OC 1st Airlanding Light Regiment
Lt-Col W.F.K.Thompson in Cairo 1945
(P. Reinders)

1st Airlanding Light Regiment RA

 

Unit No.42

 

17 September 1944: 3 Bty took off from Fairford areadrome, one glider failed to take off (TGF). replaced by plane which took off very shortly after. 1 Bty took off from airfields at Manston being towed by Alblemarle a/c, Blakehill Farm being towed by Dakota a/c, Down Ampney being towed by Dakota a/c and Keevil by Stirlings.  All btys less 1 landed on LZ. Lt Staddon landed in England and the other in which S/Sgt Leaves landed about 4 miles away near the town of Renkum, the later arrived in the Bty position late in the afternoon having run into & succesfully dealth with, a little resistance on route. Captain Walker was the first officer at the check point and leaving Bdr Buckley there to check the Bty in ,began to select an Bty position, but handed it over to Lt Meikle and Lt Fogarty who arrived shortly.

13.15hrs After the arrival of most of the Bty, Major Norman Walker sent Capt Lee to contact the Border Regt at Renkum, and Capt Walker to A.Coy KOSB at Planken Wambuis and he himself went to HQ 1st Airlanding Bde, by 15.00hrs the battery was dug in.

13.45hrs 3 Bty landed shortly after 1 Bty on same LZ area, with 3 gliders missing, F7 force landed in England, TGF (Bdr Hampton) crash landed in Holland, belived no suvivors, and F1 (Sgt Healy) came down safely in Holland.

15.00hrs 3 Bty collected in assembly area and a position of all round defence taken. G parties and B.C. moved off to recce first position, after moving about 1/2 mile they were engaged by enemy MG fire from a wood, they replied to and G Party disengaged and brough the Bty in action at the assembly area beside 1 Bty.

16.30hrs The local defence around 3 Bty postion was completed by the South Staffs to the North, the Glider pilots to the East, 9th Coy RE to the S.E., wagon lines to the South, and 1 Bty to the West.

17.00hrs Lt Moore took a party into the lunatic Asylum to examine some new 105mm guns which were being stored there. He found one booby trapped, and left them as it looked unlikely that they could be used. Captain Walker was ordered to join B. Coy KOSB on the edge of the DZ of 4th Para Bde, due to arrive at 09.00hrs tomorrow was embarrased by 3 Germans who gave themselves up. Lt Halliday took the first shoot against a hotel in Wolfheze alleged to contain 150 Germans, just as it was getting dusk 2 salvoes of a Moaning Minnie multipile barrelled mortar landed just North of 3rd Bty position.

18.00hrs  CO "kicking" because there were two targets to fire on, he said he might just as well have come on the next day!. Sporadic small arms fire troughout afternoon and evening. Enemy reported to be in Hotel at Wolfheze, 1/2 mile to the east .

18.30hrs OP parties (Capt Griffiths and Lt Driver with vehicles) moved to join 3x 1 Para Bde.

General quiet night.

 

18 September 1944: 05.00hrs 3 Bty made preparations to move up to support 1 Para Bde in area of Arnhem Bridge

10.00hrs 3 Bty in action beside Oosterbeek church. The CO, Captain Harrison and Lt Driver carried out some shooting for 1 Para Bn, chiefly on mortar postions on the douth side of the river. Capt Griffiths made an early start to get through to 2 Para Bn, a large number were separated from the main body, and Capt Griffiths has presumed to have been with them since he had left R.F. In the afternoon Lt Driver joined up with R.F. who took command. Capt Lee of 1st Battery with B.Coy Borders was cut off but they managed to fight their way out with the loss of a trailer. 20 FWs straffed LZ, but did not apparently see the Battery positions. Captain Walker with the K.O.S.B was able to do some observed shooting on mortars on the edge of 4th Para Brigade DZ. (4th Para Bde arrived at 15.00hrs). Lt Halliday at Battalion HQ turned his party into infantry and assisted in a succesful counter-attack.

14.00hrs Capt Harrison wounded by a German who shot back!

17.00hrs The 2nd lift arrived with 2 Bty and RHQ, RHQ arrived complete and send up a temporary HQ in 1 Bty area. 2 Bty landed less 1 gun, 1 ammo glider and took up postions in a scrubby area, beside 1 Bty. 3 Bty engaged various targets in the area south of main bridge, later Lt Driver having done some more shooting disappeared with his set with 1 para Bn by Captain Caird (1st F.O.U.) 1 and 2 Bty toop up new position, North of main route into arnhem, the night was very noisy otherwise uneventful.

