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Pack 913. Pack of two Hamilcar Glider prints by John Sellers and Ivan Berryman. - IvanBerryman.com

DHM0852.  Hamminkeln, 6th Airborne Assault over the Rhine, 24th March 1945 by John Sellers. <b><p>Signed by Lieutenant General Napier Crookenden KCB DSO OBE DL (deceased),<br>General Sir Kenneth Thomas Darling GBE KCB DSO (deceased),<br>Brigadier Stanley James Ledger Hill DSO, MC (deceased)<br>and<br>Brigadier Joseph Howard Nigel Poett DSO (deceased).<p> Signed limited edition of 850 prints. <p> Image size 21 inches x 13 inches (53cm x 33cm)
DHM1713. Halifax Tugs Towing Hamilcar Gliders by Ivan Berryman. <p> Halifax glider tugs of 644 Squadron, Tarrant Rushton, 1944. <b><p>Signed limited edition of 1150 prints. <p> Image size 17 inches x 12 inches (43cm x 31cm)

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  Website Price: £ 115.00  

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Pack 913. Pack of two Hamilcar Glider prints by John Sellers and Ivan Berryman.

PCK0913. Pack of two WW2 aviation prints by Ivan Berryman and John Sellers depicting the Hamilcar glider.

Aviation Print Pack.

Items in this pack :

Item #1 - Click to view individual item

DHM0852. Hamminkeln, 6th Airborne Assault over the Rhine, 24th March 1945 by John Sellers.

Signed by Lieutenant General Napier Crookenden KCB DSO OBE DL (deceased),
General Sir Kenneth Thomas Darling GBE KCB DSO (deceased),
Brigadier Stanley James Ledger Hill DSO, MC (deceased)
and
Brigadier Joseph Howard Nigel Poett DSO (deceased).

Signed limited edition of 850 prints.

Image size 21 inches x 13 inches (53cm x 33cm)


Item #2 - Click to view individual item

DHM1713. Halifax Tugs Towing Hamilcar Gliders by Ivan Berryman.

Halifax glider tugs of 644 Squadron, Tarrant Rushton, 1944.

Signed limited edition of 1150 prints.

Image size 17 inches x 12 inches (43cm x 31cm)


Website Price: £ 115.00  

To purchase these prints individually at their normal retail price would cost £195.00 . By buying them together in this special pack, you save £80




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Signatures on this item
*The value given for each signature has been calculated by us based on the historical significance and rarity of the signature. Values of many pilot signatures have risen in recent years and will likely continue to rise as they become more and more rare.
NameInfo


Brigadier Joseph Howard Nigel Poett DSO (deceased)
*Signature Value : £40 (matted)

Nigel Poett was born on the 20th of August 1907 in Winterborne St Martin, near Dorchester. His father served with the Dorsetshire Regiment in a variety of locations, and during the Boer War he had held a staff appointment at General Headquarters. He later commanded the 1st Dorsets in India, and in 1907, at the rank of Brigadier-General, he was Chief of Staff, Eastern Command, India. Also during World War One his father joined Kitchener's Army and was duly given command of the 55th Brigade. In 1915, he took up a staff appointment with IX Corps. When Nigel left school he attended Sandhurst. At his request, on the 1st of September 1927, he was posted to the 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry, just before the battalion went to Egypt. He remained in Alexandria until 1930, when he was called to join the 2nd Battalion in India, where he served on the North-West Frontier. When War was declared, Poett, now holding the rank of Major, became a 2nd Grade General Staff Officer (GSO-2) at the War Office. In May 1940, Poett's work took him to France shortly before the German advance through Holland, Belgium and France commenced. He returned to England just as the evacuation from Dunkirk was beginning. In early 1941, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and became a 1st Grade General Staff Officer. In December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States of America entered the war. Churchill left Britain soon after for a meeting with President Roosevelt, and a few days into the visit, word was received at the War Office for several officers to join him immediately for discussions with their counterparts in America. Nigel Poett was amongst the party. When he returned he was given the 11th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry. In May 1943, he was selected to raise and command the 5th Parachute Brigade. He took on the post with enthusiasm and had soon completed his parachute training at Ringway airfield. His task was then to prepare his young Brigade for the part that they would play in the Normandy invasion. In 1991, Nigel Poett published his memoirs, Pure Poett, and the following are extracts from the book:

My 5th Parachute Brigade was given the task of seizing the bridges and securing the bridgehead in depth... General Gale, in giving me my orders, specified that, in seizing the bridges, reliance should be placed on speed and surprise and that the assault should take the form of a coup de main. The bridges and their defences must be rushed before the bridges could be destroyed. The General, in studying my 5th Para Brigade problem, had concluded that only a glider-borne force could be landed sufficiently concentrated and close enough to the bridges to enable them to be rushed before the Germans could destroy them. The General accordingly placed under my command a glider-borne Company of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry... Possible landing grounds close to the bridges were very restricted in size and only three gliders could land at each bridge. It was felt, however, that provided the bulk of {Major} Howard's six platoons were landed accurately, they could hold out until relief came from a parachute battalion landing in the area north of Ranville. I selected Lieutenant-Colonel Pine-Coffin's 7th Para Battalion to be responsible for relieving Howard's force at the bridges... The speed with which the 7th Battalion could reach the bridges would depend on the accuracy with which they were dropped.. The river bridge was some 1200 yards from the centre of the dropping zone and the canal bridge 400 yards further.

There was a considerable element of risk in the coup de main operation and a contingency plan was necessary in case it miscarried. The contingency plan included an assault crossing of the two waterways by the 7th Para Battalion. Detailed orders were issued to the Battalion for this operation. They carried thirty inflatable dinghies and twelve recce boats in large kit bags attached to the legs of the paratroopers and released on a cord before landing. I decided to drop with a small command post at the same time as the Pathfinders, so that, if the coup de main did miscarry, I could control the contingency plan and adjust the deployment of the Brigade.

The 6th Airborne Division planning was done in a specially protected small house, known as Brigmaston Farm House, close to Divisional HQ. Each brigade was allotted a room in the house. Here intelligence summaries, maps and air photographs were kept under conditions of maximum security. An accurate scale model of the whole divisional area was maintained, and also detailed large-scale models of the bridges over the river and the canal, their surroundings and defences. The intelligence material was constantly kept up to date. The number of individuals given passes to admit them to Brigmaston was kept to a minimum. Each individual was briefed at the last possible moment, consistent with his own planning and training commitments. It was here that Howard carried out all his planning. He had access to the Intelligence information available and he could ask for any information he wished.

Intensive training continued for all units of the Brigade Group. During May I went to Exeter to watch an exercise Howard had arranged for his Company... Meanwhile the specially selected glider pilots were training equally intensively. Night after night they followed the course of the operational flight plan they would use. They landed in the darkness, on tiny patches, to simulate their D-Day tasks... Our preparations and planning were now complete. As far as we could judge nothing had been left to chance. Towards the end of May the whole Brigade moved to specially sealed transit camps close to the airfields from which we would fly... Officers and men were, for security reasons, not allowed to leave the camp. All the intelligence material and briefing equipment had been assembled there. All ranks in turn were told their exact tasks on D-Day. They were able to go over, time and again, what they had to do. From Harwell I paid a last visit to Major Howard and his D Company and found them in great heart. They had been visited by Monty and assured him that they would not fail.

At 9.30pm on 5 June, the evening before D-Day, lorries drew up at our transit camp, a separate lorry for each aircraft 'stick' as we called it, to take us to the airfield from which we would fly - in our case Brize Norton. A welcoming cup of tea and then we were alongside our aircraft. It was an Albemarle. None of my stick had ever been in one before... We all piled in and sat on the floor facing the tail... Most of the men in the 'stick' were carrying just a bit more than their normal gear, perhaps extra ammunition, extra grenades, weapons or even food. There were ten unusually fat men under their jumping jackets! We would need to be well squashed up together, to be clear of the doors on the floor, so that when the time came I could open them. Then we settled down. It was 11pm and we were off.

