Major Anthony John Dyball

 

Unit : "D" Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles.

Army No. : 90507

Awards : Military Cross.

 

Major Tony Dyball commanded "D" Company of the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles, and on the 24th March 1945 was charged with the capture by coup-de-main of the road bridge to the East of Hamminkeln. In the Battalion war diary, Major Dyball submitted the following account:

 

At 1025 hrs my Glider crashed 150 yds from the Bridge as planned.  It was the first to hit the deck but it was only a matter of seconds before two other Gliders crashed quite close.  Unfortunately these last two gliders did not contain any of my party.  As my Glider crashed all those in the front were thrown out through the nose.  Those in the back did manage to get out through the door, during this the glider was being riddled by M.G. [Machine Gun] bullets from a Range of 75 yds. Only one man was killed and three wounded.  As the man that was killed was the wireless operator I could not get in touch with any of my four Pls. [Platoons], the set had received part of the burst also.  One good thing about the crash was that one of the wings had made a small trench in the ground which some seven of us crawled into.  In a matter of seconds we had a bren in action and it silenced the M.G. but another started up some 30 yds to its left.  I could still see no signs of my other Pls.  I decided I would make a dash across the open and get into a small wood and see if I could contact anyone there.  The bren covered me across and I contacted 2 Glider Pilots 2 men from the 52nd [2nd Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry] and a few R.Es [Royal Engineers]. They had got into a good fire position covering the house I wished to assault.  I then moved the rest of my HQ into the wood and we cleared it killing two Germans.  We then took up a position. From where we were a continual trench ran up to the house and bridge.  The Germans were still holding this though we could see a few pulling out.  A small party were advancing towards us, we let them come until they were within 20 yds when I threw a 36 grenade unfortunately it did not fall into the trench though it exploded by the side and at once all hands went up.  I with 2 glider pilots and another two chaps went off down the trench towards the house.  As we got to the house 21 Pl arrived from the other side of the road in fine form having cleared the houses and captured 25 prisoners about another 25 were rounded up. I then went across the bridge and found that 22 Pl had done their job in clearing the houses.  Although the Pl Commander had been killed the Pl Sgt was wounded in the head, arm, leg and thigh he led the pl against strong opposition which was dug in.  The bridge was in our hands and all round defence was quickly organised consisting of four groups consisting of the two Pls, Coy [Company] HQ some glider pilots, A/Tk [Anti-Tank] gunners, without their guns, and few men from the 52nd.

 

Although it was planned to capture the bridge with 4 Pls, it was in fact done with 2 Pls (50 men) and four of Coy HQ helped by a few glider pilots, REs and two or three from the 52nd.  During the attack 5 German SP [Self-Propelled] guns came down the road.  One was hit at 25 yds range by a P.I.A.T. it was not knocked out.  They showed no fight and went off as quickly as they could. About 50 prisoners were taken and about 20 Germans were killed.

 

The highest praise must be given to the two Pls and their commanders, for the work they did that morning.  It was team spirit and leadership within the Pls which enabled them to capture their objectives which were strongly held by the enemy, dug in, not forgetting the Pls crashed on landing and were under fire until their objectives had been taken.

 

For his actions, Major Dyball was awarded the Military Cross. His citation reads:

 

On the 24th March 1945 Major Dyball commanding a company of glider troops was given the hazardous task of capturing intact the bridge over the River Issel by "Coup de Main". His glider having survived heavy flak on the route in was first to crash land right on the site. He was however only followed in by two platoons. Severe enemy automatic and rifle fire opened from close range killing one of his platoon commanders and severely wounding the other. In spite of all these adverse circumstances Major Dyball continued to control the battle as the sole remaining officer with the greatest courage, coolness and complete disregard for his own personal safety. Largely due to his inspiring leadership and control of a very difficult situation the bridge, which was to prove so valuable in the future, fell intact to the hands of his gallant company.

 

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