Honorary President: Jennifer, Lady Gretton DCVO JP
Patron: Air Vice Marshal Ranald Munro CBE TD VR DL
Dutch Patron: Dr Robert Voskuil
Padre: The Reverend Brian McAvoy MBE MA RAF (retd)

Newsletter, November 2020

‘At the going down of the sun – we will remember them’

The 76th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden has come and gone, sadly this year our commemoration plans were torpedoed by, of all things, a virus. We are determined that the date will always be marked by a service of remembrance. So it was, on Saturday 12th September, that a small number of relatives and friends gathered at the Memorial for an ‘At the Going Down of the Sun’ service led by padre Brian McAvoy. A highlight of the service was the wonderful rendition of the Last Post and Reveille played by former Parachute Regiment bugler, Maisie Lee.

The beautiful hand knitted poppy wreath was laid by our President, Jenny Gretton. The wreath was one of two knitted last year by the ladies of Pickwell (The Pickwell Knit and Natter Group). Pickwell is the closest village to Somerby, the Battalion’s HQ in 1944. Almost simultaneously, across the North Sea, the second ‘Pickwell’ wreath was being laid at the 10th Battalion Marker in Oosterbeek – organized by our Dutch friends, Liset and Jelle Vos.

What makes this so poignant is that the Dutch wreath (which left Leicestershire last year and will not return) represents those of the Battalion who left but never returned to Leicestershire.
Liset and Jelle also led the flower children, of the De Marienborn school in Oosterbeek, to lay cards on all of the 10th Battalion graves in the Arnhem Airborne Cemetery.

Jelle Vos and Chris Dimond pay their respects at the 10th Bn Marker, Oosterbeek

At Somerby All Saints church, a ‘Friends of The Tenth’ rose, donated by Davina and Michael Bates, was planted and dedicated by Padre Brian.
Davina was a young girl in 1944 living in the village and has many memories of those times as well as all the commemorations that have taken place since.
Davina and Michael also donated ‘Somerby Main Street’ – the original granite setts walked on by the Battalion that are now laid at various points in the Memorial Garden.

Davina, far left and Michael, far right, at the dedication of the rose

During these acts of remembrance there was a special place in our hearts and prayers for those veterans and friends whom we have lost this year. Little more than a year ago we were enthralled to welcome Freddie Deane and John Jeffries as our VIP guests at the unveiling of the Memorial.

Freddie Deane and John Jeffries at the unveiling, September 2019

So, it is very sad to report that both Freddie and John have, this year, left us. The covid number restrictions placed on both their funerals meant that we were not able to be represented at John’s. But we were at Freddie’s service in North Wales and were able to pay our respects and lay a beautiful floral tribute to one of the last men of the Battalion.

The scheduled Remembrance service was also scuppered but thanks to Padre Brian we pre-recorded a service which many of our supporters and friends were able to watch at 11.00 hours on Remembrance Sunday, 8th November. This recording is still available to watch on our website, should you wish to do so; this is the link – https://friendsofthetenth.co.uk/2020-remembrance-sunday/

As far as we are aware, the ‘Last Man Standing’ and only survivor of the WW2 Battalion is the wonderful and extraordinary Victor Gregg. In October, a few of us were delighted to meet up with Vic in his new home of Goring on Thames to celebrate his 101st Birthday. Vic was in top form; a three-hour pub lunch flew by and as always, we were treated to many brilliantly told stories from his remarkable, indeed unique, life. If you have not already done so, you must read Vic’s autobiography, ’Rifleman’ (Bloomsbury Press), which is available from all the usual outlets. Recently, British astronaut, Major (AAC) Tim Peake declared ‘Rifleman’ at the top of his reading list and no wonder when you delve into Vic’s biography. Vic has always lived on his wits, from an early age as a ‘Kings Cross Kid’ through his front-line service in North Africa with the Rifle Brigade, joining the Long-Range Desert Group (forerunner of the SAS) and his eventual capture as a 10th Battalion paratrooper at Arnhem. His POW death sentence handed out for sabotaging a German soap factory and astonishing release due to the Allied air raids on Dresden. His post-war exploits as a communist trade union convener and something of a double agent whilst working for the Russians and MI5. As I say – you must read this book which reinforces that old adage of ‘truth being stranger than fiction’. I’m sure that before too long ‘Rifleman’ will be produced as a blockbuster film!

It seems scarcely believable that Vic is now into his second century!

Our project to deliver an ‘Arnhem in Leicestershire’ heritage trail, with plaques indicating properties of historical significance in and around Somerby, is moving ahead nicely. Jane and Neil Thorley, owners of the Vines in Thorpe Satchville have recently installed their plaque, and more are in production, including our President’s home, Somerby House which was Battalion HQ, also the Somerby Sergeant’s mess and Somerby Grove (‘A’ Company).

Plaque installed at the Vines, Thorpe Satchville
Just as in 1943-44, we look forward to seeing lots of regimental maroon in East Leicestershire!