22.00hrs11 Para of 4th Para Bde passed through oosterbeek on their way to bridge.

Night 3 Bty had a patrol of 10 men out about 200yards towards the river bank but all they reported was that they were frozen during the night.

 

19 September 1944: 07.00hrs the area was again straffed by FW 190's, but again the gun area  was undetected. 1 Bty GPO Lt Meikle and Captain Barron had a hetic time engaging targets all around the clock. The aircrew of a Stirling shot down made there way trough the german lines to 1 Bty area, where they quickly learnt how to dig a slit trench.

3 Bty engaged numerous targets in the bridge area, 1 and 3 Para Bn met heavy resistance as SW approaches to Arnhem, at one stage they were within 1/2 mile of 2 Para Bn, and some of them got through.

10.00hrs 4th Para Bde attack went in about 10.00hrs Capt Caird was with 156 Para Bn who were given the role of attacking and seizng the Koepel, but before this could be launched it was essential to seize the high wooded area around Lichtenbeek the Bn entered the wood and endeavoured to move eastwards through it, the Bn was continuously and repeatedly engaged by SP guns and tanks, which moved in front of the woods and by 14.00hrs the Bn had advanced 600 yards with 50% casualties, when it was decided to withdraw, the Bde to the Wolfheze area and after a very confused, withdrawal in which no targets were engaged, BC 2 Bty Capt Chard and Lt Halliday returned to main Div area.

In the meantime Capt Taylor was with 11 Para Bn who were suprised by a number of tanks, which suddenly appeared in the streets. Considerable confushion ensured but Capt Taylor brought a 6 pdr A/T gun into action and scored a direct hit with his first round. He subsequently stalked another enemy tank with this gun and got a hit.

13.00hrs Dutch underground reported 100 tanks approaching Arnhem from the NE, fortunately they did not materialize, it was decided to form Regt position in 3 Bty area and advance parties moved about 14.00hrs. 3 Bty received considerable, information through Dutch Resistance, including reports of enemy concentrations at Renkum, news of 2nd army reaching Nijmegen. During the morning there were many conflicting reports of enemy concentrations round the area. 11 and 3 Para Bn were heavily counter attacked and fallback into 3 Bty area, they were stopped by Col Thompson and Major Croot (Glider pilot) and reorganized into a composite force called the Thompson Force.

18.30 RHQ, 1 and 2 Bty moved into 3 Bty area it was somewhat panic movement as it was reported that enemy infantry were infiltrating into the Battery area and we moved earlier then necessary. Several "M" targets were engaged during the night, mainly in the airlanding Bde area in the N.W.

 

20 September 1944: Heavy mortaring of the Regimental area during the morning. "M" targets were fired on numerous ocassions.

11.00hrs  3 Battery CP recieved a direct hit from 15cm, but they all escaped, being well dug in. 1 Battery had a particularly rough time during the day and had a direct hit on their CP.

18.00hrs Capt Walker fired several Mike targets  unobserved as normal shoots, as the infantry liked to hear our shells, quiet night.

 

21 September 1944: Regimental area again heavily mortared, increasing as the morning went on.

11.00hrs Lt Halliday was killed in a local OP whilst engaging a tank.

12.00hrs Div Commander and C.R.A visited the gun area during a particularly unpleasant hate. A Troop CP was engaged by an SP and 1 Bty, generally engaged enemy infantry infiltrating into houses overlooking their area.

15.00hrs B Troop were attacked by tanks when Lt Meikle in a local OP was killed.

16.00hrs B.Troop was being continously attacked and Lt Fogarty was wounded and several other casualties were sustained. Owing to these casualties Lt Leitch and Capt Taylor took over at B Troop and numerous 2 Battery personnel were drafted to B. Troop to make up gun detachments. Wireless communication within 1 Battery broke down and lines were continuously being cut, owing to the heavy mortarting. Major Cain of the S.Staffs and Sergeant Daly got up close to an enemy tank and after an unfiar duel knocked the tank out.  Enemy had also infiltrated into the woods in 2 Battery area and considerable sniping was going on, 2 battery sustained casualties. Lt-Col Thompson was wounded during the day and the force was taken over by Major Lonsdale.

Capt Harrison and patrol went out to capture Gas works, east of B Troop position. Capt Harrsion and a MG post engaged in a battleof within 20 yards range. Capt Harrison won on points (he lay quiet for 20 minutes) feaking to be dead and then made a dash for it.