Then in due course the word was passed back, 'Open the doors'. My personal struggle then began - pushing, cursing, shoving to get enough room for me to be off the doors and able to open them, and time was slipping away as we approached the coast of France. Then success; I was leaning over the open doors. Down below me the sea looked choppy and uninviting. Now we were speeding over the coast defences, at about 400 feet and not a shot was fired at us. Surprise was complete. The red light came on - 'prepare to jump' - then the green, 'jump' and I was out in the night air and, almost immediately, in fact some 20 seconds, a big bump. I had arrived safely on the soil of France. It was all much too quick. I had done none of the things I ought to have done such as identifying Ranville church, or pulling on my lift webs to get a good landing, but I was down and I had not landed on top of one of Rommel's asparagus - anti-airlanding poles - set to catch us.

I had no idea where I was. It was too dark to see the church or any of the landmarks on which we had been briefed, but I could see the exhaust of the aircraft disappearing and I knew that it would be going over Ranville... After getting rid of my parachute, I moved in the direction of flight of my aircraft, and sure enough I came across one of my men and he and I set off in the same direction. Then almost at once, to my right, the silence and the darkness was transformed: All the sights and sounds of battle - explosions, firing, signal lights and so on. Now I knew exactly where I was and where I must go, as fast as possible... I now had some 1200 yards to go across country - typical agricultural land, much of it standing crops, but several roads to cross and it was very dark. We saw no one. Then, as we approached the river bridge, we had to use extra caution. Sporadic shooting and explosions were continuing and I didn't know whether the bridges were in enemy hands or ours. Soldiers can be rather trigger-happy about men approaching their posts at night. Almost at once, however, I identified our own men. The password was exchanged. I was soon with Lieutenant (now Colonel) Tod Sweeney who recorded the time as 0052 hrs, just about half an hour after my time of landing as recorded by the pilot.

I spent little time with the captors of the river bridge. They were naturally very thrilled with their achievement and were busy organizing their defences... My companion and I then set off to cover the 400 yards between the two bridges. In the excitement of meeting up at the river bridge, John Howard's Platoon Commander had not told him of my arrival, nor that I was on my way to see him. He was surprised, and a little put out, as I walked unexpectedly into his position. But he was so thrilled with his success, and with my very warm congratulations, that his Platoon Commander was quickly forgiven.

The drop of the main body of the {5th Parachute} brigade, which I had heard coming in at 0050, was not as accurate as hoped. For a variety of reasons, in particular the poor weather and visibility, a few of the guiding beacons had been put out too far to the east. This, with the high wind, resulted in some of the men dropping in the more difficult country off the dropping zone and further from their RV... The men of the three battalions and of other units of the Brigade Group being mixed up and scattered on and off the DZ, the whole being a scene of some confusion as the men of the different units sorted themselves out, and in the very poor visibility searched for their RVs... Many {heavy weapons} containers had fallen in the standing corn. In the darkness, and with very little moonlight to help, not much of this heavy equipment was found until daylight. The absence of mortars, medium machine guns and particularly wireless sets was to prove a serious loss to the battalions when they came to repel the German attacks in the morning.

In fact all the units had done extremely well on the DZ, but it must have been after 2am that {Lieutenant-Colonel} Pine-Coffin had assembled sufficient of his men to move to the bridges... Pine-Coffin with his weak companies reached the canal bridge shortly after 2.30am. His War Diary records it as earlier and Howard's as later. The conditions and the darkness made it difficult to consult watches... With Pine-Coffin's men in position on the west bank, I felt confident that, for the time being, the bridgehead would be secure from the west. I, therefore, left the canal bridge and made for Ranville to see how the 13th Battalion had fared. I soon met up with Peter Luard, the Battalion Commander. He was in splendid heart. He had had little difficulty in over-running the village and he was now in the course of 'mopping up' some of the houses which had been occupied by the Germans... After going round some of the 13 Para positions, I was entirely satisfied and was able to move on to Johnston's 12 Para. They were to hold the southern sector of the bridgehead, east of the River Orne, including Le Bas de Ranville and were hard at work preparing their defensive positions. We knew they had a tough time ahead. They would bear the brunt of any attack from 21 Panzer Division which had been moved close to Caen just before D-Day... The Battalion had only a short time to prepare themselves and they were certainly making the most of it.

After satisfying myself that all was well with the 12th, I walked back to the DZ in the hope of meeting General Gale and briefing him on the situation of my brigade. By now it was beginning to show the first traces of light and I had not been long on the DZ before I saw the distinctive figure of the General... I was able to tell him that the operations of the 5th Parachute Brigade had been entirely successful... I now made for my HQ being set up in the grounds of the Château de Ranville. I knew that Guy Radmore, my excellent signals officer, would have established communications with the battalions and would be in touch with Divisional HQ when that was set up. My Brigade Major also had everything well under control and I was given a full picture of the work going ahead to strengthen the defences all round the Brigade area.

At about 9.30am I went with General Gale on a visit to 7th Battalion HQ... Hugh Kindersley was with us. He was waiting for the arrival of his Glider Brigade due 9pm that night. The General found Pine-Coffin and his men in fine form, in spite of the hammering they were getting. He was left in no doubt that Pine-Coffin would hold his position.

Upon hearing of the difficulties that the 12th Battalion were facing at Le Bas de Ranville... I went at once to the 12th and found that they were putting up a stout resistance and they soon regained the ground lost. My 13th Para Battalion was alerted to support the 12th if need be... The pressure on the 7th and 12th Battalions never ceased. Sometimes the Germans succeeded in surrounding companies but they were always forced to withdraw.

By the end of the day, however, both of the Battalions were relieved and able to withdraw into reserve around Ranville. The 5th Parachute Brigade's tasks had all been successfully completed. For the next two months, the Brigade's units served in a number of positions around the Orne Bridgehead. On the 17th August, however, the Germans began to withdraw and the 6th Airborne Division followed very closely. Poett resumes his account with the build-up to the 5th Parachute Brigade's advance on Putot-en-Auge on the 19th August, the 3rd Parachute Brigade first securing the bridges out of the River Dives valley.

It was hoped that he {Brigadier Hill} would secure the railway, which was to by my start line, by 2.00am. This would give me, at best, only three hours of darkness during which to secure my objective - the Heights of Putot. The time was very short; I would not be able to make any firm plan or issue orders until it was known at which bridge Hill's crossing would be made and whether he had been successful in securing the start line for my attack. It was going to be a difficult night! I brought my Brigade forward at once to various concealed positions close to the village of Goustranville and from the church tower showed my Battalion Commanders as much as possible of the ground and gave them my general thinking on a plan for the night attack.

Hill's advance started punctually at 10pm, and by 11 o'clock he had reached the canal. He then reported that the railway bridge in the north had been blown, but he thought it passable for infantry. The next bridge to the south was destroyed and the bridge carrying the Route Nationale had also been destroyed. There was no information yet on the farm bridge... At that time it was thought by Hill that the railway bridge was the only practicable crossing place and I accordingly directed the 13th Battalion, under Colonel Luard, to make for that bridge... The route for the 13th Battalion to the railway bridge was difficult to follow because of the darkness and the many small water-courses to be crossed. By the time Luard reached the bridge the water level had risen still further and it was obvious that a crossing at that bridge was no longer possible. In the meantime, the Canadian Parachute Battalion patrols had located a second small farm bridge close to the known one. These two narrow bridges thus became the only crossing places for the whole of my Brigade. There was now no alternative but to order the return of Luard's Battalion, through the same difficult route he had taken earlier, with a view to him making use of the farm bridges.

I was now able to finalize a plan for an attack by the Brigade on the Putot position. Colonel Pine-Coffin's 7th Battalion was to secure the spur immediately east of Putot, while Colonel Stockwell's 12th Battalion was to secure and mop up the village... The church and cemetery of Putot stand on a very prominent mound which dominates the countryside in three directions. The ground at the bottom of the mound is, however, 'dead' ground for enemy in the village attempting to fire on the troops waiting to attack. The 12th then scaled the mound and pressed forward their attack with the greatest vigour in close hand-to-hand fighting. The German garrison of Putot were soon taken prisoner or killed. Soon after we had seized Putot I learnt with great sadness that my jeep driver, Corporal Leatherbarrow, who had been with me throughout the Normandy Campaign and whom I had left in my jeep on the outskirts of the village, had been killed by a stray shell. It was a sad blow as Corporal Leatherbarrow had become a close friend.

