Lieutenant Herbert David Eastwood
Unit : No.1 Platoon, 21st Independent Parachute Company
Army No. : 121135
Awards : Military Cross
David Eastwood joined the 21st Independent Parachute Company in 1944, when the Division returned from Italy. He commanded No.1 Platoon, whose tasks on Sunday 17th September were to mark out and guard DZ-X before the 1st Parachute Brigade arrived. On the following day, the Company set about setting their beacons up on the zones for the Second Lift, whilst No.1 Platoon headed for the more isolated position of LZ-L, in order to highlight it for the attention of those aircraft bringing in supplies on that day. The lift was expected to come at 10:00, but bad weather delayed the take-off and so the Platoon waited. At midday aircraft were heard, but they were German fighters which spotted and proceeded to strafe No.1 Platoon. No casualties were suffered, however the Eureka beacon only narrowly escaped injury. As they waited, the Platoon had plenty of visitors to keep them occupied. A number of civilians were encountered, moving away from the drop zones and, they hoped, the battle. These were followed by three men of the 1st Parachute Battalion who had become separated from their unit. One of the men was an officer who had, on the previous night, had cause to take shelter in what he thought was a fox hole but he soon realised that it was a sewerage pit. He had the good grace to sit down wind of his hosts. The news that these men passed on to the Platoon about the progress they had been making was not at all promising, a feeling which was increased with the sound of an armoured vehicle passing by.
On the following day, No.1 Platoon returned to LZ-L to mark it for the arrival of the Polish gliders. Again they were attacked by numerous German fighters and terrifying though this was, no casualties were suffered, mostly because the Platoon were now wary of the threat from the air and so had taken the trouble to dig in deep.
The Independent Company were involved in a controversial incident on Wednesday 20th. The Germans had been in the habit of calling upon the British to surrender, and though the details are not clear it does appear that the Independent Company lured their opponents into a ruse de guerre. After a period of mortaring a German shouted out "surrender". It was not clear whether they intended to surrender or were calling upon the Independent Company to surrender. One of No.1 Platoon's German Jews, Corporal Max Rodley (real name Hans Rosenfeld), was told by Major Wilson to call upon them to come out into the open to come and get them. It is believed that as many as 50 Germans came forward, all armed and none displaying the slightest sign of submission. Lieutenant Eastwood might have been unsure about this fact and said to Rodley, who was calling upon them to lay down their arms, "Tell them we'll give them a minute". When they were within point blank range the glider pilots on the left flank of the Independent Company opened up with their Brens on this group and No.1 Platoon quickly added their weight to the slaughter. Few Germans escaped. Almost as soon as the firing started, David Eastwood, whose face went white and grim, called for a cease fire. It does, however, appear that the Germans were coming across to accept the surrender of the Independent Company, and though a ruse de guerre is totally acceptable, if unchivalrous ploy of war, it would be wrong to assume this was anything other than a highly confused situation for all concerned.
For his actions at Arnhem, Lieutenant Eastwood was awarded the Military Cross:
The above officer led his platoon with great gallantry throughout the action. On the evening of 18.9.44, he was detailed with his platoon to put out navigational aids on L.Z. "L" for a supply drop. He found the enemy in occupation of this area in some strength. He immediately attacked them, killing or capturing the lot. On 19.9.44, he again returned to this area to assist in the landing of gliders. As soon as the gliders appeared the enemy put in an attack. This was driven off and the enemy held until all the gliders had been unloaded. Later he found that his route back to the Company area had been cut off by the enemy, but he successfully led his platoon through the enemy positions.
From 20.9.44 until the withdrawal on 25.9.44, he held a position which was constantly exposed to murderous enemy fire, but regardless of personal danger he went constantly round his section positions encouraging his men. His great example undoubtedly kept the spirits of his men at such a high level that in spite of numerous enemy attacks and heavy casualties they hung on to their positions until the end.
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