Private Donald Canadine-Bate

 

Unit : Headquarters, 21st Independent Parachute Company

 

The following was published in the Black Country Bugle on the 25th September 2019:

 

Ten days of hell: Arnhem diary of a Black Country journalist

 

Don Canadine-Bate was born in Stourbridge in 1928 [Note: this should be 1922], the son of Hubert George Cookson Bate and Cecile Marjorie Canadine, who later became hoteliers on the Isle of Wight. His grandfather was George Harry Bate, a hairdresser and wig maker, with a shop in Stourbridge High Street.

 

After attending King Edward VI Grammar School in the town, he began his journalistic career on the Dudley Herald. He joined the Daily Mirror in 1950 and went on to be a sports writer for the paper and sports editor in 1972. He died in 2012 aged 83, two days short of his 84th birthday. One of his brothers was actor Anthony Bate (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) who also died in 2012.

 

Don served in the Company Intelligence Section 21st Independent Parachute Company, which was a 'Pathfinder' company for Arnhem. Their task was to mark the area where the paratroopers had to land and place radio beacons to guide in the following transport aircraft. They also had to defend the area as paratroopers descended and warn if a Drop Zone or Landing Zone was "hot" - strongly defended by Germans.

 

The 21st Independent Parachute Company was formed in June 1942 and was part of the 1st Airborne Division. His first-hand account of the Battle of Arnhem appeared in the Evening Despatch later in 1944 [Date: 2nd October 1944]:

 

This is the story of Arnhem as written for the Evening Despatch by Private D. Canadine Bate, who went out with the first wave of airborne troops to act as pathfinders for the main forces. It is only part of the picture of that epic adventure. The full story has not yet been told - it may not be told for many days, but this fragment of it, told in the laconic phraseology of a soldier in the field is the more dramatic because of the cold, matter-of-fact language in which he jotted down his observations of the battle as he saw it in his sector.

 

Sunday, 17 Sept.

        We took off at 10.20am. We are path-finding for the First Airborne Division, whose job is to secure the vital bridge at Arnhem, the gateway to the Ruhr and the heart of Germany. This is the first time that this type of job has been attempted by daylight; usually we work under cover of darkness. Our plan is to fly ahead of the main force and lay out navigational aids to bring in the troop-dropping planes and gliders to their correct dropping and landing zones. As our Major has said, we expect to find some bad-tempered Germans ready to deny us areas which we want to use.

        But we shall not be taken unawares and we are going down with Sten guns cocked and grenades in hand. The trip is uneventful, no flak, no fighters. We were lucky though, for some of the main force met both. Our pilots and navigators are the best. They take us right to the DZs (dropping zones) and we are out on the first run up, dead on time 12.20.

        Sloping down, I can pick out the landmarks which I had noticed previously on the aerial photographs. A perfect day, blue sky and a shining yellow sun. But where is the opposition? There is none. We have caught Jerry napping. This is just like an exercise back in England.

        I have a good landing in a ploughed field. My parachute harness is rather tangled up though, and I had to cut it with my fighting knife before I can gather my kit together and make off for a Dutch farm a couple of hundred yards away which is our rendezvous.

        At the farmhouse door I see one of our officers being greeted by a Dutchman, who offered him a glass of water. Our Major brings in a couple of Jerry who surrendered themselves to him as soon as he landed. Sorting ourselves out, we have to work fast now, as we hear the roar of approaching aircraft.

        And here they come, scores of fighters, circling and wheeling high in the sky, the tugs with their gliders, which, casting off, come whistling down from every angle. Then the paratroop carriers, Dakotas flying in perfect V formation. Paratroopers literally pour out and the sky is filled with hundreds of brightly-coloured 'chutes.

        So far so good. We have done our job successfully; one brigade has fanned out behind us to protect the DZs and LZs (landing zones) and which we shall require in a second lift of paratroop gliders who will be flying in tomorrow; another brigade has set off for Arnhem to get through to the bridge. We have a dozen German prisoners now, all artillerymen who have been in the district for about 24 hours. They came for reforming and re-equipping now they are digging slit-trenches around the farmhouse for us.

 

Monday, 18 Sept.

        The second "lift" was due in early this morning, but so far there has been no sign of it. Can't understand what is holding it up. Just at the time it was due a whole heap of Messerschmitts turn up, attacking us unawares and strafing hell out of us. Who said the Germans had no air force!

        We hear that the Paratroop Brigade in Arnhem has reached the bridge but is having a tough fight. Then we hear that the General and Brigadier have been captured and we feel a little depressed. (This later proved to be untrue). "Where is the second lift?" we keep asking. "Where is the second lift?"

        At last, shortly after two o'clock, the second "lift" arrives. Again, the sky is filled with the roar of engines. There is plenty of flak this time and the landings are opposed by machine gun fire on some of the DZs and LZs. But with more troops and guns coming in all around us we feel much happier now.

        To-night we form up to move with the reinforcements again into Arnhem to support the paratroops, who are having a fierce battle around the approaches to the bridge.

        We pass up to the glider pilots, who are now forming in a fighting unit, and I see Staff-Sergt John Ainsworth MM, who was at school at Stourbridge with me and with whom I came back from North Africa early this year. He is a veteran of Sicily, Italy and Normandy. We exchanged a cheery if somewhat pungent greeting.

