About us

At its height over 1100 members worldwide have acknowledged that its veterans were the first Allied forces to land in Europe since the Second World War began. Currently there are now only five branches in the UK, plus one in New Zealand and we have a resident veteran representative in Italy, Mr Harry Shindler, MBE. Harry was awarded the MBE for his services in promoting public awareness of the part our veterans played in the Italian campaigns.

The Association continues now in a much smaller form. It has been active at events throughout each year of its existence. Every May saw its annual reunion weekend in Sussex. The weekend included its Annual General Meeting, then on Sunday a service of remembrance and thanksgiving was held in Chichester cathedral followed by a parade through its city centre. The weekend was rounded off with a special dinner attended by civic and military guests, representing allied forces from as far afield as Poland, Canada and New Zealand. The Association continues as the only one nationally active in events throughout the year.

Each year on 10th July, a service of dedication and remembrance has been held at the Association’s national memorial in Westgate Gardens, Canterbury, Kent. That date specifically commemorates the anniversary of Allied troops landing in Sicily.
Association representatives attend the annual Field of Remembrance service outside Westminster Abbey, as well as the Remembrance Sunday service and parade at the Cenotaph. The Association has also been privileged on several occasions to have been invited to parade its National standard at the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, in the presence of members of the Royal family. This takes place on the evening before the Cenotaph parade.

Members currently receive a quarterly magazine which keeps them informed of the various key events the Association is involved in, as well as trips that are arranged from time to time. The magazine also contains accounts of campaign experiences and recollections from veteran members, in addition to photographs and humorous anecdotes.

There is a sizeable plot within the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire, which was dedicated to the Association in 2001; it is delineated as the outline of Sicily and mainland Italy, and populated throughout with pine trees, amongst which markers pinpoint the many battle sites of the campaign, so familiar to veterans. Overlooking this maturing plot, being re-dedicated in September 2016, is a beautifully engraved polished granite memorial, together with commemorative benches nearby. Together these are visible reminders of the geographical scope and human cost of the Allies’ gargantuan struggle, from Sicily and Salerno to Trieste.

When the Association reaches a point where it is no longer financially viable to continue, our website will continue into the future. We are uploading as much factual history to enable future generations to read the truths behind our veterans’ hard-fought battles and journeys through Italy.

The Association’s epitaph – “Let us remember our comrades in the air, on the seas, in those valleys and on those mountains. When you walk in peaceful lanes so green, remember us and think what might have been” is powerfully emotive for surviving veterans and families. It is very fitting therefore, that we should seek to take the Association forward as far into the future as we can, never forgetting the reasons why we enjoy the freedoms we have today.

38 Comments

  1. Robert Carruthers

    First of all I would like to offer my profound gratitude to those who fought for freedom and democracy in Europe in World War Two. As someone born over 20 years later (1967), I am one of the generations that has benefited from the sacrifices made then.

    However, there is one aspect that saddens and angers me about the liberation of Italy by British troops and those of other nations: namely that the Italians themselves seem to have written it out of their history. Specifically, on Liberation Day (25 April), little or no mention is made on TV or in newspapers of the role of the allies in returning their country to freedom and democracy. Instead, all the credit is given to the Italian resistance movement or partisans.

    This has happened for political reasons: because the right in Italy still harbours many with neo-fascist sympathies and because the left finds the fact that Italy was liberated by the British, US and other allies unpalatable to its basically anglophobic viewpoint. However, as someone who has lived in Italy and come to know its culture and politics, I find it at once both striking and utterly scandalous.

    This apparent lack of recognition has to change and I hope that the veterans of the Italian Campaign are able to be given the prominence in future commemorations of Italy’s liberation that these brave soldiers (and their fallen comrades) deserve.

    Reply
    1. Alison Bailey Castellina

      The reason that Italians are seemingly unaware of the valour of men like my uncle Charles Carroll (Commando in Italy and 10th Royal Berkshies D Company, invasion of Sicily etc KIA in the last ‘push’ at Argenta Gap, April 1945) are not more appreciated for having restored democracy to Italy as a side effect of defending their loved ones from Nazism is: a) the British and Allies bombed and killed about 50,000 civilians in Italy to try to persuade them to bring down the Fascist government and many innocent women and children were killed too which is seen as a war crime and b) the Italians lament the shambles of their own democracy. That having been recognised with humility, when I posted something on my Facebook account about my uncle, many Italians commented that they would love to know more about these men.

