Dominic Winters Auction 30 july
An ‘Arnhem’ group of six attributed to Private R.S. Edwards, 21 Platoon, 2nd Bn, South Staffordshire Regiment 1939-1945 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, France & Germany Star, Defence and War Medals, extremely fine, presented in a frame with medal enclosure inscribed to the recipient, Parachute regiment badge with king’s crown, South Staffordshire Regiment cap badge, various related insignia and Airborne march medal and enamelled badges, framed and glazed, frame size 31.5 x 55cm, together with a pocket diary kept by Edwards for 1944, inscribed in pencil with entries on the repeated cancellation of Operation Market Garden, for example 15 September ‘Operations!!! flew to Arnhem Holland shot up on landing platoon commander wounded, two killed’, 20 September ‘mortars all around us like rain, wounded in right leg’, 21 September ‘lose bridges, retreat from Arnhem to Oosterbeek, very heavy losses have only pistol 8 four rounds left, house to house fighting’, 24 September ‘am taken prisoner, feel very humiliated, a glorious scrap and it had to end like this, try to get away but am nearly shot’, also included copied photographs of the recipient and family, two books, A Bridge too Far by Cornelius Ryan which features Edwards on p337, 338, 351, 443, 444, By Land, Sea and Air, Illustrated History of the 2nd Battalion, The South Staffordshire Regiment 1940 1945 by Alexander Junier and Bart Smulders with Jaap Korsloot, Edwards is mentioned numerous times in this book with illustrations 5118991 Private Robert C.S. Edwards was born in Birmingham in 1923, he served during WWII with 21 Platoon “D” Company, 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment. On 10 October 1941 the 2nd Bn became part of the newly formed 1st Airlanding Brigade as part of the 1st Airborne Division. After completing training the embarked for North Africa and became part of the Attacking Force, under American control that planned to land on Sicily on 6 July 1943. The glider towing aircraft piloted by the Americans had no experience of night flying, so the Force became widespread and as they neared Sicily the enemy opened fire, which unnerved the Americans who released the gliders prematurely over the sea. Private Edwards glider ditched into the sea and he was rescued some hours later. Of the 48 Officers and 768 men of the 2nd Bn who set out in gliders only 19 Officers and 269 returned.
On 7th September 1944 the 1st Airborne took part in Operation Market Garden with the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. The Americans would drop around Eidoven and secure the roads near Nijemgen and the 1st Airborne would capture the Bridge at Arnhem (64 miles behind enemy lines). Once the bridges over the Rhine were secured the ground troops would have a pathway into Germany. The 2nd Bn South Staffordshire Regiment were engaged by the enemy almost as soon as the gliders landed and had nine casualties. They regrouped and proceeded to Arnhem / Oosterbeek coming under heavy machine gun fire and grenades all the way to Arnhem.
On 19 September 1944 a meeting was held at the South Staffordshire Bn Field HQ and orders were given for the South Staffords to withdraw (if they weren’t already dead). It was thought that the men were still on the bridge and orders were given to either reinforce or relieve the trapped Paratroopers at all costs. “D” Company advanced with 11th Para on their flank to give them covering fire. Edwards states “Orders were to get through, on no account be held up until we had joined 2 Para on the Bridge”, “When we came near the St. Elizabeth Hospital all hell broke loose, we were in the open and like targets in a shooting gallery. Capt Wyss ran up and down shouting ‘On On On’ like a harrier, stumbling over the dead and dying, slithering in pools of blood, until I reached partial shelter by some buildings”. The Germans shelled the houses and set fire to them so protection was continually diminished. Then German tanks appeared and they started using Anti-Aircraft Artillery to make it even worse. The 3rd and 1st Paras suffered heavy losses and had to withdraw leaving the Staffords on their own and exposed on all sides. Edwards states “Opposition was terrific now, we were subject to the heaviest shelling and mortaring imaginable, also
Tanks attacked us, we had no officer left so a Sergeant, his boots squelching blood, have the order to get out and join the first organised Unit we came to”.
When the Staffords pulled back they had to leave the wounded in the cellars to be taken prisoner by the Germans later. The troops were now being blown out of the ground by point blank range of 88mm fire from German Tanks. A German vehicle with loudspeaker came up “Come out you South Staffords, you are surrounded and there is no way out, come to the door with your hands up above your heads”. The South Staffords carried on, some were captured some escaped and fell back to Oosterbeek. 375 men were left of the 2nd Bn, every morning Germans put up an intense mortar barrage.
At Oosterbeek the Brigade HQ had moved to a laundry building, and on 22 September it was bombed and a store of ammunition exploded. Ammunition was now practically non-existent and soldiers were using German small arms picked up from dead Germans.
On 25 September another heavy Artillery barrage by the Germans and this time Tiger Tanks were used, The South Staffords were overrun and many surrendered. Orders were issued to pull back the remnants over the Rhine during the night. Boats were sent to pick them up under heavy machine gun fire and several were sunk. Some of the men stripped and tried to swim across the river but were taken prisoner.
Edwards was taken prisoner in Oosterbeek towards the end of the battle and interned in Stalag Xib. Private Edwards was interviewed by Cornelius Ryan for his book A Bridge too Far (copy of the book is included in the lot).
https://dominicwinter.blob.core.windows.net/catalogue-pdf/DW30July20_HR.pdf – voor een bod: £1,000 – £1,500