As soon as the 12th had completed the mopping up of Putot, I ordered the 13th forward to secure first the spur running north from Putot, which had been the Brigade's original objective, and then to exploit eastwards and seize the high ground which overlooked Dozulé. Luard's first objective was strongly held but he secured it after a hard fight. When it came to exploiting towards the heights overlooking Dozulé, he met much stiffer opposition and could make no progress. Luard was suffering considerable casualties and I reached the conclusion that the task was beyond his resources in daylight and I ordered him to consolidate on the Brigade's original objective.

The task of the Brigade for 22 August was to secure the town of Pont L'Evêque and establish a bridgehead over the River Touques. My orders were that the 13th Battalion was to advance on the axis of the Route Nationale 175 and infiltrate into the town. The 12th was to force a crossing south of the town and secure the St Julien feature which controlled the approach from the south... As soon as I arrived I reconnoitered the approaches to the St Julien feature... I concluded that an assault across the open ground south of the town, which was commanded from the high ground east of the river, would be too hazardous an operation in daylight. Accordingly I issued orders for a night attack... I then left for my HQ. En route I was intercepted by Colonel Harvey with a personal message from the General. General Gale had been told by local people that the Germans were about to pull out of the town. Sensing the opportunity of cutting off their retreat, he sent orders, through Harvey, that the 'crossing was to be forced immediately in daylight and at all cost'... Unfortunately the local information proved to be incorrect. The Germans were in fact preparing their defences for a stubborn battle.

The attack {by the 12th Battalion} started at 3pm... All seemed to be going well and some men were seen to have crossed the river... In fact the ford had not been found. Only the Company Commander, Captain Baker, and nine men had succeeded in getting across by swimming and these soon became casualties or were pinned down. The second Company was also pinned down, along with the leading Company, by withering automatic fire and by shelling from the St Julien feature and the high ground east of the river. I realized that there was no prospect of success in daylight and that to go ahead would only result in unacceptable casualties. I therefore ordered the attack to cease and the Battalion to consolidate on the positions reached. The situation would be reviewed when it became dark.

I then went to the 13th Battalion in Pont L'Evêque to see how they had fared. The Battalion had had an initial success in penetrating into the town, but was now meeting increasingly severe opposition from well-sited and strongly defended German positions... The town was burning fiercely and, after a reconnaissance with Colonel Luard, I decided that it would not be practicable to make a further attempt to force the crossing of the main river until the fires in the town had died down... I then asked for a meeting with the Divisional Commander to discuss the situation. The General sent his GSO1 forward to Brigade HQ where he met me. It was agreed that no further attack should be pressed by Colonel Luard that night and that his Battalion should be ready to seize a crossing place in the morning if this appeared possible. It was also agreed that the proposed attack on the St Julien feature during the night should be cancelled. It was further agreed that, after dark, the 12th Battalion should withdraw from its unpleasant position south of the town. It would then come into reserve and the 7th Battalion assume responsibility for the west and south approached to the town. Fortunately the night proved relatively quiet. The Brigade casualties on 22 August had been thirty-four killed and sixty-one wounded. The Germans had suffered much more heavily. Local people reported 127 new German graves and ambulances busy all night evacuating wounded.

In the morning Colonel Luard and I carried out a recce. A patrol under Captain Skeate had succeeded in crossing the river without opposition, the fires in the burning town had died down somewhat and it appeared that the chance of securing a bridgehead on the far bank was now favourable. I therefore ordered Colonel Luard to secure this bridgehead with the utmost speed. 'B' Company was soon across and attempted to increase the foothold gained by Skeate's patrol, but then met stiff resistance and were held up... It was clear to me that the foothold gained by the 13th Battalion on the east bank of the river was too small and the communications too insecure to make it practicable as a route for a fresh attack. Its retention could only lead to severe casualties. I therefore decided to withdraw the 13th Battalion and that the 7th Battalion should assume responsibility for the western end of the town, and form a firm base through which the 13th Battalion could withdraw. The withdrawal was skillfully conducted and was carried out in a most gallant and steady manner.

The night of the 23/24 August was quiet. Patrols at first light, 6am, discovered that the Germans had slipped out of the town during the night. I ordered an immediate follow-up by the 7th Battalion on the axis of the Pont Audemer road. At 10am the General arrived at Brigade HQ. He gave orders for an immediate advance on Pont Audemer. The 7th Battalion had already got well beyond the first of the Division's bounds and their progress fitted in well with the Divisional plan. During this visit the General placed the Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment and the Royal Netherlands Brigade under my command... The 7th Battalion, in spite of a most exhausting few days, showed their toughness and marching qualities by the speed at which they reach Pont Audemer and secured the west bank of the River Risle.

The final dash to Pont Audemer marked the end of our Normandy campaign. A message had come to General Gale saying that the 6th Airborne Division would be withdrawn from the line and sent back to England as soon as shipping could be provided... We were now to be sent back to England to prepare for an operation elsewhere. We embussed in vehicles in the Trouville area and then set off for Arromanches from where we would embark. This proved a most uncomfortable procedure as the sea was rough and we had to climb up the side of our ships using scrambling nets. Fortunately we had only one serious accident. Back at home, we had a kind welcome from everyone in Bulford and Larkhill, where we were based, and then went on a short period of leave. It was splendid to see our families again. Julia was at our Old Green Lane house at Camberley with the family, consisting now of three children. It was a short but happy leave.

For his performance throughout the Normandy campaign, Brigadier Poett was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. His citation reads:

For gallant and distinguished conduct from the 5th/6th June to the 30th August. Throughout this whole period Brigadier Poett has commanded his Brigade with gallantry and skill. By his tactical ability he held Ranville against determined and well pressed home attacks notably on the 6th and 10th June. With the exception of one short period of a few days his Brigade was continuously in the line and in contact with the enemy throughout this period. He has had in killed and wounded just under 1,000 casualties: his battalions have been down in one case to under 200 and in the other two to 300 strong. In spite of this he has always held a full brigade front; never have his troops shown war weariness and never have they been anything but fit, keen and efficient. His is an example when leadership, example and personal character and courage have not only held men together, but have sustained in them a most astounding confidence in themselves. His skilful handling of the battle for the bridges and later in the fight for Ranville were but highlights in a period of spirited and inspiring command. On the 18th/19th August Brigadier Poett's Brigade by a quickly planned and energetically carried out night advance seized the high ground South of Dozule. His Brigade forced the crossings over the River Touques at Pont L'Eveque against the most determined resistance. His skill as a commander and his personal courage as a man are beyond praise.

Poett continued to lead the 5th Parachute Brigade, during the Division's role in the Ardennes and, in March 1945, Operation Varsity, the offensive to secure a crossing over the River Rhine. For his conduct here he was awarded a bar to the DSO:

On the 24th March 1945 Brigadier Poett dropped with his Brigade East of the Rhine with the task of clearing and holding the northern face of the divisional area. The dropping zone was strongly defended by infantry and flak guns. It was a case of every man for himself during the first few minutes, and it was here that Brigadier Poett, by personal example, inspired those around him with a fierce determination to get in amongst the enemy. It was in no small measure due to their leaders own complete disregard for his personal safety that the dropping zone was quickly cleared to enable units to rally. During the rally Brigadier Poett was constantly exposing himself in order to organise his men for the assault on the Brigade objectives. These were taken in a remarkably short time. Throughout the day he put up a remarkable personal effort of sheer courage and determined leadership which infused his whole Brigade with tremendous enthusiasm.