      Reply
      1. Frank de Planta

        Alison.

        At what point in the war was your uncle serving in D Coy 10 R BERKS? I ask because I look at them in detail during a battlefield study that I run each year to the Gothic Line.

        I met the D Company Commander when he was alive and noticed that he had a Military Cross so I researched the action in Sep 44 for which he was awarded the medal.

        It would be good to know if your uncle was serving in D Coy at that time.

        Regards

        Frank

        Reply
      2. Davide Benini

        My English is grammatical and I hope that google translator has done a decent job.
        I introduce myself, I’m Davide Benini, I live in Forlì, Italy.
        I was born on August 25, 1945 as an Italian mother and a Scottish Black dad.
        I never heard from Dad, and I still live in his memory.
        I assure you that in my heart I have always been grateful for your sacrifices, especially in human lives, to make us have a better life. It will always be grateful and like me many other people who come to pay homage to the memory of the Coriano war cemetery.
        Now at the threshold of 73 still alive with the image in the thought of my dad David Callaghan. God knows that God does not grant me the grace to allow me to bring a flower to his grave. This is the last wish that remains in my life.
        A virtual hug to all of you.
        Ciccibny@yahoo.it

        Reply
  2. Frank de Planta

    Robert.

    I think that it is important to remember that, especially in the period before the fall of Rome, the Allies considered the Italians to be co-belligerents rather than allies. They were very distrustful of most Italians and were angry about Mussolini’s decision to side with the Germans. We treated the Italians very badly in the early months.

    The difficulty for the Allies was that Italy was a complete economic basket case when the Allies invaded in Sep 43 and they, the Allies were compelled to divert enormous resources to feed and warm the population. Many Italians resented that dependence and the advantages that it gave to Allied interests. Changing the exchange rate on landing to make the Dollar able to buy four times the amount prior to invasion was one such resentment. It was no accident that in 1944, there were 98,000 prostitutes in Naples.

    To cap it all, Churchill in particular, was very reluctant to arm the partisans because most of the better organised bands were Communists.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
  3. Danila Bracaglia

    Dear Robert,
    If I may say my opinion as Italian and WW2 battlefield guide in Italy. I live not far from Cassino, one of the bloodiest battlefields of WW2 in Italy. It is true most of the Italians wanted to forget as did my family. The area were I live was devasted by bombing, not only Cassino but most of the towns along via Casilina, the only direct route from Naples to Rome. Many towns reduced to rubble, 10.000 civilians died. I was born 20 years after and I was not there. My father was 8 years old when his mom died and when its town was bombed over 50 times from sept 1943 to 1945. Finally we were liberated but there was nothing left and the Italians just wanted to forget those terrible years. For Political decision we were caught in the middle of the war. Between two fires is a book written by a local historian. The Italian Campaign was a side show a diversion and even in UK Anzio and Montecassino are just names as the famous song sung by the British Soldiers ..,”We are DDay dodgers fighting in Italy, always on the Vino always on the Spree…” I have a great respect for the Soldiers who liberated my country and in my little I try to tell people what happened here 72 years ago. There is still a lot to learn about the Italian campaign in Italy as in UK.

