Heavy mortar fire and shell fire was encountered during the evening but without any damage to us.

 

2100 hrs Reinforcements arrived by air and enemy opened up with S.A. fire and machine gun fire on gliders, while the L.Z. was peppered with mortar fire.

 

2330 hrs Enemy activity in front of us at range of over 1000 x and approaching towards gun positions.

 

? hrs [Probably 0 hrs] Ordered to withdraw guns to Batt. H.Q. [Battery Headquarters] while infantry take up position. Withdrew under cover of darkness without any trouble.

 

0330 hrs 7th Returned to position on south side of Ranville ready for attack.

 

1030 hrs Regular gun crew arrived and Sgt. Eason and myself were ordered to report to Batt. H.Q.

 

1320 hrs Moved off for beach head in party of 15. No trouble encountered and arrived at beach head at 1430 hrs.

 

1500 hrs Embarked on T.L.C. [Tank or Troop Landing Craft]

 

2100 hrs Sailed in convoy for England.

 

0930 hrs 8th Anchored off Isle of Wight.

 

1700 hrs Disembarked at Southampton and proceeded to Fargo Camp.

 

-------

 

Excellent tow by F/L Imber who brought us in on track and avoided flak with skill over French coast, without deviating off prepared run up to L.Z.

 

(Signed) R.E. White S/Sgt.

 

 

For his part in the action against the enemy tank, Staff-Sergeant White was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal:

 

In the early morning of Tuesday after landing and taking up a defensive position. Staff-Sergeant White was the (sole?) member of a 6-pounder Anti-Tank gun crew. He manned his gun single handed and under heavy mortar and shell fire, he stayed with his gun and fought it entirely himself. He destroyed a Self-Propelled enemy gun with his first shot and continued to engage enemy tanks. Through this man's courage and determination and complete disregard for his own safety he was responsible for delaying the advance of the enemy armour.

 

Staff-Sergeant White was Killed in Action at Arnhem on the 18th September 1944.

 

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