Following the defeat of Germany, the 6th Airborne Division was to move to the Far East in preparation for an operation against the Japanese in Burma. In the event, however, only the 5th Parachute Brigade had arrived in India before the War there was nearing its conclusion and the further deployment of the Division was deemed unnecessary. Poett and his Brigade, however, remained in the region and assisted in the liberation of Malaya and Singapore. In December 1945, the Brigade was posted to the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. This was a most difficult assignment because the Indonesians did not like the British, they hated the Japanese and positively detested their former Dutch masters. Added to Poett's Brigade Group was a troop of tanks and a troop of artillery, and as the military presence was so thin and a police force of any description essential, he also had an excellent Battalion of Japanese soldiers under command. Despite numerous skirmishes with the locals and other difficulties, the Brigade's presence gradually calmed the situation and the district became orderly. In early 1946, Brigadier Poett received word that he was to return to England to take up the much coveted post of Director of Plans at the War Office.
In his new post, Poett worked under the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), Lord Alanbrooke and, when he retired, Field Marshal Montgomery. Many at the War Office had difficulties in working with Montgomery, however Poett had no such problems and spent what he regarded as a happy eighteen months under him. Towards the end of 1947, he studied at the Imperial Defence College, and a year later was involved in a report concerning the future shape of the Armed Forces, the nation's finances being very poor at the time and the expensive military in need of being reformed. In 1949, Poett served in Greece under the much respected former airborne forces commander, General Eric Down. Shortly after, Poett was promoted to Major-General and made Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief Far East Land Forces, where he was heavily involved in the troubles developing in Malaya and Korea. In 1951, he was given command of the 3rd Infantry Division, stationed on the Suez Canal, at a time when relations with Egypt were similarly deteriorating. After several years in the Middle East, he was recalled to the War Office to be Director of Military Operations. In January 1957, Poett was made Commandant of the Staff College, and in 1958 was promoted to Lieutenant-General and given charge of Southern Command. His final appointment came in 1961, when he returned to the Far East Land Forces, as Commander-in-Chief, a post that he held until 1966.


Brigadier Stanley James Ledger Hill DSO, MC (deceased)
*Signature Value : £45 (matted)

James Hill was born in 1911 and in 1929 went to the Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers. After a short service he went back to his family run business but with the outbreak of war in 1939 he as recalled into the army, and in 1940, during the Battle of France, Captain James Hill was part of Lord Gort's staff at the Headquarters of the British Expeditionary Force. For his conduct during the campaign he was awarded the Military Medal. His citation reads:

This officer was detailed to undertake duties in the forward areas in connection with traffic control and the evacuation of refugees. These duties he carried out with enthusiasm and skill, and was often placed in positions of great personal danger. During the final embarkation he was employed at Dunkirk. He performed valuable work throughout, and I recommend him for the award of the Military Cross.

Following the withdrawal from Dunkirk, Captain James Hill joined the Parachute Regiment as one of its earliest members and, after serving as Second-in-Command, Hill was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1942 and given command of the 1st Parachute Battalion. At the end of 1942, the battalion, as part of the 1st Parachute Brigade, was transferred to North Africa. In November 1942, the three battalions of the Brigade saw action in Tunisia, with varying degrees of success. On the 16th November, the 1st Battalion were dropped deep behind the enemy lines. Their initial task was to secure the Souk el Khemis-Souk el Arba plain so that the RAF could use it as a landing strip, but their chief purpose was to enter the town of Beja and persuade the three-thousand-strong neutral French garrison to fight on the side of the Allies. With this achieved, the 1st Battalion, with the assistance of the French, were to use the town as a firm base from which to harrass the Germans and Italians in their area. The drop went very well and the Battalion received an enthusiastic welcome from the French soldiers in the town. Lieutenant-Colonel Hill felt that the locals might be more encouraged to join the Allied cause if they were made to believe that his force was stronger than it was, and to achieve this he marched the battalion through the town twice, altering their appearance the second time around by removing their red berets. With the French firmly on his side, Hill decided to cement the relationship by sending his men straight into action. He had been informed that the Germans carried out a routine and regular patrol of a nearby road and so he sent a force to ambush it, which was achieved most effectively. On the 22nd November, Lieutenant-Colonel Hill discovered that there was a force of some three-hundred Italian soldiers in the vicinity and he made plans to attack them during the night. Attached to the battalion was a company of French Senegalese soldiers and a group of Royal Engineers, who were to mine the road to the rear of the enemy position to thwart their escape or reinforcement. Unfortunately as the Engineers were moving forward, a faulty grenade amongst their stores exploded and in so doing set off other grenades, a tragedy which killed twenty-five of the twenty-seven sappers. With the enemy alerted and opening fire in response, the 1st Battalion's R and S Companies immediately attacked what proved to be a mixed force of German and Italian soldiers. The enemy was accompanied by three Italian light tanks, and James Hill took it upon himself to personally force the surrender of their crews. Taking advantage of the general unwillingness of the Italian to fight, he decided not to be too harsh with them. When he approached the first tank he inserted his revolver through an observation port and fired a single shot, which prompted the crew to come out. The second vehicle was similarly disarmed, but with this one he only felt the need to bang on the side of the tank's turret with his walking stick. The third tank, however, contained German soldiers and they came out fighting. They were all killed by members of Hill's party within moments but, caught unawares, Hill himself was hit by three bullets, one went through his chest, another hit his shoulder and the other struck his neck. Hill's wounds were very serious and so he was placed in the sidecar of an Italian motorcycle, together with another badly wounded officer, and driven back to Beja where his life was saved on the operating table. Hill was evacuated to a hospital in Algiers whilst command of the Battalion passed to his deputy, Lieutenant-Colonel Alastair Pearson. The 1st Battalion withdrew to Algiers ten days later. For his actions behind the lines with the 1st Battalion, Hill was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. His citation reads:

For inspiring leadership and undaunted courage. This officer who led his Battalion after a flight of some 400 miles, and a parachute drop, displayed on every occasion conspicuous gallantry under heavy enemy fire. Leading his Battalion in raids against enemy A.F.V's he personally destroyed at least two and was mainly responsible for the successful results achieved. In a raid on an enemy post he led his Battalion forward under heavy machine gun fire and by his utter disregard of personal danger, and by his brilliant handling, was successful in entirely destroying the post and capturing a number of prisoners. This leadership and courage was an inspiration not only to his own troops but also to the French who recognised his gallantry by the award of the Legion d'honneur. On one occasion although severely wounded he continued to command his battalion until the successful completion of the operation.

Hill was impatient to resume command of his Battalion and so set about getting himself fit as soon as he felt able. He was forbidden to take exercise, but he chose to ignore this advice by climbing out of his window at night to stroll through the hospital gardens. Seven weeks later he declared himself fit and simply strolled out of the hospital and reported to his commander, Brigadier Flavell. By now, however, Lieutenant-Colonel Pearson was firmly in control of the 1st Battalion and there was no other vacancy in the Brigade for Hill to take over. Instead he was sent back to England where, out of regard for his dubious state of health, he was returned to a hospital in Tidworth. While he rested here he was offered the command of the 9th Parachute Battalion, which he eagerly accepted. One of his first tasks as their commander was to take the Battalion out on a long march. Sergeant Woodcraft recalls:

At the end he addressed us, saying
Gentlemen, you are not fit, but don't let this worry you because from now one we are going to work a six and a half day week. You can have Saturday afternoons off!

. Hill was not joking in the slightest, even when his men attended Church on a Sunday morning, though their weapons were respectfully left outside they were all dressed in their full kit because James Hill would take them out on a march immediately afterwards. Major Parry said of him,

The Colonel invariably picked on a different officer each day and said
Come along and walk to the office with me. The walk was a breathtaking experience. James Hill invariably carried a thumb stick, which increased the length of his stride. His speed of movement often left the unfortunate officer trotting a couple of paces behind his master, trying to answer his questions but with insufficient breath to do so. The Colonel quickly earned the name Speedy from the soldiers/

The 3rd Parachute Brigade had been raised by the much respected Brigadier Lathbury, but in April 1943, when the 6th Airborne Division was formed, Lathbury was sent to North Africa to take up command of the 1st Parachute Brigade. James Hill, as the most senior and experienced commander in the Brigade, was promoted to Brigadier and replaced him. Hill wrote The brigade was made up of three county battalions. These battalions were invited to join the parachute brigade, and being good chaps they volunteered to a man. These chaps were the salt of the earth, prepared to give their lives without arguing the toss. They hadn't joined the army to parachute, but we said, Please parachute, and they said, We'll try. During the physical training we focused on four objectives: speed, control, simplicity and fire effect. As parachutists we didn't carry much equipment, and we had to make use of this advantage to achieve great speed. If you could give orders twice as fast as anyone else you could gain ten minutes on the enemy. Coupled with speed was control - it was no good having expensive paratroops if they weren't under control. Simplicity was vital - the simpler things were, the fewer mistakes were made. Fire effect was essential because we didn't carry much ammunition, so every shot had to count. In order to achieve these four objectives we had to become amazingly fit. The initial training was extremely hard, and many of the volunteers left - they simply couldn't stand the pace of the training.