    Reply
    1. SHIRLEY TEECE

      D-Day dodgers is a bit of a joke. By the time D-Day arrived, the so-called D-Day dodgers like my dad had been in combat zones in North Africa (Tobruk & El Alamein) for 2 years before being shipped off for the invasion of Italy, landing in Salerno and fighting all he way through Italy….Nobody quite knows how term originated at one time if was attributed to Lady Astor a conservative politician of the time. But the war in Italy wasn’t a barrel of laughs.
      An uncle by marriage was very badly wounded at Cassino. he passed away about 20 years ago. He talked about it occasionally and said that he was so badly wounded he was left for dead. He was, however, rescued by a soldier whose uniform he didn’t recognise. He was taken to what he says was a German military hospital and treated for his horrific wounds. He was not taken as POW but somehow released back to British forces.
      It sounds a bit far-fetched but he always said he owed his life to the kindness of a German soldier who took him to hospital and the people there who treated him…
      I have a lot of stories about the war, I was 3 when it started living in London. I was only child, mum and i stayed in London all through the war, we were bombed out several times in air raids. In early 1945 a V2 rocket fell in the next street to us on a direct line to our house. All the windows were blown out and doors blown off, but somehow miraculously we survived. I was 8 then, school was in my road, it closed for a couple of days to replace windows etc. When it opened again it was very sad to see quite a lot of empty desks, children who had died in the V2 rocket. Have written a lot of my childhood memories and lodged them with Imperial War Museum. Last year at 70th anniversary of VE Day, I went to talk to the children at my little primary school on Eburne Road. Children were doing WW2 and they were fascinated by my story. They asked a lot of questions, one little girl (about 8) wanted to know what sort of clothes I had, and where we got them. At my suggestion the teacher had got together a small tray of what would be our monthly food ration. About 3-ounces of sweets per month – never saw a CRISP….Children couldn’t quite take it in that we could survive on such small amounts of food, couple of ounces of tea per week, couple of ounces of butter and cheese, small amounts of meat. Luxuries such as tinned fruit and biscuits were on POINTS. Those were the days, sorry i have digressed from the Italy front. Dad learned quite a bit of Italian during the war, I picked up some of it. He obviously has a good ear for languages which I inherited – I love Italy and go often. I speak Italian fluently with what Italians tell me is a very good accent!!!! Anyway onwards and upwards have been watching parade with a very large lump in my throat and a lot of tears….amazing spirit the British people had led by a wonderful orator of course – Winston Churchill….

      Reply
  4. Danila Bracaglia

    Sorry about typing mistakes written on my cellphone while on the train. I must correct the year my town Frosinone was bombed from 11th september 1943 to May 1944.
    Thanks
    Danila

    Reply
    1. Danila Bracaglia

      If you want to find out more my WWII tours from Salerno to Rome, including Cassino and Anzio, not only WW2 but also Cultural, Historical tours . I can personalize your tours. I am fully licensed Qualified Tour Guide. here is my contact details:
      Dr Danila Bracaglia
      Via Tiburtina, 58
      03100 Frosinone

      Email: danila.bracaglia@gmail.com
      Cell phone: +39 338 2458831

      http://www.montecassinotours.com
      http://www.anziotours.com
      http://www.viaromatour.com

      You are welcome to email me for information.

      Reply
  5. george

    my father sgt George E Usher 6516477 was in the 56th division of royal fusiliers from el alamein to the end of the africa campagne then with the american 5th army at salerno batapaglia. i am 80 now and have done some research ,but i have a few nephews who seem too be taking a very keen interest in what their grandad did. he (grandad was mentioned in despatches) for what we dont know because like all them brave men didnt talk much about what they went through, any information would be passed on to my nephews. thank you

    Reply
    1. Kevin Peters

      My dad William (Bill) PETERS 6481454 was also in the 56th division, 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. He also served in Iraq, El-alamein before Italy where he was badly wounded leading to his later discharge. Like your dad he never said too much about it saying that he was at the back end of the fighting but we have since found out he was wounded 3 and discharged 3 times returning to the fighting on 2 of those occasions. Sadly we lost dad in March this year aged 96 yeaers. We did not know about this association before until I heard about the 75th anniversary in the media. So proud of each and every one of the heroes who gave so much for our future and freedom.

      Reply
      1. Frank de Planta

        Peter.

        If you ever want to see what he got up on the Garigliano crossing on 17 Jan 44 and then at Anzio when the 56 Infantry Division was sent there, do get in touch. If he was in the battalion at the time, their actions on the Gothic Line at Rimini were pretty impressive too.

        Regards

        Frank

        Reply
  6. Chris Anstock

    My father-in-law turned 99 last week. He was one of the D Day Dodgers and fought across Egypt, Italy and into Austria.
    Are there many D Day Dodgers still alive?

    Reply
    1. Frank de Planta

      Chris.

      Would you mind finding out from your father in law which Regiment he served in. It is always good to be able to place someone’s role in the Italian Campaign.

      Regards

      Frank

      Reply
      1. Christopher Anstock

        Hello Frank, sorry I am so late in replying.
        My father in law, David Gordon Allan, was in 172 Field Regiment. He was deployed from North Africa in September 1943, to the west of Portecagnano? Thereafter moved to Pastina, Vietri, Cava del Terrini and on to Naples.
        He was a radio operator and accompanied an officer on forward recce pattols.
        I have more info if you are interested.