To whet your appetite, we hope to soon announce another major and the most exciting initiative since the unveiling of our Memorial – watch this space but this is for another day!

For now, I am delighted that, once again, our supporters have come up trumps with a number of guest articles. The following is by Prosper Keating. Prosper is a published author and journalist, he served in 10 Para V. More ‘guest’ articles will follow in subsequent issues.

The new Orders for 2nd Battalion, The Royal Sussex Regiment, were posted on New Year’s Day, 1943. The Orders stated: ‘Lt. Col. K.B.I. Smyth relinquishes command of 2 Bn Royal Sussex and assumes command of this Bn. All volunteers of Royal Sussex, numbering 7 officers, 5 WO’s, 4 C/Sgts, 24 Cpls and 104 other ranks are transferred to this Bn. The Bn will then form on these figures, all stores and equipment are taken over from 2 R. Sussex. 65 men have already qualified as parachutists and a further 80 are on a course. Courses are organised by 4 Middle East Training School, Kabrit.’.
A typical British infantry battalion of the era numbered some 850 officers and other ranks. The Royal Sussex had had a hard time of it lately at the battle of Alam el Halfa, where they faced Rommel’s Panzers, and El Alamein. They were in hand-to-hand fighting with the very tough paratroopers of the Italian Folgore Division.
The lads who’d chosen to stay, when the Battalion’s conversion to Parachute status was announced after the victory at Alamein the previous November, had been joined by volunteers from the Sussex Regiment’s 4th and 5th Battalions.

Posted to the Royal Army Service Corps Base Depot at Geneifa, some twenty miles north of the port of Suez on the Suez-Ismailia highway, they were joined by men from other regiments and corps. As a holding and dispersal centre for soldiers whose units had been wiped out or who were almost recovered from wounds, Geneifa was an ideal location for staff officer Ken Smyth, late of the South Wales Borderers, who had been charged with forming a new parachute battalion as part of the move to enlarge British Airborne Forces before the coming battles on the European continent.
For the time being, 2 RSR’s new name was S Battalion, the S standing for Sussex. Geneifa was a tented base around a hub of brick and wooden buildings housing the administration offices, medical centres, various canteens and the camp cinema. There were latrine blocks although most of the lads preferred the open-air arrangements consisting of benches over septic tanks because the wind took the stench away. Every couple of days, the latrine detail would tip a couple of jerry cans of petrol down the holes and toss in a burning rag. Every so often, some fool would end up with nasty ‘posterior’ burns because he had not seen the red pennant.
One of the better canteens was Dunbarton House, run by the Free Church of Scotland. The tea, buns and lemonade were the best in Geneifa, and the Minister and his helpers didn’t badger the lads about God and salvation. The beer in the NAAFI wasn’t much good but it was better than nothing. Mindful of Nelson’s adage about men and ships rotting in harbour, Colonel Smyth kept the lads occupied with regular field training as well as the usual garrison duties like ‘bulling’ and ‘blancoing’ personal kit and billets.
After twenty-mile route marches in battle order into the jebel to the west of Geneifa, the lads would dig in, which was no easy task on the rocky desert crust. They might spend two days in their two-man fire trenches scanning the horizons for an enemy who was actually in full flight towards Tunisia in January 1943. The NCOs might come around and order them to move position to a grid reference a mile away, which meant filling in the holes, moving to the new location and digging new holes. If they were lucky, they’d march the twenty miles back to camp in the chill of the night, when a man in the desert was grateful for any way of warming himself up. Cold as it was, it was still easier than marching under the sun.
Hygiene was strictly enforced with regular inspections of mess tins and eating utensils, which had to be cleaner than new at all times except when you were using them. Water bottles were inspected, and you were on a charge if the contents didn’t smell of the Halazone purifying tablets you were issued every day. Any of the old hands who’d served in India and Palestine could tell you that trusting the water, even from the camp bowsers or the natives’ wells, was a mug’s game.
Useful Arab words included ‘moya’, which meant water. The natives, who were Egyptians rather than Arabs, happily offered you water when you stopped near their homes and wouldn’t accept any money for it but filling up your water bottle from their personal supply was bad manners. Taking an earthenware mugful was the done thing but they’d let you fill your water bottles from their wells, as long as you asked first. They were sticklers for good manners.
Any desert soldier worth his salt learned to fill his water bottle at any opportunity. Any puddle, no matter how much goat piss it contained, was good enough as long as you used your Halazone tablets. And then there was recycling your water, but you didn’t mention that in the postcards home – not that the Army Censor would have passed it anyway.