We knew we would have to fight at night so we spent a great deal of time doing night-time training. For one week every month my brigade used to operate at night, sleeping during the daytime. Of course that was marvellous for all the chaps, but the poor brigade commander still had to spend the day doing administrative work! I was always keen for my brigade headquarters to do just as well as the chaps of the battalions, so on one occasion I took them for a two-hour march carrying 60 pounds of equipment. This of course included the clerks and the telephone operators! As we were staggering into the town of Bulford I was cheering them on, as you do, so that they would get to the end within the two hours. On the following Monday I received a notice saying that a deputation from the local Women's Institute wanted to see the brigade commander. They had come to complain about the way I had shouted at the chaps to finish - they thought it had been cruel and brutal. That rather amused me!

From January 1943 until D-Day in June 1944, we had to keep the chaps interested and on top form. One of the things I introduced in order to do that was parachuting dogs. A team of paratroops were trained in handling Alsatian messenger dogs. The dogs were given bicycle parachutes, as they were roughly the same weight as bicycles. The first time we took one of the dogs up he didn't want to jump, so we shoved him out. It turns out he enjoyed himself so much that the next time he couldn't wait to go! The dogs were trained to be messengers, but they were really just a sideshow to keep the men amused.

At that time there were two fighter pilots who became known for being highly successful at shooting the enemy down at night - Cat's Eyes Cunningham and a chap called White Boycott, who had been at school with me. Rumour was that they were so good at night fighting because they ate a lot of carrots, and so we also ate carrots until we were quite sick of the things. I was lucky enough to have lunch with Cat's Eyes Cunningham recently, just before he died, and he told me that their success had nothing to do with eating carrots. The carrot story was just a ruse to prevent the enemy from finding out that they were equipped with the very latest form of radar.

I wanted all of my brigade to go to church at least once a month, but some of the chaps didn't like this very much. So to motivate them I would make them carry 60 pounds of equipment to church, which they stacked up outside under guard before going inside. After the service I would take them for a 20-mile march. I thought that might motivate them to enjoy their time at church a bit more! The interesting thing is that, after D-Day, a number of people told me what a difference those church visits had made. When we were crossing the North Sea on D-Day it was a pretty rough night, and sitting in those planes were men of 22 who had never seen a shot fired in anger and were now flying into enemy territory. Up against something like that, even an atheist wants to pray.

Napoleon said that
the moral is to the physical as two is to one. I found that if you are very fit, your morale is automatically good, and I put an awful lot of effort into getting the chaps extremely fit. It's amazing what a fit young body can take in the way of wounds and survive. The other thing that is important for morale is to be fighting a noble cause. I could not have fought for six years if I hadn't believed our cause to be completely right. I was asking those chaps to possibly die for the cause, I had to believe the cause to be true. I loved the men of my brigade, and if you love people they'll love you too, they'll follow you, and they'll have respect for you.

Towards the end of May 1944, when the 6th Airborne Division was being moved to its concentration areas, Brigadier Hill decided to place his Headquarters at RAF Down Ampney with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. I put my headquarters there because perhaps they were the least experienced of the chaps. It was amusing, I remember I used to have strict rules that everybody would be in their tents, and lights out by 10 o'clock. And then of course, a football would hit my tent. They weren't fussy! On the 4th June, Hill gathered the officers of his Brigade around him for a final briefing. As proceedings were drawing to a close, he offered them some advice to remember during the first few hours of the drop, Gentlemen, in spite of your excellent orders and training, DO NOT BE DAUNTED IF CHAOS REIGNS. It undoubtedly will.

In camp, to keep the Canadians amused, I'd given them a football with Hitler's face on it in luminous paint. Everyone knew I was proposing to drop this, along with three bricks, which they had given me with some rather vulgar wording painted on them, on to the beach to astonish the enemy. So there I was, as brigade commander, standing in the door of the aeroplane with a football and three bricks!... Crossing The Channel, looking out, it was quite windy. There were a lot of sea horses all over the place and I remember thinking to myself that I had a good friend called Earl Prior Palmer who was commanding a swimming tank battalion and I thought God, how lucky I am to be in this aeroplane and not going in to battle on D-Day in a swimming tank... Then we came to the beaches, so I threw out my football (I like to imagine it bouncing up and down and when they went to retrieve it, the face of Hitler!), kicked the bricks out to drop, also on the beaches.

There was flak all around. I don't think undue flak attending to our particular aircraft but plenty of it. So the red light was on and I was all ready.


Moments later, Hill and the rest of his stick jumped. I saw exactly where I was coming down, about a quarter of a mile from Cabourg, and I suppose about three miles from where I should have been... You orientate yourself and I remember it was a cloudy night but the moon was just coming through enough for me to do some orientating. To my horror I found myself dropping in to the flooded valley of the Dives... So in I went into 4½ feet of water. So you sort of re-organise yourself to the circumstances and I remember the first firing that I heard. I heard an exchange of shots and I was in the water. Then I found it was one member of my bodyguard shooting the other bodyguard in the leg by mistake. So that was an additional problem and, being a professional soldier, I had about 60 tea bags sewn in to the top of my battle dress trousers and of course, these tea bags did nothing but make tea and it took me 4 hours to get out of that water and I made cold tea all the time.

The land had deep irrigation ditches and of course, if you're walking in water you can't see. We gradually gathered the chaps together. We realized we couldn't get on by ourselves... If one chap went down in one of those ditches, which were ten feet deep of course with all your kit on you couldn't hope to get out... We all carried toggle ropes and everybody that I was able to pick up and collect, we all tied ourselves together with toggle ropes and that helped us. The other thing was the valley had been wired before it was flooded, so you would come up under water against wire barriers and on your own you couldn't get past them but if you walked out together with toggle ropes you could help each other... You got through them but the long and short of it was, 4 hours later we turned up on the edge of the flooded valley... I suppose about a quarter past six or something like that... and I had with me, collected and tied together, forty two chaps. So the first thing I did was to send the Canadians who were supposed to capture the dropping zone and capture the enemy principal headquarters on the edge of it and I sent for an officer to get hold of one to find out what the position was.

I was able to contact the Company of the Canadian Battalion whose task it was to ensure the safety of the DZ, and who stated that they had captured the local German HQ there, but had not yet been able to winkle the enemy out of certain pillboxes on the perimeter... Then I thought what should I do now? I should be with my Brigade Headquarters on the ridge at four o'clock, and here it was at half past six and I was miles away, so I thought I'd go and see what had happened to the 9th Battalion. So I got hold of a party of very wet stragglers and we went on up towards where the 9th Battalion was, to find out if they'd been successful. My group was led by myself, my Defence Platoon Commander {Johnnie Jones} and one or two others, and we proceeded down a narrow path with water each side.


A little later the Royal Navy began to open fire on the British beaches, and Hill's party got a splendid view of its effect from on top of the ridge. It was about twenty to seven when it started and I'd never seen such a barrage, which was coming from the sea to the land. It did look like the most glorious and superb firework display, which is once seen never forgotten.

