Sergeant's Mess, 1st Airborne Divisional Workshops, 1944

Tea is boiled during a lull in the battle. Note the tennis courts in the background, where German prisoners were housed

AQMS Ronald Albert Turner


Unit : Advanced Workshop Detachment, 1st (Airborne) Divisional Workshops

Army No. : 7610419


Ron Turner was born in Brighton, Sussex, on the 13th June 1916. He enlisted at Brighton on the 10th October 1939, joining the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. He completed his training as an Armourer at the N.P. School at Hilsea, Portsmouth, and was promoted to Acting Sergeant and transferred to the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers on the 1st October 1942. He was appointed Acting/Armourer Quartermaster Sergeant on the 24th March 1943, and served in North Africa and Italy in 1943. Ron Turner returned to the United Kingdom in late 1943 or early 1944, and was posted to the 1st Airborne Division, R.E.M.E. Workshops as A.Q.M.S., based in the Grantham area, the Corn Exchange, Sleaford.


On Monday, 18th September 1944, he flew in the fourth Horsa glider allocated to the unit (chalk number 852) with 3 other men of the Advanced Workshops Detachment, one of the units jeeps and the welding trailer. They were flown by glider pilots of No.25 Flight, "E" Squadron, from R.A.F. Down Ampney to LZ-Z near Wolfheze in Holland. This was the second day of Operation Market Garden.


"My father verbally told us that he was tasked to escort Stanley Maxted, the Canadian news reporter on evacuation from the Hartenstein perimeter on the 25th/26th September. He also recalled walking through German lines holding the tape which acted as a guide. He did not mention swimming so assume he was brought out by boat. He also mentioned that most of his time was spent servicing weapons in the Hartenstein area. An entry in his soldiers` service book indicated he was given fourteen days disembarkation leave from 6th October 1944." [1]


Craftsman Joe Roberts, the Clerk for the Advanced Workshops Detachment who had flown in Ron's glider, related how he and another man had to dig a trench near the Hartenstein Hotel which they thought was for Lieutenant Manning:


"We were both wrong though, because this trench was to be used as an inspection pit like those used in the workshop to place vehicles over when they were being repaired from underneath. Not long after we finished our job, a jeep was towed in, requiring a new clutch. The vehicle mechanics set to work on it, and A.Q.M.S. 'Ron' Turner, the Warrant Officer in charge of Armourers, decided that, in view of the urgency, he would give a hand with the job. He was standing in the bottom of the trench supporting the engine, when a terrific barrage of mortars and shells started landing amongst us. A.Q.M.S. Turner was calling to the chaps above, "Don't let go!" fearing he'd be left with the engine on his shoulders until the barrage ended. But, the vehicle mechanics didn't let him down, though they must have been petrified by the terrific noise above. In fact, that trench saw quite a lot of action afterwards, but none of it quite as hair-raising as the episode described." [2]


Staff-Sergeant John Morrison, an Armaments Artificer, Telemechanics, gives an account which appeared in the booklet WAR, issued by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs:


"The Armourers were even busier. Their QMS [Ron Turner] went out with a jeep round the units in their various positions, collecting damaged equipment and taking out the repaired stuff. This repair work was very important for there were no replacements and there was a lot of damage done to small arms and automatics by the kind of fighting that was going on." [3]


Joe Roberts continues with details of the actions later on in the battle, but due to the fatigue they were suffering he got the days mixed up:


"By September 21st - day four of the battle - all of us were getting decidedly peckish [This should be Friday, 22nd September]. On leaving England, it was understood we'd be relieved in two days' time and, to prove it, we'd been issued with just enough rations to last for that period. Those, who like me, weren't permitted to leave the workshop area, found themselves worse off than others who could at least move about a bit and do some foraging - or, more accurately, scavenging - even if they only managed to pick up some fruit or raw vegetables. My hunger pangs were luckily to be alleviated a day later. A.Q.M.S. Turner, who had gone out looking for weapons, had come across a tin of date pudding. "If you cook it", he said to me, "I'll share it with you". I quickly lit a fire, putting a bicycle wheel over it to support the biscuit tin of water. The prize pudding was gently placed inside and in no time at Ron and I were enjoying a small, but sumptuous meal, whilst envious eyes looked on. Whilst I'd been preparing it, two army photographers came along and took a picture. It appeared in the Daily Express issue of September 28th and has also been featured in many books written about Arnhem." [4]


On the last day of the battle, Monday 25th September 1944, the situation had become desperate:


"The Germans had come so close we could actually see them moving around not much more than a few hundred yards away. We had a Bren Gun mounted on top of a trench, but the chap in the one next to mine, who should have been manning it, was lying on his stomach in the bottom. A.Q.M.S. Turner ordered me to take over. I replied, "I can't sir, so-and-so - (mentioning his name) - is in there". "Well, bloody well jump on him!" answered the A.Q.M.S. And so I did: my hobnailed boots landing in the middle of his back. What he called me is unprintable, and I had, practically, to throw him out of the trench, which was no mean feat, as he was a six-footer. However, there wasn't room for us both and to be honest I wasn't very taken with the thought of doubling up with him. My orders were not to fire unless the Germans got any closer, for fear of giving our position away. Not surprisingly, my dearest wish was that they would indeed keep their distance." [5]


Having been evacuated from Arnhem, Ron Turner continued to serve with the 1st Airborne Divisional Workshops, and from April to September 1945 he was based with them in Norway. He was demobbed in November 1945, and was awarded the Africa Star, the Italy Star, the France and Germany Star 1939-45, the Defence Medal and the War Medal 1939-45.


[1] Letter from Ron Turner's daughter, Pat Kidd. May 2013.

[2] 'With Spanners Descending'. A History of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers with 1st Airborne Division: 1942-1945.By Joe Roberts. 1996. (Page 56)

[3] 'With Spanners Descending'. By Joe Roberts. 1996. (Page 69)

[4] 'With Spanners Descending'. By Joe Roberts. 1996. (Page 57)

[5] 'With Spanners Descending'. By Joe Roberts. 1996. (Page 60)



My thanks to Bob Hilton for this account.


See also: Staff-Sergeant Morrison.


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