Another Arab word you heard a lot was ‘gareeb’, which means nearby or, at any rate, not far away. Desert people don’t think in miles when they travel. They think in days. A day’s camel ride was not far for a Son of the Desert, but it was a bloody long way for an infantryman in full kit. If the native was on a donkey, which is slower than a camel, ‘gareeb’ might not mean as many miles. All of that considered, anywhere by foot in the desert is far away for men raised in Sussex fields or London boroughs. And like the Celts of our islands, Arabs dislike telling travellers that they have a long way to go, it is considered bad manners. So, everywhere is gareeb.
There was a beach reserved for servicemen a couple of miles to the north on the shore of the Great Bitter Lake, which lived up to its name if you got a mouthful of it. But it wasn’t poisonous like the River Nile. If you fell in the Nile, it was straight off to an army hospital where the medics stuck more needles in you than a pin cushion. The Nile was as filthy as Old Man Thames. The natives were immune to it and so were the Battalion’s Londoners who’d grown up swimming in the Thames. They didn’t often suffer from ‘Delhi belly’. Nor did the old hands who’d served with the Royal Sussex in Karachi in the early ‘Thirties or in Palestine a few years later.
The lake had been formed when the Suez Canal was built, providing anchorages for ships in transit. The lads of S Battalion who were waiting to do their parachute courses at RAF Kabrit could see the aircraft taking off from the airfield a mile to the east of the swimming beach and climbing to 800 or 1,000 feet before making their runs over the drop zone on the flatlands across the lake. The aircraft were mostly converted Wellington bombers but sometimes they saw Lockheed Hudsons or Douglas Dakotas dropping their comrades.
Sometimes they caught a whiff of aviation fuel on the breezes wafting across the water from the airfield, built on a promontory where the lake narrows into the southern part of the canal. They counted the seconds off after the parachutes deployed. It usually took around forty seconds for a man to reach the ground but if a rising thermal caught his canopy, it could take twice that time or longer. They’d bet a bob or two on it, which made a change from betting on beetle races or how far they could piss against the desert wind. And they thought of their imminent appointment with the Parachute Jump Instructors of N°4 Middle East Training School.
N°4 METS had evolved in the year since ‘Gentleman Jim’ Almonds and his fellow Special Air Service NCOs had built the first rudimentary parachute training facilities at RAF Kabrit with four PJIs sent by the RAF. Almonds’ diary noted on October 6th, 1941: “Afternoon spent jumping backwards from a lorry at twenty-five miles per hour. Three broken arms and a number of other casualties. Broken bones through training now six.”. Jumping from moving lorries, although brutally effective as a preparation for military parachuting, was a thing of the past at RAF Kabrit when the lads of S Battalion passed though.
RAF Kabrit was a couple of miles by road from Geneifa, but the RAF laid on transport at the beginning and end of each day in the form of Bedford QL lorries. The latest thirty-man course intake paraded at 0700hrs in front of the S Battalion office. They shivered in the cold as Colonel Smith addressed them. The Battalion was counting on them. The old regiment was chasing Rommel and his Italian friends through Libya with the rest of the Eighth Army – but they were not to fret as they would be seeing the Hun again soon enough.
The Regimental Sergeant Major stepped forward, banging his right foot down as he came to attention, his pace stick under his left arm. “Platoon! Platoon, Shun! Officer on Parade, Dismiss!” Turning smartly to the left and banging their right feet in as if they were on parade at Buckingham Palace, the platoon saluted and off three paces before breaking ranks and running to the waiting lorries. Ken Smyth watched them: “They look keen, RSM.”. The RSM nodded: “They’re good lads, sir. They won’t show us up over there. All good lads!”.

The lads were silent as the lorries rumbled along the road towards Kabrit. Some wondered anxiously if they would refuse in the door. But it was an idle fear because the fear of shaming yourself in front of your mates – and shaming them too – overcame any fear of parachuting in all but the rarest of cases. Others wondered if they would ‘candle in’, as plunging to your death because of a parachute malfunction was known. But if death came to them that way, it just meant that their number was up, that’s all.

At 0750 hrs, the platoon was standing at ease in three ranks in front of the N° 4 METS Orderly Room. A staff-sergeant wearing the Physical Training Corps cap badge on his side hat marched up and came to attention in front of them with a clipboard under his arm. “Platoon, Platoon, Shun! Stand at ease!”. Taking a pencil from the pocket of his sharply pressed shirt, he spoke again: “I am Staff Sergeant Meane. I am your PT instructor and I am also an Assistant Parachute Jump Instructor. Right, listen up for your names. You come to attention and you answer ‘Yes, Staff’, which tells me that you are here and that you are alive. Afterwards, I shall hand you over to the Royal Air Force. Right! Off we go, then!”.