        Reply
        1. Frank de Planta

          Christopher.

          172 Fd Regt RA supported 46 Infantry Division at the Salerno landings on 9 Sep 44 and stayed with them for the rest of the war. 46 Infantry Division landed as part of X Corps and slowly pushed up Italy until they reached the outer edges of the Gustav Line at Cassino in Jan 44.

          Exhausted by this period, they were withdrawn but reinserted for the massive attack on the Gothic Line in Aug-Sep 44.

          It sounds like he was in an Artillery Tactical Group – the bunch of gunners, led by a Capt, who controlled the guns and directed them as required by the Infantry. They advanced with the Infantry and called in the fire from their guns to support those advances. Brave men indeed.

          I am on the Gothic Line with a group in Sep 19 so if you want to see what he endured, do get in touch.

          Regards

          Frank

          Frank de Planta
          Guide
          http://www.cassinibattlefields.co.uk

          Reply
  7. peter emery

    Last Sunday was the 75th Anniversary of the Allied Landings at Salerno> I was there to pay may respects to the comrades of my late father who landed with 2nd Hampshire’s. Having served with the Royal Hampshire Regiment myself and latterly the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment(Queen’s and Royal Hampshire’s ) I was joined by group of serving officers and SNCO’s from 1 PWRR currently serving in Paterborn in Germany. We celebrated the 26th Anniversary of the our formation on 9 Sep 1992 which is now the Regimental Day as at Salerno two of the assault Bdes were from our forbear Regiments. (128 Hampshire Bde and 169 Queens Bde). It was a very emotional weekend and it was great to know that the Italians still commemorate the Landings every year withy a small ceremony on Uncle Red Beach (which was renamed “Hampshire Beach” this year. A wreath was placed in the sea followed by a wreath laying ceremony for those who died “Hampshire Lane” followed by a further ceremony at the CWGC Cemetery. Later at sunset a British ceremony which I arranged was held at the CWGC Cemetery in which the first wreath laid was on behalf of the Italy Star Association followed by wreaths on behalf of the RN. RM , Commandos, RA , Coldm Guards, PWRR , RRF, R ANGLIAN, MERCIAN,RIFLES, RE, RLC and RAF. Wreaths were also laid for the US forces “our brothers in Arms” and for the innocent men woman and children of Campania who suffered alongside our forebears.

    The Italians have not forgotten!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hVvtfYbiyA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G4X_VpjfvM

    Reply
  8. Frank de Planta

    Peter.

    I am delighted that after all your hard work, the PWRR/Royal Hampshire Regiment Salerno commemoration paid off. Both videos were very good indeed.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
  9. Christopher Hall

    Hi all. So interesting to read all the comments left here. My Grandfather passed away 4 years ago aged 95. He was a medic during the Italian Campaign for which he received the Italian Star. I listened to his stories growing up but to my eternal shame Ive only just started to take a meaningful interest in the bigger picture that was the Italian Campaign. He served with the 3rd Hussars I believe in the ambulance division.. could anyone give directions towards more information on their activities and missions? Thanks in advance. Kind regards. Chris. Krisjhall@ hotmail .com

    Reply
  10. Jan Radley

    Good morning I just saw The Italian Star group at the Cenetaph I didn’t know it existed.My Dad Ken Porter served in the 8th Army through the desert and on to Italy. He loved Italy and learnt to speak Italian fluently from an Italian pow they picked up in the desert and who was with them for 3 months.
    Dad said they used ‘ducks’ to sail down the Venice canals. He fought through Italy and ended up in Naples. Where he stayed at the end of the war working with his unit.
    He was away from the UK for 7 years!
    His love for Italy took us there every year for holidays and he taught his grandsons to speak the language. He died 3 years ago.

    Reply
  11. Jillian Nightingale

    My father was in the signals and I’ve got his war records but they are very vague as to where or what he did in Italy how can I find out more ?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Anstock

      Hello Jillian, I have just posted a comment about my father in law David Gordon Allan, who was also a signaller. I wonder if they ever met? May I ask you what your father’s name was?

      Reply
  12. Frank de Planta

    Jillian.

    Get hold of me through my website http://www.cassinobattlefields.co.uk and I will happily have a look at your father’s war records and see if we can work out exactly what units he was in and whereabouts in Italy he went.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
    1. Jillian

      Hi , I think I have made contact could you confirm ?

