Lieutenant John Clarke
Unit : Signals Platoon, Headquarters Company, 10th Parachute Battalion
Army No. : 189050
Awards : Mentioned in Despatches
Lieutenant Clarke wrote the following report about his experiences at Arnhem:
Leave Spanhau [Spanhoe] airdrome 1200 hrs, fly over flooded parts of Holland. Saw one Aircraft DC return as we left shores of England. Flack bursting about our planes as approached DZ. Jump at 1400 Hrs. Enemy Spandau fire on DZ directed from surrounding woods. Several casualties but believe mostly from jump.
At RV B Coy puts in an attack to clear wood NE of DZ - successful, about ten prisoners taken. Heard CO congratulate Maj Warr on this effort. 36 MM Gun A/Tk taken. Sec 1t Harding A/Tk wounded in shoulder.
Bn Ordered by Bde to take up rear guard for move behind 133 Fd amb. Latter attending to casualties and therefore Bn has to wait until dusk before moving from RV. Woods about DZ blazing about 2000 Hrs.
Hoped to get into Arnhem positions before a/m but as 156 held up travelling E by S along railway 10 Bn ordered Halt till 0300 Hrs, just before striking railway.
0300 Hrs Move off with about 70 per cent of Bn All Officers present except:
Lt Mackie Killed
Lt Roderick Missing - sent from Bn HQ to Bde and never arr there.
Lt Proctor Dropped wide of DZ
Capt Bowers Padre Believed with 133 Fd Amb.
Maj. Anson Entire plane load missing.
Lt Broadway Injured ankle on DZ.
Met up with KOSBs dug in and engaging enemy trying to drive from Arnhem. KOSBs on Railway N of Osterbeek. 10 Bn moves N to strike main rd Ede-Arnhem and continue to objective. Reach main road but driven into wood on S side of road by enemy 37 MM A/Tk fire. Bn occupied wood on both sides of road at Lichtenbeek with A Coy on N side. D Coy forward on S side and B Coy in reserve. This position established when realized that enemy had dug in positions ahead. This discovered by Lt Sanders who went forward on right hoping to outflank captured enemy spandau but forced to return with spandau because of heavy Mortar and MMG fire.
156 Bn was contacted, also held up by enemy on 10 Bn's right. A front between the main road and the railway was held by the two Bns with the KOSBs in reserve.
Half tracked vehicles SPs (four or five) a Mk III tank and dorniers attacked 10 Bns position. Very heavily concentrated flak was loosed off at gliders and re-supply drop at about 1400 Hrs. Some of re-supply containers fell into trees in our area.
Ordered retire to rd junc. Find it in hands of enemy, slight imbroglio here because some men mistake enemy for Poles. Go back towards railway across two open plains under heavy fire from enemy. Several casualties. Lose mortar 3".
Remainder Bde to move S of railway. 10 Bn to take up position at Wolfhaze. Enemy attack before dusk and cover railway with mmg fire. Shortage of amn and men. Hold enemy allowing Bde moved towards Osterbeek but forced off rail crossing very much cut up.
Got into wood with Adjt (Capt Hanmer) we took about 6 men each intending to lie up for a while and try and cross railway later. I lay up for about 1 hour and then tried to cross road and railway but hit wire and enemy opened up - forced to retire back to woods.
From final engagement at Wolfhaze last night the following officers and men were in fire position on crossing in shell hole with me
Lt Col Smyth
Sjt Sinclair (Bde Sigs)
Major Warr produced some covering fire for us to get out. Capt Drayson MO was in attendance of Capt Henry. Lt Treherne had been seen just after leaving our first position but did not arrive at Wolfhaze. Lt Radcliffe was killed crossing the second plain. Maj Ashworth and Lt Glover were with HQ Coy. Lt Carr missing.
I and a party of five men tried to get round enemy position by going North I went to edge of wood to recce my way through hun lines leaving equipment behind. (No amn for pistol) Enemy searching woods. Five men behind me must have been taken very quietly because I was watching enemy movements ahead when suddenly pounced upon by two SS from rear. Taken to Wolfhaze where were several others, captured from woods. I recognised
There were about thirty in all. I remove signs of rank.
Taken to SS Div HQ and then on to Arnhem where searched for third time and marched off towards Ellekom prison camp(?). Grows dusk. Guards sit down and wait vehicles just outside Velp. Take advantage of packing men into trucks to push aside sentry and sling my hook. No shot fired. Remainder of night up tree.
Try to get to wood to go W and S to get back to own tps but run into hun so back to tree. Small arms fire no longer heard.
Into wood at Lezerburg 21/22 Sept and lie up in undergrowth during day.
Heavy rain drives me to shelter in outhouse to big house. West Velp. Sleep but wakened by door opening. Civilian enters and tells me Germans all about area and helps me to get another place to hide up in.
From this time (Sept 23rd until Sunday Oct 22) I was in and around the Velp area trying to find a way back to our lines. The last three weeks were spent in a house where another paratrooper - Pte Davenport - 3rd Bn - was in hiding. I also contacted Maj. Dean-Drummond. Details of this month I here left in diary form and can produce same but was given to understand from the HQ interrogation board that names of helpers and the final way out had not to be disclosed yet.
The following is Lieutenant Clarke's M.I.9 report which provides further details of his escape:
Captured : North of Oosterbeek, 20 Sep 44.
Escaped : North of Velp, 20 Sep 44.
Left : Holland, 24 Oct 44.
Arrived : U.K., 24 Oct 44.
Date of Birth : 17 Feb 14.
Army Service : Since May 33.
Peacetime Profession : Regular Army.
Private Address : 1, Seymour Terrace, Ryton-on-Tyne.
On 20 Sep 44 I was in the woods North of the railway line at Wolfheze (N.W. Europe, 1:250,000, Sheet 2a and 3a, E 67) with five of my men. I went forward to recce North of the railway, having left the five men behind me, when I was jumped on by two S.S. soldiers. We had run out of ammunition well before this.
I saw that the Germans had also captured the men who had been with me, and we were taken to their Divisional Headquarters at Arnhem. Officers were not interrogated, but we could hear an interrogation of Other Ranks which was in process.
Officers were being sent away by truck, but I, having been able to get rid of my badges of rank and being to all appearances a private soldier, was marched with others through Arnhem to Velp (E 87). At Velp we were waiting for transport and the Germans were putting men on the lorries. They had put eight on to one lorry and called out for a ninth. I went forward as if I were going to join the party. There was only one sentry by the truck, and I knocked him aside and ran for it. I took the left hand one of two tracks and ran North. I heard a lot of shouting, but no shots were fired. I lay down for a while and listened and then continued. I found a clump of trees about 50 yards from the main Arnhem - Zutphen (E 99) road, climbed one and remained in it all night. I made no contacts during 21 and 22 Sep and did not move from the spot.
On 23 Sep I approached a house in the woods about one km. North of Rozendaal (E 78). I was given something to eat and went my way. I reached an outhouse and fell asleep. After a time I was awakened through the door opening, and a woman looked in. I signed to her to keep quiet and she went away, but shortly after this a man came in. From here onwards I was helped on my journey.
For his actions at Arnhem, Lieutenant Clarke was Mentioned in Despatches. His citation reads:
Lieutenant Clarke was captured at Wolfheze on 20th September 1944 and marched to Velp. Prisoners of War were being put on to lorries and Lieutenant Clarke stepped forward as though to join one of the parties; instead he knocked the sentry aside and ran away, making good his escape. He hid until 23rd September when he was helped by friends and eventually joined the party which was evacuated to British lines of 22nd October 1944.
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