Officers of the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron, July 1944

"A" Troop, 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron, 17th July 1944

Lieutenant Douglas Galbraith


Unit : No.2 Section, "A" Troop, 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron

Army No. : 240321

Awards : Military Cross, Mentioned in Despatches


Douglas Galbraith was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on the 23rd December 1921. As part of his education he qualified on a course in industrial administration. After the outbreak of war he joined the British Army and served in the ranks for 2 years and 67 days until the 25th July 1942, when he was given an emergency commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Reconnaissance Corps. He was immediately posted to "A" Troop of the then 1st Air Landing Squadron, and from May to November 1943 served with them in North Africa and Italy; completing a parachute course in the former in August. On the 24th August 1944, he was Mentioned in Despatches for his actions in Italy:


In the attack on Mottola, this Officer led a party of eight men, armed with Brens and Stens in a flanking attack on a ridge, strongly held by the enemy. Despite very strong light automatic and mortar fire, this small party pressed on to its objective and succeeded in dislodging an enemy force considerably stronger numerically and in weight of fire-power. This success was very largely due to the personal leadership and complete disregard of danger displayed by this Officer.


Galbraith commanded No.2 Section of "A" Troop, 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron during the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944. He was initially recommended for the Distinguished Service Order, but this was reduced to the Military Cross and announced in the London Gazette on the 9th November 1944:


The above mentioned officer at Arnhem took over command of "A" Troop 1st Airborne Recce Squadron on the night of 21st September 1944, his Troop Commander having been wounded. The task of the Troop was to hold a line of houses on the north of the perimeter. His troop were continuously attacked by infantry and self-propelled guns, but the position was still held. On 25th September 1944 one of his sections was forced to withdraw owing to the intense bombardment Lieutenant Galbraith rallied his Troop and led them into an assault to retake the house. Amidst intense mortar fire and severe sniping, Lieutenant Galbraith rushed up to the house throwing 30 grenades on the windows. The house was retaken and held. Throughout the whole of the action at Arnhem, Lieutenant Galbraith was outstanding in leadership and maintenance of his objective.


On the 24th September, Panzergrenadiers had infiltrated around the right flank of "A" Troop and fired a panzerfaust at one of the walls of their buildings, injuring and confusing those inside. Lance-Corporal Ken Hope recalled, "...I remember gazing around wildly, the Bren muzzle describing the frenetic 180-degree arc, and wondering from which direction opponents in field grey would suddenly appear... The concussion {from the panzerfaust} was quite catastrophic. "Where the bloody hell do you think you are all going? Now just bloody well settle down!" There was no mistaking the Scots accent of Lieutenant Galbraith. The command was compelling, imperious, demanding instant obedience. The effect was instantaneous, a text-book exercise in disciplined response to sustained military training. Control was immediately restored, the panic instantly dissipated; everyone was alert, ready to react."


Galbraith returned to the UK with the remnants of the Squadron. On the 10th January 1945 he married Sheena Griffiths, with whom he had three children; Douglas (born 26th October 1957), Jean (14th September 1958), and David (5th September 1959). In June 1945, he accompanied the Squadron to Norway, and on his return in July was transferred to the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment, serving as Second-in-Command of "C" Troop. He later transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, retiring in April 1972 at the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.


"Dougie" Galbraith died in Leeton, New South Wales, Australia, in June 1975.


Thanks to Bob Hilton for this account.


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