      Reply
  13. Frank de Planta

    Christopher.

    Your grandfather served with 3rd Hussars who were part of 9 Armoured Brigade who were ‘independent’ – they did not come under command of an Armoured Division. An Armoured Division would normally have two or three Armoured Brigades under commands. Because 9 Armoured Brigade was independent, it tended to be loaned to Infantry Divisions in order to get them some punch. Whilsty in Italy, the Sherman tanks of 9 Armoured Brigade supported, at various times, 78 British Infantry Division, 4 Indian Infantry Division and 8 Indian Infantry Division.

    If he was a medic then that was his role within 3rd Hussars. The medics had their own unit owned ambulances but this is not to be confused with Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps.

    The 3rd Hussar medic and their ambulances collected injured tank crew from the battlefield, patched them up as best they could to reduce the trauma, and took them back to the Regimental Aid Post. If the young Doctor thought that the soldier would live, he would hand them to the Field Ambulance boys who would drive the casualty further back to a Dressing Station where experts would operate to try and save the chap’s life. If the chap survived surgery, he would be pushed further back.

    To really dig into where 3rd Huissars were and what they got up to, you need to get hold of their War Diaries. Track me down at http://www.cassinobattlefields.co.uk and I will point you at people who can sort this for you.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
    1. Christopher Hall

      Thank you Frank!

      Reply
  14. Jillian Nightingale

    Hi, Thank you for your reply I don’t seem to be able to contact you only though here I’m not the best on internet , my father’s name was Samuel Jackson and his number was 2369569 and he was in The Royal Signals but I don’t know if he was just passing through Italy or was posted there as I say his records are very vague also his Africa posting does not really say anything . But he was in receipt of both medals .Thank you for any help

    Reply
  15. Frank de Planta

    Jillian.

    If your father was awarded The Italy Star then it is because he spent more that 28 consecutive days in that theatre of war. I suspect that he was not just passing through.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
  16. Kim

    Just learnt my grandfather was awarded the Italy star, was wondering how to find out more about him?

    Reply
  17. Frank de Planta

    Kim.

    You need to go to the gov.uk website and type in Service Record. This will tell you how to get a copy of your grandfather’s Service Record. It is a complete record of all the places that he went to and whom he served with during his time in the Armed Forces.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
    1. Kim

      Thanks Frank 😊 I’m an APO with the sea cadets and my kids are Royal Marine Cadets, so we can’t wait to find out all about him. Unfortunately he dird before I was born, so couldn’t find out anything from him.

      Reply
  18. Alan McKenna

    My late father, James McKenna, served in the western desert as a REME driver.
    The ship he was on at rbs invasion of Sicily was bombed and sun.
    Although a non swimmer he spent time in the water and was injured whilst being picked up by a boat.
    I think he then was treated in a casualty clearing station on Sicily.

    He went on to serve in Normandy, imcluding Villers Bocage, until eventual demob.

    Reply
  19. Alan McKenna

    EDIT Corrections:-
    “The ship he was on at the Sicily invasion was bombed and sunk by aircraft “.

    Reply
  20. Francis Graves

    My father served with 6th York and Lancs and landed with 46Division at Salerno. I traced as much of his route as poss on a visit in 2017, via Vietri, Dragonea, Pompeii to Naples. Also paid respects at the Allied cemetery at Salerno. Next trip hope to trace his route via Cassino north.

    Reply
  21. Frank de Planta

    Francis.

    46 Inf Div’s next big task after Salerno was the crossing of the Volturno which was pretty grim. From there, they were involved in the Second Battle of Camino in Dec 43 and the First Battle of Monte Cassino although that only applied to 128 Inf Bde.

    After that, once X (BR) Corps had got across the Garigliano in the First Battle of Cassino, they spent a gruelling few months in the high mountains to the left of Cassino – more grim conditions. They were then withdrawn for rest and refit and did not appear in Italy again until the attack on the Gothic Line in Sep 44.

    At the Gothic Line, they endured some horrors.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
  22. Ann McGrath

    My Dad, Corporal Thomas Dodd
    served in the 8th Army, with the Cheshire Regiment. He was in North Africa and has the Africa Star. He was with the Allies who landed at Salerno. Again, he was with the landings at Anzio, ending the war in Yugoslavia. I’ve just returned from the 75th Anniversary of the Italian Campaign at Cassino, following in Dad’s footsteps. I’ve learned so much of what happened, visiting the Rapido River and almost at the site of Amazon Bridge (the site itself is on private land). Visited many CWGC’s, so beautifully maintained by local people. Won’t do a battlefield tour again, very tiring. Just been looking at his medals, which includes the Italy Star.

