RAF Broadwell Chapter 10



Mick and I were about early next morning. The food situation was bad and we could not get any breakfast. We did manage to get a cup of tea.


We met Sergeant Major Petrie as we made our way about. He seemed very pleased to see us, as we were to see him. A likeable chap. I had at one time been his Pay Sergeant. We had got on just famously together. He was not a very tall chap but he had the personality of a six-footer, commanding total respect of all with whom he came in contact.


In the grounds we met Lt. Pickwoad again. He asked me to get a nominal roll of the boys who had come back that belonged to our Flight. I promised to do that. He told us that an advance party was leaving for England that day. Mick asked him to remember us if anyone from our Flight had to go. He grinned broadly.


I made a roll of the Flight. The following names are the members who were left: -

Lieut. Pickwoad




S/Sgt. Moore

S/Sgt. Holcroft

S/Sgt. Hall

S/Sgt. Wedgebury

S/Sgt. Ayton

S/Sgt. Weedon

S/Sgt. Naismith

S/Sgt. Dowse

S/Sgt. Rice

S/Sgt. Jones

S/Sgt. Boucher

S/Sgt. Young

S/Sgt. Stubley

S/Sgt. Davies

S/Sgt. Walters

S/Sgt. Creevy

S/Sgt. Denholme

S/Sgt. Neil

Sgt. Gammon

Sgt. Lister

Sgt. McKimm

Sgt. Lewis

Sgt. Dean

Sgt. Davidson

Sgt. Johnson

Sgt. Davison

Sgt. Palfreeman

Sgt. Ferguson

Sgt. Jenner

Sgt. Hart

Sgt. Davies

Sgt. Price

S/Sgt. Dalzell, who had been wounded at the river crossing, joined us later. Sgt. Hartford, my co-pilot, was wounded but managed to get across the river and was flown to an English hospital.


It can be seen from the roll of the people who set out on the operation that quite a few were unaccounted for. A careful check was made and the evidence showed that we had suffered casualties as follows: -







S/Sgt. Banks

S/Sgt. Mathews

S/Sgt. Drurey


S/Sgt. Moorcock

S/Sgt. McLaren

Sgt. Parkinson


Sgt. Graham

Sgt. Hogg

Sgt. Marriott

Sgt. Howes

Sgt. Hebblethwaite







Lieut. Stevenson

Lieut. Clarke

S/Sgt. Tobin

S/Sgt. Waddison

S/Sgt. Lowe

S/Sgt. Dodd

S/Sgt. Herron

S/Sgt. Ward

5/Sgt. Brayley

S/Sgt. Sherry

Sgt. Watts

Sgt. Garbutt

Sgt. Robertson

Sgt. Johnson

Sgt. Heap

Sgt. Bralee

Sgt. ?

Sgt. Walton

It will be seen that the Flight suffered approximately half casualties. Lt. Clarke turned up eventually but he was the only exception to the casualty lists as shown above.

Mick took the lists to Lt. Pickwoad and I went to try my luck at a Y.M.C.A. van that had arrived. After having stood in the queue about twenty minutes, Ginger Rice told me that the Lt wanted me immediately with my kit.


I found Lt. Pickwoad at a truck with about twenty other fellows. Mick was among them, and Stan Graham. They told me we were driving down to "Grave" to board a plane for England.


The ride to Grave was uneventful except that the roads were crammed with traffic. We eventually reached a large airstrip. It was not a properly constructed airfield. The Germans had apparently used it for a fighter strip before our lads captured it.

A company of Airborne Pioneers and R.A.S.C. personnel were in possession of it. It was to be used for supplies. Dakota aircraft would bring in supplies and these boys would distribute it to the front.


We were actually in a corridor about four miles wide. The Germans were on either side of us and kept cutting the corridor. That was the reason the Second Army had failed to get to Arnhem in strength.


It was about noon when we reached the place. The Dakotas were expected in any time. By four o'clock in the afternoon we had begun to give up hope. The Officer in Charge, Major Croot, had almost decided to go back to Nijmegen when a lone Dakota was spotted approaching the field.


The Dakota landed. It had brought some petrol from Brussels. On the way up it had run into some Jerry flak and the mainplanes showed some damage. The Pilot didn't seem to mind a bit. He didn't know anything about us but agreed to take us back to Brussels. No time was wasted and we all climbed into the plane.

The Pilot said there were two too many on. Major Croot ordered one from "F" Squadron and one from "E" Squadron off the plane. I tossed a coin with Mick

and lost. Stan Graham was the other unfortunate chap. We got off the plane and feeling very disappointed watched it fly away into the blue.


Stan didn't want to go back to Nijmegen, nor did I. We got in touch with the Pioneers. They gave us a meal and suggested us going over to a nearby farm to sleep the night.