18.15hrs Capt Whimster began sothing Medium guns of 30 corps. Bad light stopped observation.

20.00hrs Polish liaison officer swam across the Rhine to contact his brigade which had dropped in the afternoon, he started from 3 Battery CP.

 

22 September 1944: Continual mortarting throughout the day in the Regimental gun area.  The Corps artillery were now well within range and were fired by Major Linton,Capt Lee and others throughout the day. Owing to the number of Officer casualties in 1 Battery it was split up between 2 and 3 Batteries. OPs being reduced but all guns still being kept in action. Major Norman-Walker was killed during the afternoon at Airlanding Brigade HQ. 2 Battery gun area was subjected to tank attacks during the afternoon and one tank was knocked out by Major Croot (Glider pilot) who had a party out tank hunting.

17.00hrs The church was heavily shelled by 88mm and Capt Whimster noticed enemy ranging on to South bank of river in area were Poles had landed.

 

23 September 1944: Heavy mortarting of the Regimental area as usual and tank attacks on 1 Battery gun area in particular. Tank attacks were also reported on 2 Battery area and the activity of snipers also increased in that area. Capt Taylor took over command of 3 Battery to replace Major Norman-Walker. During the night the gun area was heavily shelled and sveral houses in the area were set alight. One gun of  E troop was knocked out by shelling from SP gun. 20 guns of the regiment now in action (21 landed) Corps artillery was being fired throughout the day with at least good morale effect for our own infantry.

 

24 September 1944:  Normal mortaring and shelling of gun area. More and more casualties being incurred. Infantry and tank attacks continued and snipers were by now in most of the surrounding houses, which were engaged with H.E. with good effect. Lt Barron, who had been out with the Borders for 2 or 3 days endeavoured to get back to his battery, but was ambushed and wounded by a stick grenade but got away. 2 SP guns kept firing most of the day into 1 Battery gun area and knocked down most of the surrounding houses still occupied by our own troops. The whole area now being heavily sniped. Corps artillery were now doing nearly all the shooting as we could not now shoot down to the ranges at which the enemy were, except over open sights. Most of the Regimental M.T was by now unserviceable and rations were conspicous by their absence and ammunition was very scarce, the situation at the end of the day was becoming critical.

 

25 September 1944: Two officers from the Dorset Regiment and a troop commander from a Field Regiment arrived at RHQ stating that a battalion of Dorsets had crossed during the night.

07.30hrs Capt Mac the Polish Liaison officer and Lt Widdicombe machine gunner German position from the church tower. Eventually they were shelled out of the tower.

10.00hrs 1 battery area subjected to a heavy tank attack and Sgt Daly, on his own initiative knocked out one, but subsequently A troop was over-run by 3 Tiger tanks. 2 Battery were also still being heavily sniped and were just organizing a last desperate attack to try and drive them out when tanks got in amongst the guns and the Battery was over-run, after putting up a tremendous fight against very heavy odds. These that got away organised themselves in the woods and sniped the enemy throughout the day.

RHQ were now surrounded by the tanks which had broken through and after smashing up their equipment made a dash for it and set up again in 3 Battery HQ. During the afternoon the enemy did not attack and except for a little mortaring things were fairly quiet. The lack of enemy mortaring and shelling was put down to the very close proximity of their own troops.

The final orders for evacuation were received about 22.00hrs.

22.00hrs The remainder of 1, 2 and 3 Batteries were ferried across.

 

26 September 1944: RHQ were in the rear and got a rather nasty time as it was getting light when they were due to go across and MG's opened up. A lot had to be left on the North bank of the river.

06.00hrs After rum issues at Driel, the Regiment was transported back to Nijmegen where after a meal the greater part of the remainder of the day was spent sleeping.

 

27 September 1944: Kit was issued to the airborne echelon evacuated over the river and 2nd large packs drawn from the Seaborne echelon.

17.00hrs Lt-Col Browning addressed the Divsion telling us we were returning to England and also stating the 1st Airborne Division was to be reformed.

 

28 September 1944: The Regiment was transferred South trough the corridor towards Belgium.

Wolfheze 17 September 1944
Lt-Col "Sherriff" Thompson and his crew and glider pilots after landing
From left to right: Signalman Des Wiggins, Lt-Col Thompson, Glider Pilot, Signalman "Ginger" J.D.A.Gault (DOW 2-10-1944) and Glider Pilot Captain Norman Hardie)