    Reply
  23. Andrew Hillman

    My father was a motor mech on LCTs during the Sicily landings,and the
    north African campaign,he was blown up but survived when the ammunition
    ship blew up in Barrie Harbour,it blew his clothes off,but left him
    unharmed,he trained for the landings with the americans in Scotland,

    Reply
  24. jeff osborne

    Hello all,

    I’m looking for books to read on the Primasole Bridge action by the paras.
    My great uncle, from 1 Para, took part in the operation and got to the bridge. He later wrote to my granddad about his exploits. As a youth I sent the letter to the Battle magazine and they published it in their yearly annual in 1983. Here is a copy of the letter as published by battle:
    29. 7. 43. 6461257. H.Q. Coy. A/T. L/Cpl. Osborne, A. 1st Parachute Battalion. A.A.C. B.N.A.F.
    Dear Bill, We have had permission from General Montgomery himself, that at this date or any time after, we can write of our adventures in North Africa and in Sicily. You can guess that we have had plenty to do in N. Africa. It is a very long story, more than I would attempt to write about, but you would have read most of it in the newspapers, so I will make it brief.
    The paratroopers are the only troops who can honestly say they fought on every front in North Africa, and have the record of killing and capturing more Germans than any other troops in that campaign. After the campaign, we were personally inspected and congratulated for our work by Montgomery-Eisenhower-Anderson-Alexander and a letter came from the King, and all addressed us as ‘Red Devils’, a nickname given to us by the Germans.
    Now for Sicily. Two weeks before the invasion of Sicily, we were told to get ourselves ready for a job. For a fortnight we worked hard, and each man was given his orders just what to do. They wanted no mistakes on this job, it meant so much to a speedy ending.
    The morning of the job we got ready, every man fit and keen. We made up little bundles of our personal belongings and attached a little note – “If I fail to return please forward this to my mother.” These were left behind in our kit bags. Time came when we had to part camp for the airfield. Men who couldn’t go, owing to being wounded in other actions, wished us luck.
    We got to the airfield where we met our crew, and we got the information from the pilot just what he was going to do on the final run-in. Then we got the last boost up by our commander. “Men, you know your jobs and just what you are expected to do. At all costs it will be done. Don’t let anything get in your way. Whatever you encounter you know just how to deal with it. The enemy have seen you in North Africa. He knows you, doesn’t like you, and will do all he can to stop you, but he will not. That is all, gentlemen. Good luck, God’s speed and a safe return.”
    It was 8 p.m. and at 8.30 p.m., we were due to start, and scheduled to arrive in Sicily, behind enemy lines, at 10.30 p.m. So we all assembled and wished each other luck. The 8th Army was to relieve us after 12 hours, although we weren’t worrying about that part, because we could depend on the 8th Army. After a time flying, we saw Malta, “Not far to go, lads. Hook up, forty minutes to go.”
    Just as we approached the cost of Sicily, we got keyed up for a hot reception from enemy flak. We got it okay, more than we expected. Flashes came from all over the place, it was terrifying.
    During this time our aircraft was hit. The port side engine choked up and stopped. From then on the aircraft was bumping, swaying, diving and climbing to dodge the flak. We were tossed from one side of the plane to the other. We knew that any second it would be time for us to jump, so we scrambled to the door the best way we could, and to look down at that sight was no joke. Then on came the Red light (“Action Stations”), in a second on came the Green light (“Go”) and out we went. It was just like jumping into an inferno, the countryside for miles was ablaze, tracer bullets were coming up at us from enemy machine-guns on the ground.
    Floating down by parachute, thinking any time I would be dead before I touched down, it seemed weeks before I hit the deck. Actually, it was only a matter of seconds. It does not take long to get down from a 300 foot drop, but it was terrifying. Then I gave a sigh of relief when I hit the deck. It took me several seconds to pull myself together as I had a rough landing. Then I went to find my detachment, two men.
    I wasn’t sure of my position, but I went forward about 200 yards, took a look round, but couldn’t see anything, but could hear enemy voices. I didn’t fancy that at all, as I had no weapons, just two hand grenades and a fighting knife, but I scrambled through the bush under cover of darkness to my original position and tried another way.