At the farm we found a party of Poles. I found the Officer in charge of them and explained our position. He suggested we should have a meal with him. He took us into the kitchen.


The farm looked a very poor one. There was a grand old Dutchwoman there. She looked as though she had had a hard life. She could not understand a word of what was being said but everything the Polish Officer asked for he got. The Poles were making a stew outside and they brought us a large plateful each. It was the greasiest concoction I have ever tasted but I had to eat it. I tasted it for hours afterwards.


The Officer showed us to a barn. We had no blankets and we tried to cover ourselves with straw. It was not a great success and we spent a most uncomfortable night.


The following morning we hurried back to the airfield but could not learn anything about any planes arriving. The Pioneers treated us handsomely, sharing everything they had with us, including a cigarette ration. A party of twenty paratroops arrived. They, too, expected to get an aircraft. They were in charge of a supercilious looking young Captain. I didn't like the look of the fellow. I was to like him still less a few hours later.


At noon a squadron of Spitfires arrived. It was a very famous squadron, officered by the celebrated "Johnny Johnson", super ace fighter pilot. He came to talk to us and there was a scramble for his autograph. He saw the hole in my helmet and asked me about it. I told him about it, he seemed very interested. I thought to myself that he must have had many narrower squeaks than mine.


The fighters had come to take over the 'drome. The pioneers were told they would have to clear off. It began to look as though we would be unlucky until about eighty R.A.F ground personnel arrived to go back to England, but even they were not sure that they would get picked up.


At half past three Stan and I gave up hope. We didn't want to stay in the barn again so we decided to hitch a ride to Brussels. Setting off, we had just got outside the airfield when something caused me to look back. I turned my head and to my astonishment saw Dakotas circling the field. "Look Stan", 1 cried. He was as surprised as I had been.

We ran back to the field as fast as we could. By the time we reached it the aircraft were taxiing in. The markings on them were familiar to me. They were from my own station, Blakehill Farm. I told Stan this and the Officer with the Paratroops heard me. He came over and told me to get behind his men and wait my turn. He said he wouldn't allow me to get on before him and his men, just because I knew the Pilots. He had realised that with eighty R A.F. fellows waiting to go someone may well be unlucky. The R.A.F chaps had all their kit with them. That meant a lot of extra weight.


I was furious with the Captain. I told him I had my orders. His face contorted into a hideous twisted grin of annoyance and chagrin. "He stuttered out more words of protest and told me to get away from the aircraft. I took no notice. The aircrews climbed out and I immediately recognised some of them. Grabbing one of the N.C.O's I told him our position and what the Paratroop officer had said. He told: us not to worry, saying that if it was at all possible to carry any extra besides the R.A.F. he would see that we got on his plane.


As it turned out, the pilots agreed to take everybody but they were taking a risk. Just after Stan and I had got on board, the Officer of the Paratroops came over to have a parting shot. He gave us permission to get on the plane we were already on. The pilot invited the two of us to the cabin. He told us he was not at all sure that the aircraft would get off the ground on such a short run. We were last to take off so we were able to watch how the other three fared.


They thundered down the field and rose majestically into the air, one after the other. Away we went after them; the edge of the field came nearer and nearer, still we were not off the ground, just as it seemed we must hit the boundary the aircraft rose gracefully into the air. We were off.


He turned sharply to port. He dare not fly too far away from the field in case he ran into enemy ack-ack. We headed south for Belgium. I was glad to see Holland disappear behind us. We had an escort of Spitfires. I recognised many marks of battle on the ground beneath us. Here and there was evidence of heavy aerial bombardment. We could plainly see the troops and transport on the roads and in the towns. When we reached Brussels we turned east for the coast. A large number of Dakotas from Brussels joined us here and we made quite an armada as we flew out into the English Channel.


It was a wonderful sight to see England again. You can only know what England means to you if you go away from it and never expect to see it again. The broad green fields never looked so green to me as they did at that moment.


Soon we had left the English Channel behind and were flying over familiar country towards Swindon. As we flew along the pilot asked me about the



battle. I asked him how he had fared in the supply dropping. He had been one of the pilots who had brought us supplies so faithfully day after day. He said he had had one or two narrow escapes. Several of the R.A.F boys I knew were now dead or missing as a result of their fine efforts. If it had not been for those boys I certainly would not have been flying home at that moment.


As we circled over Blakehill Farm I felt like crying for joy. It was almost dark now and I could see the familiar lights of the flare path twinkling on the same tarmac runway that I had taken off from over a week before.


We circled the field twice and then went down to do a perfect landing. The Pilot taxied to the dispersal point. Willing hands opened the doors. I jumped to the ground. Home.... really home at last

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