Lt-Colonel Breese, leading the battalion in a march-past at Alford, Lincolnshire, on the 21st January 1945

Major Charles Frederick Osborne Breese


Unit : "D" Company, 1st Battalion The Border Regiment

Army No. : 66138

Awards : Commander of the British Empire, Distinguished Service Cross, King Haakon VII Liberty Cross


Charles Breese commanded "D" Company of the 1st Border, but when he landed at Arnhem he discovered that the chain of command had to be altered due to the unfortunate absence of Lieutenant-Colonel Haddon, and he was immediately made the Battalion Second-in-Command.


On Thursday 21st September, the Germans made a determined effort to force the southern flank of the 1st Airborne Division away from the Rhine, and if they had succeeded then the British position would have become untenable. A wide stretch of the south-western corner of the Perimeter was held by "B" Company and they were heavily attacked by German infantry supported by armoured vehicles. The attackers suffered heavily, but "B" Company were forced to withdraw and lost many of their number as they did so. With the entire position of the 1st Airborne Division in jeopardy, Major Breese was ordered to stabilise the area. He gathered the survivors of "B" Company into an ad-hoc platoon and created what became known as Breeseforce, also consisting of two depleted platoons from "A" Company, 40 paratroopers, and, joining them several days later, 35 Poles. By his skill as a leader and sheer force of personality, Breese was able to declare the position secure within the hour, and although the area was singled out by the German gunners for continual and particularly heavy attention throughout the remainder of the battle, their infantry were never confident enough to challenge what was a solid position.


Major Breese was wounded on the 23rd September, but he refused to be evacuated to a dressing station until the Division withdrew across the Rhine, and he was amongst the last to embark. On the 14th November 1947, Major Breese was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions at Arnhem. His citation reads:


On September 22nd an unpleasant situation had developed on the southern flank of the Brigade sector in the Arnhem position. All officers had become casualties and the enemy, by persistent attacks had affected a penetration. Major Breese with a scratch force of one platoon Border Regiment, 40 Parachutists and 35 Poles was sent down with orders to stabilize the situation and be prepared to counter attack the enemy. As soon as the area was reached, heavy mortar and artillery fire was laid on by the enemy and the Poles were reduced to 16 men, other units also suffered heavily. The situation was critical but Major Breese immediately asserted his authority, and by his own personal bearing and gallantry soothed the remainder of his force and within an hour was able to report "All in order". The area occupied by his force was subjected, until the evacuation, to the most intense fire, but the troops held, and offensive patrols were sent out with good results. Major Breese was wounded on September 23rd but held on with great determination and courage and refused to be evacuated until south of the river. It was entirely due to this officer's strong personality, fine example and fearless behaviour that his force was able to hold on to a position that was of paramount importance to the Divisional perimeter.


On the 24th November 1944, Breese was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and given command of the 1st Border, leading them to Norway in May 1945. The Battalion received a most enthusiastic welcome in Oslo, and Breese, on his way to a civic reception for senior British officers, recalled the deafening cheers of the crowds, and that he had seldom been more touched than when a girl of about 10 or 12 years of age threw a posy of flowers into his car, which could only proceed at a snail's pace, and said, "God bless your King".


Charles Breese continued to serve in the British Army after the war, being awarded the King Haakon VII Liberty Cross on the 16/19th March 1948, and he was later made a Commander of the British Empire. He joined the Parachute Regiment and, from 1956-58, commanded their 17th (Durham Light Infantry) Battalion of the Territorial Army. Promoted to Brigadier, he was the Honourary Colonel of the 4th (Volunteer) Battalion The Parachute Regiment (TA), from 1977-86.


Back to 1st Border

Back to Biographies Menu