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London, United Kingdom
A mythical beast - a female wargamer! I got back into wargaming in the summer of 2011 after a very, very long break. My current interests are Ancients, ACW, 30YW and SciFi gaming.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Arnhem 75th, Day Three: Sunday Afternoon drives in the Dutch Countryside

Featuring:

Lieutenant John Marshall and Trooper Joe Irala of 10 Section, D Troop

Major Freddie Gough and his merry band of men.



The (Mis)Adventures of Lt Marshall
(or "How A Reconnaissance Officer Got Lost In The Space Of A Quarter Of A Mile Whilst Following Other Jeeps Of His Troop").

I suspect that anyone reading this blog will be aware of the old military maxim that there's only one thing more dangerous than an officer with a map - an officer with a map and a compass.

On Sunday 17 September 1944, Lt Marshall and his driver Trooper Joe Irala set out with the rest of D Troop from the landing zone to the RV with the squadron's parachute element. The distance between the two locations was approximately a quarter of a mile. They must have been the last jeep in the group as nobody noticed when they somehow took a wrong turn at the corner of a wooded area halfway between their start point and the RV. It's an easy mistake to make, going South instead of North...

Having lost touch with the other jeeps they continued on their way and eventually reached Renkum, a village to the south of the drop zone. They then turned east, heading through heelsum where they picked up the Utrechtseweg and on towards Oosterbeek, passing the crossroads where 3 Para had shot up the staff car of General Kussin (the commander of the Arnhem garrison) at the junction with Wolfhezeweg. At some point not far after this, they must have headed slightly south again as they were witness to the railway bridge being blown up (some of C Company, 2 Para were on the bridge when it blew).

At some point during their jaunt, they managed to evade an encounter with a German armoured car, eventually returning to Divisional HQ, later to be reunited with the rest of the squadron.

This event isn't mentioned in the Troop or Squadron war diaries, presumably to spare the Lieutenant from official embarrassment, but it is recounted in Fairley's "Remember Arnhem" and Hilton's "Freddie Gough's Specials".


Recalled to Divisional HQ
(or "How Freddie Gough Tried And Failed To Find General Urquhart, Lost a Trooper On The Way And Found Himself At Arnhem Bridge")

Also on Sunday 17 September 1944...

At around 1630, whilst C Troop's firefight was still going on, Major Gough received an order to report to General Urquhart at Divisional HQ. Having discussed arrangements with his 2ic, Captain Allsop, he gathered an escort party and set off at around 1645.

The party was as follows:

Jeep 1 - Major Gough (CO, SHQ, driving*), Trooper WC Bailey (HQ Troop, gunner**), Trooper D Simpson (HQ Troop), Trooper S Jones (HQ Troop)

Jeep 2 - Captain HA Platt (OC HQ Troop), Lieutenant TVP McNabb (Intelligence Officer, driver), Corporal G Dixon (HQ Section, D Troop), Trooper R Brooker (HQ Section, D Troop), Trooper R Coldicott (HQ Troop, gunner), Trooper J Woods (HQ Troop, radio operator)

Motorcycle - Trooper A "Chalky" White (HQ Troop, Don R***)

At some point there was a shifting of personnel between jeeps as Trooper Brooker was driving Major Gough's jeep later on.

* Apparently this was always a hair-raising experience for his passengers
** Bren gunner
*** "Don R" was British army slang for a dispatch rider

As the Germans were rather active in the area, he decided to borrow a Bren gun team to provide additional protection. The two men he grabbed were Trooper C "Darkie" Bolton (12 Section, D Troop, gunner) and Trooper B Welham. They would have been on Major Gough's jeep.

On arrival at Divisional HQ, Major Gough discovered that General Urquhart had gone off to find Brigadier Lathbury at 1st Parachute Brigade HQ which was following 2 Para. As the General hadn't left any instructions with his staff, Major Gough decided to follow on and try to find him.

Leaving Divisional HQ, the party headed south towards Heelsum, then down to the river road being taken by 2 Para. Around Doorwerth they came under fire. Major Gough took evasive action which resulted in Trooper Coldicott falling off the jeep and being left behind - he made his way back on foot to Divisional HQ.

On reaching the rear of 2 Para's column around 1800, Major Gough found elements of 1st Parachute Brigade HQ. He had missed General Urquhart by a matter of minutes - he had headed up to find Brigadier Lathbury who was with 3 Para on the middle route along Utrechtseweg. However, this time he had left a message for Major Gough - "Tell your jeeps to follow 2 Para's route". Given the time, not knowing where the squadron was and not being in radio contact with them, Major Gough chose to follow 2 Para along the river road with the Brigade HQ and attached elements (engineers, anti tank  battery, signals and service corps troops), trusting that the rest of the squadron would either receive those orders directly or would have broken through the ambush.

The party eventually arrived in the bridge perimeter and were assigned locations to defend. "Chalky" White, the Don R, set off back to Divisional HQ on his motorcycle (he made it past the German blocking lines).

So, twelve men of the squadron did make it to the bridge and eleven men stayed to fight there. Major Gough found himself in command of the defenders after Johnny Frost was injured on the Wednesday morning, referring any major decisions to Frost, then in sole command of the small remaining contingent after the wounded (including Frost) were evacuated as POWs, eventually being captured on the Thursday morning.



Tomorrow's Installment - "Black Soldiers at Arnhem"


5 comments:

  1. @ Michael A - cheers! :)

    @ Fran - thanks! :)

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  2. Very well written Tamsin! As of yet I don’t know enough about Operation Market Garden and you‘re providing some interesting and, even more important in my book, easy to digest information to start me on my own research.

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    1. Thanks Nick! It's not easy condensing all of the information into a blog post, and this is just about one small part of the 1st Airborne! :)

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