Assistant Parachute Jump Instructors from the Army in Kabrit in 1942.
Note -the parachute wings above the righthand pockets of their shirts and the parachutist pattern trousers

An RAF Lockheed Hudson over Cairo in 1943
N° 4 METS sometimes used Hudsons for parachute training
(Imperial War Museum)

One of the Wellington bombers used for parachute training by N° 4 METS at RAF Kabrit in 1942 and 1943

Trainee Parachutists with their RAF PJI. They are wearing the canvas-covered sorbo rubber training helmets and Irvin X-Type parachutes in shirtsleeve order


Trainee parachutists in a Lockheed Hudson over RAF Kabrit in 1943. They wear the canvas- covered sorbo rubber helmets and early step-in over-smocks modelled on the German ‘bonesack’ smocks

An RAF PJI shows a trainee parachutist – probably from the SAS – how to put on the Irvin X-Type parachute at RAF Kabrit

Prosper Keating for FOTT, September 2020

FOTT Film Productions

We will have the following films in our website shop. They are available as either a download, DVD or USB memory stick. Follow this link to order https://friendsofthetenth.co.uk/shop/

Remembering The Tenth
The hour-long film tells the story of the Memorial, the unveiling and includes an exclusive and riveting interview with 10th Bn Veteran, Victor Gregg, as well as a memorable introduction by Pam Henry-Lamm, the widow of Captain Myles Henry KIA. It includes IWM footage from Market Garden. Brilliantly and professionally made and directed by Thomas Hallifax and his fellow students at Brooksby-Melton Media College. A must see of that very special day last September.

Albert Willingham: Hero from England
This beautiful, poignant, short film was professionally made in the Netherlands and features Dr Robert Voskuil and Jelle Vos (our Dutch mascot and poster boy) with some of his school friends, telling the story of the infamous cellar at number 2 Annastraat and Albert’s ultimate sacrifice. A perfect film to gently introduce children to the history.

The 70th Somerby Commemoration
An hour-long film made in 2014 which follows the weekend in Somerby and the presentation of the Somerby Cockerel to the Bishop of Leicester (on behalf of All Saints, Somerby) by 10th Bn Veteran, Gerry Dimmock.

The unveiling photo album

In our website shop is the photo album of the unveiling last September. This A4 high quality, hard cover, book has 58 pages of more than 150 colour images by our brilliant photographer, Arjan Vrieze. It comes in a presentation box. A lovely memento of an amazing day. Follow this link to buy a copy – https://friendsofthetenth.co.uk/product/remembering-the-tenth/
I quote our President – Jennifer, Lady Gretton;

“The most wonderful memento of a memorable day has just arrived! I think it is done most beautifully with some lovely photos and what a wonderful reminder of a very special occasion. All the heartache and worry during the preparation came to a wonderful conclusion on the 7thSeptember.

This will bring back so many happy memories for so many people and I know that everyone will say that it has certainly been worth waiting for!”

The Last Stand of The Tenth

Those of you who do not have a print of Derek Chamber’s ‘The Last Stand’ may want to buy one. We have 3 versions for sale in our website shop. Please see ‘Merchandise’ below.


Please visit our website shop where we have for sale, Christmas cards, T shirts, ties and bowties, badges and prints.
Also of course, the films and photo album featured above.

To buy, visit – https://friendsofthetenth.co.uk/shop/

The Somerby Cockerel is a limited edition (75) hand-made, gold-plated and hall-marked, solid sterling silver pin badge.

We also have the ‘Unveiling Package’ for sale at only £10 which includes the souvenir brochure, order of service, two badges and windscreen sticker (total value £18!).


This rose was propagated to remember the Boys of The Tenth. It is the same as those that have been planted in the Memorial Garden and at All Saints church, Somerby. C & K Jones make a donation to us for each rose sold.

It is available to buy from:

01829 740663 ck.jones@jonestherose.co.uk

Past & present NEWSLETTERS

Thanks to our great supporters at Reach Marketing, we have a new facility on our website. You can now read, in book ‘turning page’ format, this and previous newsletters.

Follow this link – https://friendsofthetenth.co.uk/newsletters/


PLEASE? If you know anyone who does not ‘do’ emails and you think would like a copy of this newsletter, would you kindly print a hard copy and forward or post it to them?
Alternatively, contact me and I will post a hard copy to anyone unable to download this.

Should anyone wish to help in any way whatsoever, I would be delighted to speak with you. There is much more information on our website and social media pages:


An easy way to access our website is to use your mobile phone to scan this barcode

If anyone would like to contribute to this magazine, I will be delighted to hear from you. Any material must be relevant to the WW2 10th Battalion or our current work to keep the legacy of the Battalion alive. We also reserve editorial rights.

You can contact me at:


Alec Wilson
November 2020

(work in progress – op dit moment staat de periode 1980/2005 online)

Rond de zomer is de heer Van der Hoef op verzoek van de vereniging begonnen met het digitaliseren van de nieuwsbrieven. Voor het eind van het jaar zouden alle nieuwsbrieven gedigitaliseerd zijn en dat lijkt te lukken. Vanaf vandaag staan 100 nieuwsbrieven online. Een schat aan informatie is op deze manier ontsloten voor het publiek over de slag en het museum. Daarnaast geven de honderden pagina’s een beeld van de vereniging die sinds 1980 de nieuwsbrieven publiceert. De nieuwsbrieven zijn op de website te vinden onder het kopje ‘VVAM-Archief’.