At about the same time, Allied aircraft passed overhead and, mistaking Hill's party for the enemy, proceeded to attack them. I had with me my brigade defence platoon commander, two parachute sailors who were part of our wireless link with the bombardment ship and one of our parachute Alsatian dogs, together with some thirty-five good chaps. We were making good progress and were encouraged by the tremendous din of the preliminary bombardment which the beach defences were undergoing. We were walking down a lane when I suddenly heard a horrible staccato sound approaching from the seaward side of the hedge... having in battle before, I knew exactly what that noise was... I shouted to everyone to fling themselves down and then we were caught in the middle of a pattern of anti-personnel bombs dropped by a large group of aircraft which appeared to be our own Spitfires... The lane had no ditches to speak of... We all threw ourselves down and I threw myself down on Lieutenant Peters who was the Mortar Officer of the 9th Battalion... While the fumes were dying away the first thought that crossed my mind was that this is the smell of death. I looked round and saw a leg beside me. I thought My God, that's my leg. I knew I'd been hit. Then I had another look at it and it had a brown boot on it, and the only chap in the Brigade who was wearing a brown boot, strictly against my orders, was Lieutenant Peters. He'd got his boots I think in North Africa from the Americans. I had been saved because I had a towel and a spare pair of pants in the bottom of my jumping smock, but my water bottle had shattered and I had lost most of my left backside. After stumbling to my feet, I found one other man who was able to stand, namely my Defence Platoon Commander, and the lane was littered for many yards with the bodies of groaning and badly injured men. We looked around, saw nothing of Captain Robinson or anyone at the end, and presumed they may have been bombed as well

What did you do next? As a commander you either had two choices. You could sit up and patch up your chaps, or you can go on and do your job. So I had to go on and do my job. We took the morphia off the dead and gave it to those still living and injected them with their own morphia, and I suppose there was about a dozen people we did that to. That took us about half an hour. The thing I shall remember all my life is the cheer they gave us as we set off.


By about 10:00, Brigadier Hill and the remainder of his party reached the 9th Battalion's medical post. I happened to bump into the Medical Officer who was a chap called Doc Watts, a splendid chap, older than most of the others. I think he was older than I was and I had a rule in the Brigade that nobody would parachute if they were thirty-two and over. He must have been among the ones who broke the rule. He was the only chap really of any consequence there, but I got the information I needed. The Doctor knew pretty well what was happening. Anyhow, he took a look at me and was unwise enough to say that I looked bad for morale. So I quickly cut him down to size and I told him what a bloody fellow he was, and if he'd had his left backside removed and spent four and a half hours in the cold water, he wouldn't look very good either! So that kept him quiet. He thought he'd better do something about this, so unbeknown to me he gave me an injection which put me out for two hours.

When Hill eventually regained consciousness he became aware that he could not walk. Furthermore, he had little idea how his Brigade was faring, and so he felt that it was vital that he should report to Divisional HQ for news. Fortunately they found me a ladies' bicycle and I got a parachute pusher who pushed me down into Ranville, a distance of about two and a half miles, where I met General Gale and exchanged details. He told me the good news that my Brigade had taken all their objectives, so I thought that was heartening and I felt much younger!... I was seized by the ADMS {Colonel MacEwan} who was the Head Doctor, and he was an old boy of the Division, who'd been in the First World War and was covered in decorations. He said to me, I'm going to take you off to the Main Dressing Station. I said, You certainly aren't, and he said, Well, you've got to have an op. So I said, I'll have an op on one condition. As soon as it's over, you'll promise to take me back yourself to my Brigade Headquarters. So we struck a deal... It was about one o'clock and I was being anaesthetised, chloroform, or whatever it was... and I heard a tremendous concentration come down on Ranville, and that was in fact the counter-attack by 21st Panzer Division. So I rather wondered if, when I came to after my operation, who would be in charge of the hospital! After an hour or so I came to, and I looked round. They were still all our own medics.

As promised, Colonel MacEwan drove Hill to his Headquarters at Le Mesnil, however their trip was not without incident. Just ahead of us, a number of Germans ran across the road and to my annoyance and consternation the ADMS and his batman left me in his jeep and pursued the Germans into the wood in an endeavour to make a capture. This effort was unsuccessful and at four o'clock that afternoon I reached my destination, some eight hours behind schedule. Once he had arrived, other medics insisted on checking Brigadier Hill's injury. Captain John Woodgate, the Brigade Administration Officer, believed that it may be necessary to evacuate him from the battlefield, but Hill told him in no uncertain terms that he was staying exactly where he was. To this end, Brigadier Hill used his authority as the Brigade Commander to forbid any operations to be carried out on him if their result would be his incapacitation. He did, however, consent to the alternative treatment, which proved successful, of taking large doses of anti-gas serum to prevent gas gangrene.

Communication was obviously difficult on the day. My signaller had been dropped away from me, so until I got to brigade headquarters, my only means of communication was verbal. From headquarters I could keep an eye on the Canadians, and Terrence Ottway was just half a mile away. It was more difficult to communicate with Alistair Pearson of the 8th Battalion, who was about two miles down the road. But that was the parachuting game - it was part of our training to expect the unexpected. You knew exactly where you had to be and what you had to do, and if things went wrong you had to put them right personally. Our chaps showed great individuality and got themselves out of the most surprising predicaments, like being dropped behind enemy lines.

I took stock that evening. {Lieutenant-Colonel} Alastair's {Pearson's} 8th Battalion was about 280 strong; the Canadian Battalion was in very good order and had captured their two bridges, and were now digging in at the Le Mesnil crossroads, about 300 men in all. The 9th Battalion, consisting of ninety good chaps, was still on the Le Plein feature. The only snag from my point of view was that they were supposed, that evening, to come into the Chateau {St Côme} which was part of our Brigade Defensive Plan. Of course, they didn't turn up, and the reason they didn't was that the Commandos, who were supposed to come and take over from them were held back at the bridge by General Richard Gale because the situation there was extremely uncertain and unstable. So he held them back there as a reserve. My Brigade Headquarters was depleted. I had no DAA and QMG, no Brigade Major and no Padre, no Commando Liaison Officer and no sailors. The two sailors who were to direct the guns of the Arethusa had been killed in the early bombing raid.
Bill Collingwood, the Brigade Major, turned up on the 7th June, having landed with the 6th Airlanding Brigade after a terrifying experience the night before when he his parachute rigging became tangled up in the aircraft as he jumped, and he was dragged behind it for a full twenty minutes before being pulled back inside. Collingwood arrived at Brigade HQ with his dislocated leg. I had him evacuated thirty-six hours later because I couldn't have a Brigade Major with his leg sticking out!.

At the end of D-Day I was sitting at what I called my command post, on the steps leading up to a barn where I had my sleeping bag. Then, away to the south west, I suddenly saw hundreds of gliders coming in. It was the second wave of the 6th Airborne Division, gliding into battle. It was a wonderful sight. I knew they were carrying supplies, and the sight of them coming in to land made me feel less lonely, just as the sounds of the dawn battle had that morning. I said to myself,
Remember all these things, because you're never going to see a sight like this again. It was a great relief to know that we'd got to France, we had captured our objectives, and we were exactly where we were supposed to be. We knew we still had a fight on our hands, but we had landed. We had a little bit of France and those gliders coming in to land were following us. The battle started from there. Not with beautiful clean clothes and a nice map case, but worn out, wet, dirty and smelly.

Towards the end of the 7th June, the 9th Battalion were finally able to leave Le Plein and they made their way over to the Chateau St Côme. Due to their weak numbers they were unable to firmly defend the full area that they were to have occupied, instead Lieutenant-Colonel Otway consulted with Brigadier Hill and they agreed that the Battalion should concentrate in the Bois de Mont and attempt to deny the Chateau to the Germans through means of constant patrolling. On the following day, the 8th June, the first of many serious attacks was made on the 3rd Parachute Brigade by the newly arrived 346th Division. Although all the attacks on this day were dealt with, the position of Brigade HQ at Le Mesnil became very difficult when it was heavily engaged by the enemy. Brigadier Hill felt the situation to be so serious that he established contact with Otway to request assistance from the 9th Battalion. Thirty men were sent and they succeeded in getting in behind the enemy, and between their own fire and that of Brigade HQ, the attack was broken.
,br>Although attacks were directed against many other elements in the 6th Airborne Division, in particular the 1st Special Service Brigade to the north, the main effort of the 346th Division was directed squarely towards the 3rd Parachute Brigade. Because of this, and also due to their weak numbers and the wide front for which they were responsible, the 5th Battalion The Black Watch were placed under Brigadier Hill's command on the 10th June. The Highlanders planned to attack and capture Bréville the following morning, but at this time the Chateau St Côme was still occupied by German troops. I saw the CO {of the 5th Black Watch} and he said, The only thing I want is the Chateau to be in our hands. I said, OK, I'll ensure that the Chateau is freed. I remember going to Terence Otway and I gave him full marks for this one, and telling him that he had got to take the Chateau and make certain it was in our hands that evening, when the Black Watch wanted it. And I thought to myself, Well really, here is a Battalion, absolutely whacked; they've had a hell of a time and now they've got to go and make certain via a strong patrol or company that they get the Chateau and hand it over to the Black Watch. And he {Otway} never belly-ached, he never blanched, he never did anything. He said, OK.