    Then I saw a parachute hanging over the telegraph wires. I stopped and a quivering uncertain voice came from a bush, “Who’s that?” I gave the password. It was one of my men, and he had a hand grenade ready to throw at me if I had been one of the enemy, because he was as scared as I was. We had another look round, and we still could hear enemy voices, even nearer and more of them. Then I looked for some nice cover and said, “Let’s go. It’s dangerous hanging around near parachutes.” So, we went to find the last man. He wasn’t far away, but slightly hurt from a bad landing, although it wasn’t much.
    We still had to get to our containers for our weapons, because until we got our weapons, we couldn’t defend ourselves. My heart went down in my boots as the parachute of the container failed to open and crashed to the ground. The weapons were absolutely unserviceable. All this time we could still hear enemy voices quite near and bullets were flying all over the place, you can guess what we felt like. From the time we jumped from the plane all this happened in 15 minutes. We then made for the objective, a bridge about 1000 yards away, and on our way we came across a reserve supply of weapons, so we soon armed ourselves with one Bren gun and two rifles. We got about 200 yards from the bridge, then the attack started and we let fly with all we had. A small tank, followed by an armoured car and a truck loaded with ammo of the enemy, came down the road.
    There was a Section on my left, and it didn’t take them long to put them out of action. One of the lads fired a paratroop anti-tank gun at the tank, and two cannon [Gammon] bombs were thrown at the other two vehicles. These are deadly weapons and smashed them to bits, killing all the drivers. The taking of the bridge only took us half-an-hour, but it was stiff fighting, as it was well fortified. We took the bridge over and got in position for a counter-attack, because he always came back for more. There were some awful sights on the bridge, mostly enemy, although we didn’t worry about that. Our biggest worry was holding the bridge, that is always the hardest part. So, I said, “Right, lads, get yourselves ready, for the hardest part is coming, holding the bridge, as he’s sure to come back, and when he does, he comes back with plenty.”
    We didn’t know it at the time, but he dropped paratroops of his own near the bridge, with the idea of giving us a surprise attack first thing in the morning, but we were prepared for anything. At first light next morning, he came out of his hiding place and again the fireworks started. But, fortunately he walked slap-bang into a trap, so it didn’t last long, and they were slaughtered. This was not the end though, as he was sure to come again, and we were all by ourselves. The 8th Army was still pushing inwards towards us from the coast, but we didn’t expect as much opposition as we got.
    Paratroops have no transport and can only take as much ammunition as a man can carry. Too many of these attacks and we would have been out of ammo. Then the order came, “If he comes again, hold on to your ammo”. It was nice and quiet for some hours, so we settled down waiting for him to come back, for he meant to get that bridge or blow it up. On the bridge there was a long-range gun of the enemy, and I was asked to man it with my two men, so we did so.
    We were in position with this gun for about half-an-hour, when our officer saw German lorries loaded up with infantry. We loaded up the gun and let them have four shells and it shook them up, and forced them to get off the lorries, so of course they had to come to us by foot. The gun wasn’t much further use, so I returned back with my men to my original position, a pillbox. I took a Bren gun and my two men had rifles. Just before this we got contact by radio, with the leading troops of the 8th Army. They were still ten miles away. We knew then that we had to hold on much longer, because this wasn’t the news we expected. It was bad, as our ammo was almost finished, but we had to do our best. The enemy came closer and closer until he was at a nice range for us to fire, so away we blazed again. We had met these birds before in North Africa, Storm Troops, Herman Goering Regiment. They did their best to get through, but we knocked them off like flies. But the Germans poured on a heavy attack then, forcing us to withdraw.
    Still in danger, fired on by small isolated machine-guns, we eventually got to a deep ditch and stayed the night there. Next morning, we moved on, got to a road and met some men of the 8th Army! They told us the good news that the 8th Army had pushed on through the night, the bridge was okay and still ours! Later, General Montgomery visited the 1st Parachute Battalion and thanked us, saying, “You have done your bit only too well!”
    BATTLE gives its grateful thanks to the Osborne family for helping to compile this article.
    Source:
    Reproduced in BATTLE Annual 1983, supplied by Bob Hilton.

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