        We cannot reach our objective, a railway level crossing, because we find there are a dozen or more Jerries with machine-guns sitting on it. So we spend the night in a wood a few hundred yards away from the crossing.

 

Tuesday, 19 Sept.

        At first light this morning a battalion passed through to clear up the level crossing. There is heavy fighting going on all around. Two of our platoons set out this morning to bring in more gliders and a re-supply list. Again the planes are late, and again, just went they should be due, the Messerscmitts come swooping in to strafe us.

        But the re-supply arrived in the afternoon. The flak is very violent now. Jerry is certainly right on his toes, and four Stirlings, two Dakotas are reported to be shot down.

        Some of the supplies fell into German hands. Some we can't get to because of machine-gun fire, but we still managed to get a great part of them. A number of gliders landing got shot to pieces and set on fire as soon as they touched down.

        By early evening we had not been able to get through to the troops fighting at the bridge, and there is a tense hour when the battalion which passed through us this morning is forced to fall back after being exposed to heavy mortar and machine-gun fire.

        We moved back on to higher ground and dug in in a wood. Jerry is held, but he's obviously bringing in strong reinforcements and there is no news of the Second Army yet.

 

Wednesday, 20 Sept.

        Germans attack us all day long and shell and mortar without respite. They have brought up some armour. Mostly self-propelled 88s, which are a great nuisance, although our 17-pounders seem to be holding them fairly well. The men with the Piats are doing wonderful work, braving all hazards to get into the open for a clear shot. Our food and water supplies are getting low, but the Second Army has been reported to be not far away and our spirits are still high. Heavy casualties are being taken on both sides. Luck is with us though, for so far our company has only two or three dead and several wounded.

 

Thursday, 21 Sept.

        Still holding on in the wood. Firing all around us. Jerry seems to have encircled us. He has got a couple of half-tracks going round and round the wood, till we feel quite dizzy. There was a re-supply this afternoon, but Jerry got some of it. Feeling very hungry, and ammunition getting low. At nightfall a platoon of Germans moved to the woods 200 yards away. We expect a big attack at first light.

 

Friday, 22 Sept.

        God alone knows how, but we are still here. Shelling and mortaring is terrific, and taking casualties right and left. But yet our company remains almost unscathed. There can be only one reason; good men, good training.

        This afternoon Jerry gets very close and overruns one of the forward battalion positions. A counterattack restores the situation, but under cover of darkness we shorten our perimeter, leaving the wood and moving into the north outskirts of Oosterbeek.

        It's good to get out of the slit-trenches. We find some food in the house which we occupied, and get our first reasonable meal since we landed. A re-supply has brought to us some ammunition and the Second Army is said to be pretty close at hand. Everyone is still very cheerful and confident of success.

 

Saturday, 23 Sept.

        Meeting panzer grenadiers and SS men. Snipers everywhere. They infiltrate to close ranges during the heavy mortar bombardment. We got quite a few of them from the top of our house this afternoon.

        Told the armour is heavily engaged south of the river and does not know when it will be able to get through. Situation quite grim now. ST guns shelling from all sides.

 

Sunday, 24 Sept.

        At least 100 Poles got across the river last night. To-day they relieve our platoons in the forward area. They (the Poles) are in fine spirit and tell us that they feel sure the armour will reach us soon.

        A tank patrol and battalion of Dorsets are reported to be on the south bank of the river. Rockaphoons were on the scene today and it did us the world of good to see them shooting up the German armour and positions.

 

Monday, 25 Sept.

        Jerry is doing everything at first light; tanks, flame-throwers, 88s - in fact the whole show, but we held it, and it quietened down for the rest of the day. We expect, however, that he will be attacking in strength to-night.

        A great shock this afternoon. We are told we are going to withdraw over the river tonight. Everywhere there are feelings of great disappointment.

        As we prepare to move out Jerry launches his extensive night attack, and as we slip out of the front door he is coming in through the back.

        We get down to the river with but one brush with the enemy. He opened up with four automatics upon the head of the column, getting one of our best officers and two men, and tipping the CO's nose.

        A trying hour in the mud on the riverside. Jerry has not realised yet what we are doing, but he is getting suspicious and shooting up green Verey lights to see what is going on.

        To the right and left the heavy guns of the Second Army are putting up a terrific covering barrage.

        Jerry, realising at last that we are withdrawing, showers the bank with mortar and machine-gun fire, causing the worst hell of all the fighting. Men now so near the end of it are shot down right and left.

 

Tuesday, 26 Sept.

        At last I am across. It is two o'clock in the morning. Passing through the Dorset lines I link up with Johnny Ainsworth. He is unhurt, and together we trudge back to the Dorset HQ. Slowly, feeling very tired, and wet through by pouring rain, we plod through the mud.

        Behind us Arnhem burns, casting a fiery glow upon the night. The noise of the battle gets fainter. It is all over and we thank God we are safe and pray for those still on the other side and those who will never get across.

 

Don Canadine-Bate was one of the few lucky paratroopers to return from Arnhem. He later saw service in Norway and Palestine and after demob returned to journalism with the Portsmouth Evening News, before joining the Daily Mirror in 1950, initially as rugby union correspondent.

 

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