|British Paratroopers at Arnhem, September 1944, with German|
tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday I did a little search on the internet and found the following which refers specifically to the 11th Battalion Parachute Regiment, in which Kenneth served, at the time of his death. I thought it might be appropriate to publish it here. Army records give Kenneth's age at the time of his death as twenty - he was actually only eighteen.
"When the battalion landed outside Arnhem on 18 September they were detached from the brigade and sent to reinforce the 1st Parachute Battalion and the 2nd South Staffordshire Regiment, trying to fight through to the 2nd Parachute Battalion which had captured the northern end of the Arnhem road bridge. The two battalions were located in the town about 1,100 yards (1,000 m) short of the bridge. They were just about to start another attempt to break through to the 2nd Parachute Battalion. With no appreciation of the ground the 11th Battalion was held in reserve playing no part in the attack. Under heavy fire the attempt stalled and to relieve the pressure on the assaulting troops, the 11th Battalion was asked to carry out a left flanking attack on the German positions. Orders were being issued for the assault, when the divisional commander Major General Roy Urquhart personally intervened, forbidding the battalion to take part in what he now considered a futile attack. The 2nd South Staffords had been decimated with only their 'C' Company surviving as a unit. The 1st Parachute Battalion were in an even worse state and only numbered about 40 men.
The battalion was gradually worn down withdrawing through the city and casualties mounted. A move to gain some high ground to the north was discovered and the battalion was caught in the open and decimated, with only around 150 men left. One of the casualties being the commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel George Lea. The second in command Major Richard Lonsdale now took command of the battalion and the remnants of the 1st, 3rd Parachute and 2nd South Staffords battalions. Forming them into an ad-hoc force which became known as Lonsdale Force.They were withdrawn to Oosterbeek where the division was forming a defensive perimeter, digging in on the south eastern side with their right flank on the river. Lonsdale addressed the men before the Germans arrived;
You know as well as I do there are a lot of bloody Germans coming at us. Well, all we can do is to stay here and hang on in the hope that somebody catches us up. We must fight for our lives and stick together. We've fought the Germans before — in North Africa, Sicily, Italy. They weren't good enough for us then, and they're bloody well not good enough for us now. They're up against the finest soldiers in the world. An hour from now you will take up defensive positions north of the road outside. Make certain you dig in well and that your weapons and ammo are in good order. We are getting short of ammo, so when you shoot you shoot to kill. Good luck to you all.
The defenders were involved in a number of desperate actions, and hand to hand fighting keeping the Germans out of the divisions perimeter. One of the men Lance-Sergeant John Baskeyfieldof the South Staffords anti-tank platoon, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. By the 21 September pressure from the German attacks had squeezed the perimeter to less than 1,000 yards (910 m) across.
On the 22 September the bulk of the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade were dropped south of the river. This drew off some of the Germans from around the divisional perimeter to confront the new threat. The defenders now had to cope with over 100 German artillery guns firing onto their positions.
On 24 September the decision was made by Lieutenant-General Horrocks commander XXX Corps to withdraw what was left of the division south of the Rhine. On the morning of the 25 September units of the 9th SS Panzer Division attacked the battalion in force, attempting to cut the division off from the river. The initial attack was stopped by bayonets and hand grenades. Following attacks were driven off by direct fire from the guns of the 1st Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery and the 64h Medium regiment, XXX Corps dropping their shells on the battalions positions. The remnants of the battalion were evacuated over the night of 25/26 September. The casualties sustained by the battalion were never replaced and it was disbanded after the battle of Arnhem."
Reprinted from Wikipedia.
Reprinted from Wikipedia.