Captain Thomas Roland Juckes

 

Unit : No.2 Troop, 3rd Parachute Squadron, RE.

Army No. : 100294

Awards : Military Cross

 

Captain Juckes commanded No.2 Troop of the 3rd Parachute Squadron, who were charged with the demolition of the farm and railway bridges at Bures. The Troop was supposed to land on DZ-K, alongside the 8th Parachute Battalion, however due to the pathfinders being dropped off-target, they landed near Ranville instead. Juckes and his men eventually met up with the 8th Battalion on their way to the Bois de Bavent, and from here he pushed on to Bures. They met no opposition along the way and reached the first of the bridges at 06:30. Three hours later both of them had been destroyed, though there was a delay of a few minutes owing to the farmer requesting permission to bring his cattle across. The party returned to the 8th Battalion's lines, in the Bois de Bavent, at 12:15.

 

No word had been received as to the fate of the Troarn bridge, and so the commander of the battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Alastair Pearson, ordered Captain Juckes to demolish it. Placed under his command was a platoon of paratroopers under Lieutenant Brown, a Jeep and trailer carrying Lieutenant Tony Wade, six sappers and forty General Wade demolition charges, and two detachments of Royal Engineers; a protective detachment under Sergeant Shrubsole, and a rearguard under Lieutenant John Shave. They first headed towards Bures, through the Bois de Bavent, before proceeding south along the road to Troarn. Four hundred yards from the village, Lieutenant Wade's sappers and the rearguard were ordered to occupy a firm base to provide covering fire whilst Brown's paratroopers advanced into Troarn as Sergeant Shrubsole's group circled the church. These groups were fired on by a machine-gun post based inside a house, but a brief fight resulted in four enemy soldiers and their officer being taken prisoner. Shortly after they were fired upon again by a stronger force, but the paratroopers and engineers charged the buildings in which they had established themselves and accounted for two enemy dead, four wounded and fifteen prisoners.

 

Facing no further resistance, the demolition party reached the Bridge to find that Major Roseveare had beaten them to it and had demolished a fifteen to twenty feet section of the bridge. Whilst enjoying the hospitality of the French locals, who plied them with food and wine, they nevertheless laid their charges and by 15:00 had increased this damage to between thirty-five and forty feet. An hour and a half later, Captain Juckes's party had rejoined the 8th Battalion. The 3rd Parachute Squadron then left the Bois de Bavent and took up positions around Brigade HQ at Le Mesnil.

 

For his actions on D-Day, Captain Juckes was awarded the Military Cross. His citation reads:

 

From the time he was dropped near Ranville on the night 5th/6th June until 1800 hours 8th June when his Troop was relieved in their defensive position, this officer has displayed the very highest powers of leadership, initiative and personal courage. He has been continually engaged in the execution of RE tasks in the face of the enemy and has led his Troop in an infantry role in a most aggressive fashion.

 

After completing the demolition of two bridges at Bures he led a party including a platoon of 8th Para Battalion and forced a passage through Troarn killing a number of Germans and taking prisoners and carried out further demolitions on the partially demolished Troarn bridge.

 

On withdrawing to the Brigade area at Le Mesnil his Troop occupied defensive positions for 30 hours inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. During this time he supervised the laying of an anti-tank minefield under fire. Throughout the whole of this time he lost no opportunity in harassing the enemy.

 

This officer set a magnificent example to his junior officers and men by his tireless energy, enthusiasm and offensive eagerness.

 

Captain Juckes was tragically killed during a mortar bombardment at Le Mesnil on the 28th June 1944. He had been supervising the placement of sandbags around the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion's area and, at approximately 16:00, was about to report to their commander on his progress when an unheard mortar round descended and exploded two yards from the Jeep. Juckes, in the passenger seat, received a terrible chest injury and immediately lost consciousness. Alongside him, Driver Holt was amazingly unhurt and immediately drove Juckes to the Canadian's Regimental Aid Post. He was later moved to the Main Dressing Station at Ranville, however he never regained consciousness. Captain Juckes was a well known and highly respected officer, not merely in No.2 Troop but throughout the Brigade, and his loss was felt by many. He was buried at the Divisional cemetery at Ranville church; the last rites being performed by his friend, the Reverend John Gwinnet of the 9th Battalion, in the presence of many of his friends throughout the Division. Brigadier James Hill described Juckes as "one of the finest junior leaders in the division."

 

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