Door de nieuwsbrieven te digitaliseren en online te plaatsen is informatie sneller te vinden binnen de website en kunnen zoekmachines zoals Google de inhoud doorzoeken en resultaten aanbieden.

Op vrijdag 18 september vond een bescheiden ceremonie plaats in Driel. Op het plantsoen tegenover het voormalige Poolse hoofdkwartier was een kleine groep mensen verzameld voor de onthulling van een kunstwerk onder corona richtlijnen. De initiatiefnemers mochten het object onthullen door het doek te verwijderen. Een bronzen borstbeeld van generaal-majoor Sosabowski kwam tevoorschijn. Het bijzondere aan dit kunstwerk van Martin Abspoel is dat drie jaar geleden, 1200km naar het oosten, een identiek beeld is onthuld in Warschau.

Dat verhaal begint twee jaar eerder bij een regenachtige herdenking in Driel. De kunstenaar Martin Abspoel zit op het Sosabowski plein naast het raadslid Cécile de Boer. Ze komen in gesprek en Martin verteld over de indrukwekkende onthulling van het borstbeeld van Generaal-Majoor Sosabowski in Warschau een jaar eerder. Ook vertelde hij over een expositie in de kerk van Driel vele jaren geleden waar de aanwezigheid van een borstbeeld van klei vele Polen ontroerde. Dit verhaal en de bijzondere en warme relatie tussen Polen en Driel zorgde er voor dat de raadsleden Cécile de Boer en Hanno Krijgsman in het kader van de 75 jaar Herdenking van Market Garden de gemeenteraad voorstelden om een borstbeeld van de generaal-majoor te plaatsen in Driel om:

  • Herdenken, Beseffen en Beleven ook voor jonge generaties beeldend te maken,
  • Om de generaal-majoor Sosabowksi en de 1e Poolse Onafhankelijke Parachutisten Brigade te bedanken voor hun bijzondere inzet,
  • Om verhalen over de Tweede Wereldoorlog te blijven vertellen
  • Om vrijheid te blijven vieren!

Op 19 juli 2019 werd het voorstel aangenomen en het beeld zou in 2019 onthuld worden. Vanwege het drukke programma dat jaar is toen besloten om de onthulling een jaar door te schuiven zodat de generaal de aandacht zouden krijgen die hij verdient. Het is dan ook erg jammer dat een wereldwijd virus juist dat plan onmogelijk heeft gemaakt. Ondanks de afwezigheid van de familie Sosabowski, veteranen, en publiek is binnen de kaders van COVID-19 het borstbeeld op 18 september in een klein gezelschap onthuld.

Foto’s: met dank aan Gerard Burgers, Arjan Vrieze en Alexander Heusschen

De initiatiefneemster sprak de wens uit om bij de volgende herdenking in 2021 samen met familie, veteranen en publiek bloemen te kunnen leggen bij het beeld. Daarnaast hoopt ze dat vele jongeren de “Liberation Route” zullen volgen, het borstbeeld in Driel zullen bezoeken en zich realiseren dat we onze vrijheid te danken hebben aan moedige mensen als generaal-majoor Sosabowski.

De eerste 50 nieuwsbrieven van de vereniging zijn online geplaatst.
Vorige maand is de heer Van der Hoef begonnen aan deze omvangrijke en lastige klus. Deze week konden we de eerste 50 nieuwsbrieven al in ontvangst nemen. Inmiddels staan ze op de website waar ze onder het kopje ‘VVAM-Archief’ te vinden zijn in de categorie Nieuwsbrieven.

Door de nieuwsbrieven te digitaliseren en online te plaatsen is informatie sneller te vinden binnen de website en kunnen zoekmachines zoals Google de inhoud doorzoeken en resultaten aanbieden.

De Newsletter van de 151/156 Parachute Battalion Association:

151-156-Newsletter-No-1-October-2020 (1)

In het laatste nummer van Magazine 39-45 van uitgeverij Heimdal is een artikel opgenomen over Arnhem. Via de volgende link krijg je een beeld van de uitgave en kun je hem bestellen.





(Text version for search-engines)

Colonel John Llewellyn Waddy OBE

Commanded a company of 156 Parachute Battalion at Arnhem Recommended the use of helicopters for swift movement of troops 20 years ahead of its time

COLONEL JOHN WADDY, who died on Sunday, 27th September 2020 aged 100 years, was a company commander in the 156 Parachute Battalion at the Battle of Arnhem where he was badly wounded in September 1944, and 31 years later was senior military adviser to the film A Bridge Too Far.

