Private William Craig
Unit : 3rd Parachute Battalion
Army No. : 14246464
William "Jock" Craig was originally a member of the Royal Scots, and is believed to have been learning to drive tanks when he volunteered for the Parachute Regiment. He earned his wings on the 23rd February 1944, and was posted to the 3rd Parachute Battalion.
In the years since the War, Craig only spoke to his son, Ian Gordon, once about his experiences at Arnhem. He said that he had been involved in street-fighting from house to house. He went through the front door of one house and, making his way to the rear, found a soldier, either dead or injured, by the back door. As he stepped outside there was a flash as a mortar bomb exploded next to him, he tumbled down a small embankment and saw his helmet rolling away from him. Wounded by fragments of shrapnel in the back of his head, Craig was taken prisoner and received treatment in an unnamed Dutch hospital; presumably the St. Elizabeth.
Following an operation to remove the shrapnel and fragments of bone from his head, Craig awoke to find himself paralysed and rendered blind for two weeks, probably not knowing if it would be permanent or not. On 22nd September, however, he had recovered sufficiently to write the following letter to his mother, who at this point had no idea of his whereabouts. The letter probably took some effort to write, and he alludes to this in later correspondence. He used the term "Mother" rather than the later "Mum", misspells his surname, and is perhaps writing in an atmosphere of some secrecy when he says it will be "sent funnily", a reference to the fact that it would be smuggled out of the hospital by the Dutch orderlies (in league with the Resistance), without being censored or approved by German officials.
Just a short note to let you know I am a prisoner of war in German hands. I am slightly wounded but nothing to worry about as I will be alright in a few days. Let Mavis and all my friends know. We have been treated very well and are in a Dutch hospital with good food and ample medical attention. It won't be long before I see you all again so don't worry. I will close this as it is being sent rather funnily. So cheerio the meantime.
Your ever loving Son,
This letter has been written in Holland. The patient is not staying here, and is sended to Germany. I was in the position to send this letter from English soldiers to liberated territory. This happened by under-ground movement and sometimes a letter has been lost. I have kept the original letter. I have sent a copy to your address to be sure that the original letter will be in your hands.
William Craig was sent to St. Joseph Ziekenhuis, Veldhoven, Holland, a Dulag Luft camp where he would have been interrogated and processed as a prisoner of war. He sent a more detailed, and more official, letter to his parents and brother on the 16th December 1944, from Reserve Lazarett Teupitz:
No.14246464, Pte Craig W
My Dear Mum, Dad & Ian,
Here I am with a few lines hoping they find you all in the very best of health, as they leave me O.K. How are you all getting along in Campbeltown, still trudging forward I expect. Is Daddy still kept as busy as ever? I expect he is, & Ian, I hope he is behaving himself & doing all he can to help you. Is he still wanting to be a joiner or has he changed his mind. At one time he wanted to be a driver but I think he'd be better off if he sticks to the joinering. What do you say? The last time I wrote to you I was pretty Slap Happy Mum, but now that I have fully recovered from my operation I am OK again. I left Holland about 5 weeks ago, but I haven't been sent to a camp yet, I expect it'll be sometime before I am fit for a camp. Don't worry about me Mum as I am getting very well looked after here. The weather is pretty cold at present but I have managed out twice for a bit of fresh air. It was great to get out again Mum after being confined to bed so long. Once I get right well again I never want to see any more hospitals. I've had quite enough. When I get back home again I'll not even attempt to ride a Fairy cycle, just in case I might fall off and injure myself (Ah! Ah!) How is Ina and Archie getting on, give them my love, won't you? & Annie are you still hearing regular from her. Don't forget to give her my love the next time you write. Is she still working away as hard as ever? Well Mum it is getting pretty near Christmas. But by the time you get this letter I expect it'll have long passed, so all I can say is I hope you all had a very merry Christmas, & a very happy New Year. I wish you all the best for 1945. Have you written to Mavis, Mum. I managed to drop her a card from Holland, but I haven't managed to write since then. Please write her & let her know I am O.K. Well Mum, I can't think of much more to say at present, only please don't worry about me as I am O.K. & getting very well looked after. There are six of us here together Mum, & we get along O.K. We are the only prisoners in the hospital. I don't know where any of my mates are, but I expect they've all been taken prisoner. I hope to meet up with them some day. Well Mum I'll close now, hoping these few lines finds you all well. Give my regards to anybody I know in Campbeltown & don't forget to write Mavis.
Cheerio for now.
& God Bless you all.
Ever your loving Son
ps. I hope to hear from you sometime in the future.
Craig remembered being lined up on Frankfurt Railway Station at Christmas, in pyjamas and grey coat, and spat upon by passing Germans. When the war ended, William Craig returned home and later married Mavis.
My thanks to Ian Gordon Craig for this account.
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