Major Charles Gordon Sherriff


Unit : "D" Company, 7th (Galloway) Battalion The King's Own Scottish Borderers

Army No. : 65982

Awards : Distinguished Service Order


Gordon Sherriff had originally served with the 9th KOSB, however when that Battalion was disbanded, in 1943, he was posted to the 7th Battalion.


At Arnhem, the first main task assigned to the 7th KOSB was the securing of DZ-Y for the landing of the 4th Parachute Brigade on Monday 18th September. Their positions were established on Sunday evening, with D Company distributed across the length of the eastern end of the zone. Sherriff placed his main defensive line in the woods, but standing a quarter of a mile to his rear, in the middle of the eastern end of DZ-Y, were some huts which he ordered his Second-in-Command, Captain Gourlay, and No.16 Platoon to occupy. The huts turned out to be a work-camp containing displaced Dutch families. On Monday morning, when the Germans attempted to push the Battalion off DZ-Y, the huts were the first to be attacked and No.16 Platoon had great difficulty in holding their ground, not least because it was undesirable to begin a battle in earnest with civilians in their midst. The result of this action was that the entire platoon was captured and seven of its men were killed. The attacking unit was No.5 Platoon, SS Wach Battalion 3, and to make matters worse they occupied the huts, and so not only did they directly overlook the drop zone but they were also in D Company's rear. This proved doubly unfortunate because, during the morning, it had been discovered that the enemy were in possession of the woods along the northern edge of the zone, and D Company was ordered to counterattack them. Sherriff planned to used No.16 Platoon's huts as a firm base and so he headed off in their direction to make arrangements. He was not pleased to be fired on by the Germans as he drew near. Throughout the day, the Company was heavily engaged with the Germans but successfully held their ground. At 18:00, slightly wounded in the arm, Sherriff, returned to the Battalion his men to the Battalion.


On Wednesday 20th, the 7th KOSB moved into the Oosterbeek Perimeter and took responsibility for the north-eastern sector, centred around the White House. Lieutenant-Colonel Payton-Reid describes the following incident: "On Wednesday night I was walking around the position with a company commander, Major Gordon Sheriff and we were inside our own perimeter when somebody walked up to us. He spoke German. Before I had recovered from my surprise Sheriff jumped at his throat. After a struggle while I tried to shoot him but was frightened of hitting Sheriff, he, Sheriff, strangled him. Sheriff was wounded. In the midst of this a friend of the German threw a stick grenade. Then we heard a frightful wailing and found it was a goat that had been hit."


For his conduct during the battle, Major Sherriff was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. His citation reads:


This officer showed the utmost gallantry and leadership throughout the operation. Though wounded on the first day he continued to command his Company through the fiercest of the fighting. On the night of 20th September, whilst visiting an outlying post, he encountered a scout from a German patrol and despatched him with his bare hands, despite the proximity of the rest of the patrol. On 21st September, near HARTENSTEIN, he organised and commanded an attack on an enemy machine gun post, in the course of which he received a second, and severe, wound in the arm. Though suffering acutely he refused to be evacuated and, when later that day the enemy attacked in strength, he led his Company in a counter-attack. During this he received a third, and very severe, wound, in the thigh, and yet remained on the battlefield to cheer his men on. This officer's leadership and fighting spirit were an inspiration to all and greatly influenced the conduct of the whole operation.


During the fierce action at the White House, Sherriff, who by now was so badly injured that he ought to have been evacuated and placed in the care of the medical services, charged into the fray but was wounded still further when a machine-gun round shattered his right elbow. Following his capture, whilst receiving treatment some days later, Sherriff was moved to the hospital at Apeldoorn. As soon as his wounds had suitably healed he turned his attention towards escape, and during the night of the 18th January, in the company of Flight Lieutenant Ward of the RAF and an American pilot named Sergeant de Lange, Sherriff slipped away. He was on the run for months and Sherriff was twice picked up and interrogated by the Germans, however on both occasions he managed to convince them that he was a Dutch civilian who had received his injuries during an air raid. On the 18th April 1945, Sherriff encountered members of the British SAS and was swiftly returned to the Allied lines.


See also: Maj Warr.


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