Hired for six months to ensure that the action, uniforms and weapons looked as authentic as possible, he was so appalled by the unmilitary way the 50 young actors with minor parts moved as a group he gave them a course of special training. Their language deteriorated though the drill improved. Waddy could make few changes to the script, which placed far too much emphasis on the Americans in the battle. Richard Attenborough, the director, explained that the project was American financed for an American audience, which was still bruised by the defeat in Vietnam and would be little enthused by a movie about another defeat. It was also unpopular with some British veterans. One British medical officer, whose gallant part inColonel John Waddy OBE, as military advisor on the set of A Bridge Too Far with the director Richard Attenborough.

the negotiation over the removal of the wounded was transferred to a Dutch doctor played by Laurence Olivier, suggested that the film should be renamed A Star Too Many. Joseph Levine, the producer, simply declared that he made films for money, not history. Nevertheless, Attenborough showed his appreciation by giving the name Waddy to the driver of General Horrocks (Edward Fox) at the beginning of the film and placing him as an extra in a later scene with General Urquhart (Sean Connery).

Looking back on his six months as adviser Waddy considered Lord Attenborough had  “all the qualities of a great  leader”.  Waddy had frequent arguments with the producers – particularly when the entire fleet of aircraft were painted the wrong colour – and became good friends with Edward Fox, Laurence Olivier (the Dutch doctor) and Michael Caine (Colonel Joe Vandeleur) who all mucked in with the crew. On the other hand, Sean Connery seemed pre-occupied and never said a word. Waddy remembered Robert Redford (Major Julian Cook) repeatedly misfiring his gun.

John Llewellyn Waddy was born near Taunton on 17th June 1920 into an Anglo-Irish military family. He was the last of seven generations to hold a commission in the British Army which had seen action in Ireland, India, the Crimea, Africa and New Zealand, as well as the two world wars. He went to Wellington College and was commissioned into the Somerset Light Infantry which sent him to do tedious service in central India and on the North West Frontier before volunteering to join the 151 Parachute Battalion in India in October 1941, which in December 1942 was re-named the 156.

151 Battalion stick of 10, jumping from the Valencia, Delhi, 1941

Parachuting was in its infancy. There were no reserve parachutes or helmets in use at that time. On his first exercise, whilst jumping last in a stick of 10 men through the hole in the floor of a pre-war Valencia biplane, he fractured his skull

No. 3 Squad 2nd Airlanding School Course, 6th December, 1941. New Delhi, India. 4th from left is Lt. Mickey Gibbs, later to be taken prisoner at Arnhem. John Waddy is on the far right. At the rear on the right is L/Cpl. Churchward who on the first course was acting as Assistant Instructor after just 5 jumps.

rendering him unconscious when his head hit the piece of metal at the end of a static line. En route to the hospital in Delhi he woke up in the ambulance to be told that the man in the bunk above him had been killed when his chute had failed to open. John spent a month in hospital and a further two months recovering.

Later in England, whilst parachuting, he dropped his shovel, narrowly missing a soldier who shouted as they landed together “You dozy f…..”, then realised he was addressing an officer and saluted. Waddy apologised.

It was the second day of the battle when Waddy flew to Arnhem. A full set of the plans for Operation Market Garden had been captured by the Germans the day before so they were well prepared. “I stood by the side of the open door of my aircraft as we travelled towards our drop zone near Arnhem”, said Waddy. There were 36 Dakota aircraft in the serial carrying the 156 Parachute Battalion.

Waddy continued: “Many of the American pilots and crew of these aircraft were green as our Battalion had found to its cost on a previous exercise when they dropped us miles from our DZ. Bearing this in mind, Shan Hackett had suggested that I closely monitor our route which is why I was looking out of the open door. The flak was becoming more intense as we travelled across the Dutch countryside when the aircraft to my right was hit on the port wing and caught fire; it began a steep dive of around 45 degrees. When it hit the ground, it exploded into a fireball. I looked at my men who were seated each side of the aircraft who, in the din, had not noticed what had just happened – I said nothing.”

   IWM EA74538

Dakotas flying in ‘vic of vees’ formation over Holland, September 1944

    IWM BU1163  

Parachutists of the 1st Parachute Brigade at Arnhem, 17th September 1944

The day after landing on the outskirts of  the Dutch town of  Arnhem, Waddy,  Commander    of B Company, was advancing through a wooded area under heavy fire from elements of the 9th SS Panzer Division, when he found the bodies of a section of  A Company in a clearing.  He had led his company into the attack within 15 yards of the Dreijenseweg, the German blocking line, where a self-propelled double-barrelled enemy flak gun was firing bursts at his platoon on the left flank, when the man next to him was hit in the forehead by a sniper up a tree. Firing his Colt .45 several times, Waddy missed him and was hit in return. When another bullet landed near his hand, he pretended to be dead until he was rescued by the 6’4” Rhodesian Ben Diedericks, who burst out of  some nearby bushes and yelled “Let’s  get you out of here Sir”. He was then taken to the Hotel Tafelberg at Oosterbeek, where doctors were operating on the billiard table.