The Chateau was taken, however the attack on Bréville, mounted at first light on the 11th June, was a disaster as the Black Watch were quickly pinned down and forced to retire with approximately three-hundred casualties. Brigadier Hill ordered them to concentrate around the Chateau St Côme, close to the positions of the 9th Battalion. To the surprise of all in the Brigade, an enemy counterattack did not materialise that day, however on the 12th June, German guns pounded the 3rd Parachute Brigade's front and in the afternoon their infantry and armour mounted particularly heavy attacks. After much fighting the Black Watch were forced out of the Chateau and, low on ammunition and with the front line positions in some disarray, Lieutenant-Colonel Otway contacted Brigade HQ to request reinforcements. When he heard of this, Brigadier Hill knew at once that Otway must be in serious difficulty or else he would not have made such a report. I had no spare bodies so I went to Colonel Bradbrooke {CO, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion}, whose HQ was 200 yards away at the end of our drive and asked him to help. At that moment German tanks had overrun the road to his right and were shooting up his Company HQ at close range. To his eternal credit he decided that he could deal with this problem and he gave me what he had left of his Reserve Company under Major Hanson, a very hard and excellent commander, together with cooks and any spare men and we set off to the 9th Battalion's area. A young Red Indian aged eighteen, called Private Anderson, informed me that he was going to be my bodyguard.

Hill, with a pistol in one hand and his customary thumbstick in the other, personally led the Canadians of C Company forward. On the way his group was reinforced by sappers of the 3rd Parachute Squadron. When they arrived in the area they were confronted with the untidy situation of a woodland in fierce dispute between scattered pockets of the Black Watch and German infantry. With the Canadians at the front and the sappers following to their rear, the group fixed bayonets and moved into the woods.

Jan de Vries of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion recalls: In the run to the Chateau, as the noise of battle increased and with more shells and bullets flying around, I remember feeling not very heroic. But seeing the Brigadier totally exposed and urging us on gave me a feeling of resolve and let's get this over with.

Brigadier Hill continues: I was on the road and they {The Black Watch} had a very fine Padre {Tom Nicol}, a great big fellow, stood about six feet two inches, and he was calming these young chaps of the Black Watch, and of course they were in disarray here... We moved up to the far end of the wood near the Chateau and I remember seeing a German tank cruising up and down at close range but we had no means of dealing with it. At this stage my bodyguard had been shot through the arm but insisted on carrying on. However, by this time, the attack on both the Canadians and the 9th Battalion was petering out.

Leaving the Canadians to dig in and deal with the Germans to their front, Brigadier Hill turned back to find the sappers that he had left behind. Lance-Corporal Alan Graham of the 3rd Parachute Squadron recalls: He personally, despite heavy small arms and mortar fire, guided our Troop to its defensive position to the forward area of a wood some fifty to seventy-five yards to the right of the Chateau. He left us with words of encouragement, and we quickly started digging our shell scrapes.

Taking command of the battle from this forward position, Brigadier Hill learnt that the Germans were regrouping for another attack, and so he found the Forward Observation Officer, who brought the guns of two warships to bear, which did much to halt and disrupt the enemy's attempt to advance. By 20:00 the situation had been calmed to the point where Brigadier Hill felt able to return to his Headquarters at Le Mesnil, which he reached about an hour later. The position of his Brigade, however, was extremely fragile at this time and it was doubtful whether it could withstand another attack of this magnitude on the following day.

The decision to deal with the cause of the Brigade's troubles, the German occupation of Bréville, had already been taken, however. After consultation ith Hill, Major-General Gale had come to the conclusion that afternoon that the village must be taken during the night, and at 21:45 a massive artillery bombardment began. At heavy cost, the 12th Parachute Battalion fought their way through the weakened Bréville garrison and took the village. With this pivotal position removed from the clutches of the 346th Division, the Germans had no effective platform through which to mount an attack upon the ridge, and moreover their offensive strength had been broken after the steady and devastating repulse of their many attacks over the last few days. Brigadier Hill's views on the matter were: The German losses in both men and material were great and it would be said that we had won a great defensive victory.

James Hill continued to lead the 3rd Parachute Brigade throughout the remainder of the Normandy campaign, and for his efforts he was awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Service Order. His citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty from D Day until 1st September. Up to 11th June Brigadier Hill with three weak parachute battalions mustering approximately 1200 men held the important ridge from Chateau St Come to the outskirts of Troarn. During this time he was repeatedly attacked by the 346 Division: the line at St Come was only held as a result of a brilliant and daring counter-attack by a company of Canadian Parachutists led by Brigadier Hill himself. From 11th June till 17th August his brigade was almost continuously in the line in the Le Mesnil cross-roads area. Here his example and personal courage directly contributed to the high state of morale which the troops under his command maintained. On the 17th August his brigade led the advance of the Division to Dozule. Under his leadership his brigade fought brilliantly and successfully at the Annebault ridge and again at Beuzeville. Throughout the whole period Brigadier Hill has shown an exceptionally high standard of gallantry and devotion to duty. He was wounded at the commencement of the campaign and although this wound often gave him considerable pain he never left his post.

In March 1945, the 6th Airborne Division took part in Operation Varsity, the Rhine Crossing. Brigadier Hill still commanded the 3rd Parachute Brigade at this time, and for his success as a commander and his conduct during the advance into Germany, he was awarded a third Distinguished Service Order:

Brigadier Hill has commanded 3 Parachute Brigade for two years. Throughout the campaign this officer has performed magnificent service. He has raised his Brigade to the very highest pitch of efficiency and fighting spirit. In Normandy, in spite of being wounded himself and suffering heavy casualties in his brigade, every task set was successfully accomplished. The Brigadier showed the greatest gallantry throughout. In the difficult conditions in the Ardennes and on the Maas, his unflagging enthusiasm kept his brigade at concert pitch. He was himself the inspiration of the vigorous offensive patrolling carried out across the River Maas. In Germany Brigadier Hill rose to even greater heights. His men had a fine fighting start, in which, after suffering considerable casualties on landing, they utterly worsted the Germans and killed or captured a great number of them. In the rapid advance which followed, his brigade gained even greater distinction. On three separate occasions they led the division over long distances into hostile country. Brigadier Hill was the dominant figure in these advances. Travelling well forward himself, showed an unquenchable determination to push on at whatever cost. This not only repeatedly surprised the enemy, but by rapid seizure of distant objectives saved our own troops many casualties. His brigade finished triumphantly by reaching the Baltic at 1400 hrs on 2nd May, after advancing 58 miles in one day. Brigadier Hill's courage and dash in action are almost legendary. His skilful and inspiring leadership has been largely responsible for the great successes achieved by his Brigade.

After the war, Brigadier Hill was given command of the 4th Parachute Brigade of the Territorial Army, part of the 16th Airborne Division (TA). In June 2004, James Hill attended the 60th anniversary of the Normandy Landings in Normandy. Aged 93 at the time, he was the most senior ranking officer of the Normandy landings still alive. In that year a bronze bust in tribute to him was unveiled at Le Mesnil. James Hill died on the 16th March 2006, aged 95. His obituary in the Times reads as follows:

