Company Quartermaster Sergeant Thomas Faulkner
Unit : Support Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Thomas Faulker was born in South Wales on the 24th March 1904, and joined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1922, serving with them in India. Whilst on leave in England in 1936, he married Rose and the pair returned to India and remained there until the 2nd Battalion was recalled home in 1940. The Battalion was later converted to the airborne role, however Faulkner appears to have been employed in an administrative capacity and is not believed to have participated in operations in Normandy, the Ardennes or Holland. He was, however, appointed Company Quartermaster Sergeant of Support Company shortly before Operation Varsity, reportedly taking the place of a man who had been shot in the foot, presumably on one of the recent operations.
Faulkner was always proud of his association with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, and, though he would often speak of his experiences with them in India, he did not speak of the Rhine Crossing until shortly before his death in 1982. The operation was launched on the 24th March 1945, Faulkner's 41st birthday. His glider appears to have made a safe landing, however he was left embittered that the anti-aircraft defences had not been sufficiently silenced by the time that the 6th Airlanding Brigade began to land. On his way to the rendezvous, he saw a sergeant-major cutting his way out of a damaged glider with an axe, and another glider near to his own which had been burnt out. The occupants, some of whom were still alive, were severely burnt and in great pain. He said that they released them from their pain by the only means available.
Reaching his objective, Hamminkeln Railway Station, Faulkner's group were greeted by the station master who said that they were late; which they were due to the chaos on the landing zone. Slit trenches were dug in the vicinity in preparation for the expected counter-attack, which began that night and continued throughout the following day. He saw an Allied spotter plane overhead shot down by the Germans. Enemy tanks approached their positions but were badly shot up by rocket-firing Typhoon aircraft; the blast from the resulting explosions lifted men out of their trenches. In the midst of this a young soldier in Faulkner's group began to panic, but a slap restored him to his senses. Tiredness became a factor as the second day wore on, and Faulkner recalled everyone taking tablets to keep themselves awake.
Relieved by the ground forces, the 6th Airborne Division began its advance to the Baltic on the 26th March. Faulkner remembered finding railway trucks loaded with a large number of clocks and assorted household items, perhaps looted from somewhere. They were at one point attacked by jets, but, Faulkner observed, after the initial strafing it took the aircraft so long to turn for a second run that they had plenty of time to find cover. As the Division approached the Baltic, they passed large columns of Germans, both military and civilians, seeking only to end the war under the protection of the western Allies rather than the Russians. Oh his return to England, CQMS Faulkner had the sad duty of helping to sort through the belongings of those many in the Battalion who had not returned; men who, quite possibly through his long association with the Regiment, he knew well or was close friends with.
Thomas Faulkner died in September 1982. My thanks to his son, Colin, for this account.
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