For five days Waddy watched a stream of casualties brought in as the battle raged outside and bullets smacked into the walls of the room. A mortar bomb scored a direct hit, killing six other patients and wounding him again. Several times Germans swept in to be driven out again by the Paras before finally establishing themselves. On the last day, a heavy bombardment by Horrocks’s XXX Corps started a fire. Waddy was wounded again and dragged out to a pile of 30 bodies in the back garden. When a sergeant carried him to a jeep, he thought

Men from C Company, 156 Parachute Battalion. Lieutenant St Aubyn’s escort from C Company – with Private Dugdale, far left and Lance Corporal Rosenberg at the back of the group, holding a pistol. The picture was taken by Sergeant Mike Lewis, Army Film Unit, in one of the Hartenstein’s roofless service buildings, originally the Orangery and situated close to 4th Brigade’s HQ. A party of the 4th Para Squadron commanded by Captain Brown witnessed the picture being taken mid-morning Friday 22nd September. Brown said: “My Sappers gave them a few boos and cat calls as an indication of their disapproval.” In 2004 Robert Voskuil, from the Society of Friends of  the Airborne Museum, established the location of this photograph using enhanced aerial photography taken in 1945.

reinforcements had arrived at last, but they were captured. Just 200 yards from the Tafelberg, the remnants of Waddy’s battalion had fiercely defended the north east sector of the British perimeter until the 27 survivors were withdrawn over the Rhine.

From the Tafelberg he was taken to Apeldoorn hospital, where he heard two German doctors discussing amputating his foot. A German nurse then pulled out a two-inch mortar splinter     in a moment of excruciating pain. Recovering after six weeks, Waddy was put on a hospital  train for Stalag Luft VIIA at Moosburg, Bavaria. There he was sentenced to five days in solitary confinement for slowly walking with his hands in his pockets past the office of the Kommandant (whom he later recalled as strongly resembling the senior German officer in the television comedy ’Allo ’Allo!).

A month after being flown home Waddy married Ann Davies, whom he had met earlier in 1944 in Melton Mowbray. The 156 had been billeted in the town and Ann worked at the Remount Depot. They shared a love of horses and had ridden out together over the Leicestershire countryside.

On being posted to Palestine in September 1945, Waddy was seriously wounded again in July 1947. He was shot in the back while drinking in a bar with a fellow officer who was killed. The surgical operation which saved him had been devised by Captain John Buck, who had been the 156 Battalion’s Medical Officer at Arnhem.

Waddy had a spell in Greece which ended when he broke his jaw running downhill. But there was still plenty of work to be done defending the Empire. Waddy was sent to staff college, followed by time in Egypt and Libya to check the bubbling terrorism, and then went to Malaya in 1952 with his old regiment, the Somerset Light Infantry, for endless patrolling deep in the jungle.

John Waddy cooling off after a day’s shooting in India 1941

Parachute Brigade in Lebanon,

Waddy returned to the Parachute Regiment and next jumped in the Arctic as an instructor with the Canadian air training centre, where he enjoyed going on Arctic exercises.   Becoming    second                in               command    of               16th he spent six months, on an hour’s notice, planning a full

airborne assault on Kuwait airport in case the Iraqis invaded.

Waddy then set up (without permission) the Parachute Regiment Battle School in the Brecon Beacons, which remains in use today.

In late 1964, Waddy was promoted to Colonel and took up a new post as Colonel Commandant of the SAS Regiment, which later evolved into Director SAS. Waddy was an early encumbent of this post and is credited in doing much to develop new roles for the SAS in the post- Colonial war period.

Waddy’s later service included acting as British liaison officer with the Americans in Washington. But he found the latter job so pointless that he had it scrapped and spent a year with the American Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, instead advising on fighting behind enemy lines. This led to him being posted as a defence adviser at the British Embassy in Saigon, in 1970, where his days were filled with the task of going out on helicopter patrols and his evenings with getting home to change for cocktail parties. On returning home in 1972, however, he found the MOD was so concerned about Northern Ireland that his foresight about co-ordinated helicopter operations was ignored for 20 years.

For 15 years, after retiring from the Army in 1974, Waddy worked with Westland Helicopters, advising marketing teams on the nature of future operations.

Colonel John Waddy OBE, photographed at the end of his tour of duty serving as Colonel Commandant of the SAS Regiment.

In 1982 Waddy started leading staff college tours around Arnhem, pointing out the many mistakes in the week-long planning beforehand and then in the execution of the operation. Later he did the same for parties of Dutch and British children.

From the mid-eighties Waddy was instrumental in establishing 156 Battalion reunions each autumn in Melton Mowbray where his battalion was billeted in 1944. Surprisingly, these reunions still flourish today, attended by the families of the veterans, with the numbers more recently increasing year on year.

Waddy was the last surviving member of his battalion to fight at Arnhem. His battalion suffered the highest casualty rate – 75% – with over 100 men killed, Only 37 men, some escaping on Operation Pegasus, would eventually return to their base in Melton Mowbray.    The Battalion was disbanded in October 1944.

