Sapper David John McCready


Unit : 23rd Field Company RCE, 43rd (Wessex) Division

Army No. : M-41333

Awards : Military Medal


On the 25th September 1944, 23 Canadian Field Company was ordered to assist 43 Division Royal Engineers during the night of the 25th/26th September 1944 in the evacuation of 1 British Airborne Troops from the bridgehead which they held on the North bank of the River Neder Rijn just West of Arnhem.


The Company moved up from an advanced harbour at Valburg at 1900 hours to an off-launching area at Map Ref Sheet 6NW/W 694764, arriving there at 2050 hours. Our guns opened a barrage at 2100 hours to cover any noise which might arise from the movement of vehicles and unloading of equipment within earshot of German troops across the river or on our flanks. The enemy replied to this fire and our operation was under continuous fire from enemy guns, mortars, machine guns and snipers during the whole of the time we were engaged.


The night was pitch black and it rained heavily, with a driving cold wind. Fires started by bombers in the afternoon and by shelling at night along with flares fired by the enemy served to allow him to observe our movements during the night.


Sapper McCready worked from 2100 hours 25th September to 0345 hours 26th September in unloading lorries and carrying stormboats from the marshalling area to launching site approximately 500 yards ahead. After the launching of the last boat he remained on the beach and when a volunteer was asked for to complete a crew for a boat which had just been restarted he came forward at once.


The first trip made by this boat nearly came to disaster when the crowd of men who climbed aboard capsized it just off the North shore. The boat was brought ashore, dumped and reloaded. The motor would no longer operate and the craft was paddled to the South shore. Whilst an abandoned stormboat was being recommissioned Sapper McCready picked up an assault boat and all the paddles he could find. The motor of the abandoned stormboat was finally made to run and the stormboat with the damaged motor in which the previous crossing had been made and the assault boat were taken in tow. Sapper McCready manned the boat with the dud motor. By this time it was becoming light and both boats were under continuous fire from enemy positions of the North bank, but the return trip was accomplished safely.


Knowing full well that the chances of surviving another trip in the increasing light, and the danger of being swamped by overloading, Sapper McCready did not hesitate to return with the two stormboats for another load. They got across safely through the enemy fire and took on their loads, Sapper McCready again being in charge of the towed boat. When the motor of the towing stormboat failed to start, he cut loose and got his crew to paddle his boat to the South shore. Progress was slow and the boat was an excellent target for enemy gunners. Only 9 of the 25 passengers taken aboard lived to complete the voyage. Sapper McCready did, however, bring these men to land on the South bank of the river. Of these survivors 4 were killed in getting from the water's edge over the flood wall. Sapper McCready himself was wounded, but managed to get over the flood wall to safety.


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