In 1999 Waddy wrote the book A Tour of the Arnhem Battlefields and in 2009 he helped immeasurably with the production of the book From Delhi to Arnhem, which covers the history of the 151/156 Parachute Battalion and the wider battle at Arnhem. He declined to have his name included on the cover and it was a mark of the man that he shunned any credit for this work.

Over the years, a mutually strong bond and respect developed between Waddy and the Dutch to such an extent that he was their most well-known and much-loved veteran. He said how much he enjoyed the friendship of the Dutch and how Arnhem was his second home. Waddy took it all in his stride but admitted to being shaken when a female major asked him to sign a copy of his battlefield guide, then kissed him on the cheek.

On 17th June this year John Waddy celebrated his 100th birthday, held outside and attended by Lieutenant General Sir John Lorimer, KCB, DSO, MBE, the Colonel Commandant of the Parachute Regiment and the Dutch Military Attaché Lieutenant Colonel Rob Arts who presented Waddy with The Dutch Liberation Medal.

All this was made possible by Waddy’s super-carer, Colleen De Villiers, as on the day he had refused to participate saying he would lock himself in his room if it went ahead. In the end, with the help of Jane, his niece, Colleen succeeded in persuading him otherwise and the day was saved.

Right up until the end, the Colonel would have his gin and onions at lunchtime, a passion developed in India where the gin was undrinkable. One of his most memorable lines was “… my men are like my spaniels, brilliant in the field but a bloody nuisance out of it!”.


With assistance from David Twiston-Davies, (now deceased)

156 Parachute Battalion Association 29th September 2020

Col. J Waddy’s 151 Bn. parachute flash

   Richard Watt

Colonel John Waddy celebrating his 100th birthday

Written by John O’Reilly Design & Layout by Will Stark www.156para.co.uk

Martijn Reinders schrijft regelmatig voor het Airborne Magazine over conflict archeologie in relatie tot Market Garden. Op 1 oktober heeft Greenhouse zijn boek gepubliceerd over Park Lingezegen.

Park Lingezegen in de frontlinie

Wat nu Park Lingezegen is, was van september 1944 tot het voorjaar van 1945 deel van de frontlinie in de strijd om Nederland. Na het mislukken van operatie Market-Garden volgde de bloedige strijd om de Over-Betuwe. Tot de bevrijding vonden er hevige gevechten plaats tussen de bezetter en de geallieerden. Die strijd heeft zijn sporen in het landschap en de Lees meer

Op zondag 27 september is Colonel (Ret.) John Ll. Waddy OBE, in Trull Taunton, Somerset (U.K.) in de leeftijd van ruim 100 jaar overleden. John Waddy landde op maandag 18 september 1944, op de 2e dag van Operatie Market Garden op de Ginkelse Heide. Hij nam aan de Slag om Arnhem deel als Officer Commanding van de B. Company van het 156ste Parachute Battalion, een eenheid die uiteindelijk na hevige gevechten, waarbij zware verliezen werden geleden, niet verder zou komen, dan het gebied rond de Johanna Hoeve en de Dreijenseweg in Oosterbeek. John Waddy was één van de laatste twee nog in leven zijnde officieren van de Slag om Arnhem. John Waddy heeft in het verleden een groot aantal battlefield tours geleid in het opmars gebied van het 156-ste Para-bataljon tussen de Ginkelse Heide en de Dreijenseweg in Oosterbeek, die een onuitwisbare herinnering zijn, voor hen die daar aan hebben deelgenomen. John Waddy is één van de “Founding Fathers” van The Arnhem 1944 Fellowship en werd in september 2013 benoemd tot Erelid van de Vereniging Vrienden van het Airborne Museum “Hartenstein”. Het Platform Militaire Historie Ede herdenkt met groot respect deze vooraanstaande Britse Airborne-officier en wenst zijn familie en vrienden veel sterkte met dit grote verlies.

John Waddy krijgt de oorkonde overhandigd behorende bij het Erelidmaatschap van de Ver. Vrienden van het Airborne Museum in september 2013. (In de tekst bij de foto staat Lid van Verdienste, maar dit moet zijn Erelid!). Eventueel om helemaal compleet te zijn: Van links naar rechts: Ivar Goedings, Secretaris VVAM, Voorzitter Ben Kolster, Kolonel John Waddy OBE en Wil Rieken, Lid van Verdienste VVAM.


Hiltje van Eck (78), ‘veteranenmoeder’ en goede vriendin van Waddy, memoreert de Brit: “Hij kwam uit een militaire familie en is altijd een militair geweest. Hij was ook zo’n echte ouderwetse gentleman, dat was een prachtige combinatie.”

Link naar bericht op TV-Gelderland: https://www.omroepgelderland.nl/nieuws/2473276/Laatste-Airborne-officier-John-Waddy-100-overleden