James Hill laid claim to being the longest-serving fighting brigade commander in the Second World War who was neither sacked nor promoted. He certainly appeared to have a brilliant further military career before him but, although originally a regular officer, he left the Army in 1945 to make his mark in commerce and industry. He also claimed the ornithological triumph of being only the second person to have found a cuckoo's egg in a whinchat's nest. Stanley James Ledger Hill was the son of Major-General Walter P.H. Hill. He was educated at Marlborough and RMC Sandhurst, where he was captain of athletics and won the sword of honour. Commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers in 1931, when his father was colonel of the regiment, he ran the regimental athletic and boxing teams but transferred to the Supplementary Reserve in 1936 to marry, at what was then considered a very young age. Even so, such was his reputation that when he was recalled on the outbreak of war he was chosen to command the advance party of 2nd Battalion The Royal Fusiliers when they left for France in September 1939. He commanded a platoon on the Maginot Line until appointed a staff captain at GHQ British Expeditionary Force in January 1940. When the German strategic attack was launched in May, he joined Lord Gort's command post during the battle of France, carried Gort's dispatches to Calais for withdrawal of the BEF and, in the final stage, took charge of the evacuation over the beach at La Panne. On return to England he was awarded the Military Cross, promoted to major and travelled incognito to Dublin, at the request of the Irish Free State Government, to assist in planning for the evacuation of the city in the event of a German landing. The Germans were already busy on neutral territory - he discovered several staying with him at the Gresham Hotel. He volunteered for parachute training and was appointed second-in-command of 1st Parachute Battalion on its formation on August 15, 1941. By the time this unit was launched on Operation Torch - the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November 1942 - Hill was in command. On November 15 the 32 Dakota aircraft carrying the battalion took off from Maison Blanche airfield in Algeria but met thick low cloud over Souk el Arba, the planned drop zone, making return the only option. Next day, having been ordered not to return a second time, Hill flew with the pilot of the leading Dakota, selected a DZ through a gap in the cloud using a ¼-inch-to-the-mile French motoring map and was the first man to jump. The battalion advanced briskly to Medjez el Bab, becoming the first Allied troops to engage the enemy in the Tunisian campaign. Hill was shot through the chest, neck and shoulder during an action on November 24 and evacuated to England. He was later awarded his first DSO. Fit again by February 1943, he was promoted brigadier to raise and command the 3rd Parachute Brigade by converting three infantry battalions to the parachute role. One was later replaced by the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. As part of the 6th Airborne Division, this formation was to play a key role in the early hours of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Speaking after the war, Hill categorised the men under his command as either "soldiers of fortune" - spoiling for a fight and, in consequence, having to be very well disciplined, or as men who volunteered because they thought it their duty. Hill believed he needed to understand the make-up of each battalion exactly if he was to select the right one for every task from Normandy to the Baltic. The D-Day tasks of 3rd Parachute Brigade were to silence the German artillery battery covering Sword beach from Merville 90 minutes before the first landing craft were due, demolish the bridges over the river Dives at Varaville, Robehomme, Bures and Troarn and then take and hold the high ground north of Troarn to Le Plein to prevent the enemy entering the bridgehead from the east. On the evening before D-Day they were confined to their camps, and Hill told his assembled officers and NCOs:
Gentlemen, in spite of your excellent training and orders, do not be daunted if chaos reigns. It undoubtedly will. The valley of the Dives was interspersed with 4ft-deep irrigation ditches over much of the seven miles of the brigade front. Hill landed in one soon after midnight June 5-6. He gathered some of his brigade tactical headquarters together but was wounded soon afterwards by low-flying Allied aircraft dropping anti-personnel bombs in the wrong place. Because of rough weather, poor visibility and instrument failure, men of the brigade were dropped over a far wider area than intended. Many drowned in areas flooded by the Dives but all objectives were taken and the ridge from Troarn to Le Plein was cleared of the enemy by the afternoon. The battle to hold this ground, from which the enemy could dominate the crossings of the Orne, raged for two days and nights, after which Hill's brigade had lost 50 officers and 1,000 men. Having crossed the Seine by the end of September, 6th Airborne Division was withdrawn to be reinforced and retrained for further airborne operations. In the event Montgomery called for it to help plug the gap in the Allied front caused by Field Marshal von Runstedt's Ardennes offensive in December 1944. The division arrived by sea and reached the front in trucks but returned to England as soon as the offensive was regained. Their next task was to prepare for the Rhine crossing. Ten thousand aircraft, including 540 Dakotas carrying parachute troops and 1,300 troop-carrying gliders, took part in the largest airborne operation of the war. Hill's brigade dropped on target and on time. The enemy was routed, but more than 1,000 men of the 6th Airborne Division were killed or wounded on March 24, 1945. Thirty-seven days later, having fought its way across 275 miles of Germany, 3rd Parachute Brigade captured Wismar on the Baltic and became the first British troops to link up with the Russians advancing from the east. Hill was awarded a Bar to his DSO for gallantry and leadership in Normandy and a second Bar for his service from the Rhine to the Baltic. He received the French Legion of Honour and the US Silver Star for his service in Tunisia and the northwest European campaign respectively. He was briefly military governor of Copenhagen after the liberation of the city in May 1945, then returned to civilian life. As a Territorial Army officer he raised 4th Parachute Brigade TA in London and commanded it 1947-49. He was much involved in establishing the Parachute Regimental Association and was a trustee of the Airborne Forces Security Fund for 30 years and chairman for five.

Brigadier S.J.L. Hill DSO and two Bars, MC, wartime commander 3rd Parachute Brigade, was born on March 14, 1911. He died on March 16, 2006, aged 95.


General Sir Kenneth Thomas Darling GBE KCB DSO (deceased)
*Signature Value : £40 (matted)

General Sir Kenneth Thomas Darling GBE KCB DSO (17 September 1909 – 31 October 1998) was a senior British Army officer who was Commander in Chief of Allied Forces Northern Europe from 1967 to 1969. He passed away in 1998.


Lieutenant General Napier Crookenden KCB DSO OBE DL (deceased)
*Signature Value : £35 (matted)

Napier Crookenden was born on the 31st of August 1915, the son of Colonel Arthur Crookenden CBE DSO, late of the Cheshire Regiment. Napier Crookenden went to Wellington College, After college Napier went to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst where he gained the King's Gold Medal. Napier Crookenden followed in his father's footsteps and was commissioned into the Cheshire Regiment as a Second Lieutenant in 1935. Before the outbreak of World War Two he was deployed to Palestine with the 2nd Battalion Cheshire Regiment. When war broke out he went to France and remained with this Battalion after the withdrawal from Dunkirk, until 1942 when he volunteered for the Airborne Forces. He attended parachute course 81 at R.A.F. Ringway, 6th to 16th September 1943 and was posted to the 6th Airlanding Brigade as the Brigade Major. As Brigade Major, Crookenden was closely involved in the planning of the Brigade's part in the airborne assault on the night of 6th June 1944. On the evening of D-Day, he took off from Brize Norton in a Horsa glider bound for LZ-N near Ranville, landing without incident. Crookenden was involved in heavy fighting around the Orne Bridgehead. When the commanding officer of 9th Parachute Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Terence Otway, was badly wounded, Crookenden was promoted in the field and became Commanding Officer. From December 1944 through to February 1945, Crookenden commanded the battalion in the final stages of Hitler's Ardennes offensive, fighting skirmishes with withdrawing German troops and helping to hold the line after the enemy had been forced back. For his actions during this period he was Mentioned in Despatches, gazetted 10th May 1945. On the 24th of March 1945, the 9th Parachute Battalion took part in Operation Varsity, with the 6th Airborne Division landing behind the Rhine defences. The Battalion dropped onto DZ-A, just to the north of the Diersfordterwald, with their objective being to capture two areas of high ground astride a road. Following a spirited attack, the Battalion secured their first objective, the northern end of the Schneppenberg feature, but well-prepared defences prevented them from quickly seizing the remainder. Lieutenant-Colonel Crookenden took charge of the situation and, bringing the leading company round to a flank, personally led the assault. Despite heavy enemy fire the position was swiftly captured, with many Germans being killed and nearly 500 taken prisoner. Shortly afterwards the Battalion was ordered to capture an enemy-occupied village, which involved a final advance across 500 yards of open country in broad daylight. Coming under heavy small arms fire, Crookenden again put himself at the head of his men and rushed the village, taking 200 prisoners. For his actions on that day Crookenden was awarded an immediate Distinguished Service Order, which was gazetted 7th June 1945. Lieutenant-Colonel Crookenden continued to command his Battalion during the advance across Germany, culminating in the occupation of Wismar on the 2nd May 1945. After the war Crookenden served in Palestine. Crookenden's military skills were soon tested once more when, in the New Year of 1946, the Jewish Hagama began their operations against the British. For his actions between the period 27th March to 26th September 1946, he was awarded a second Mention In Despatches. Crookenden went to Malaya in 1952 as GSO1 (Plans) to General Templar. There, as the Army Representative of the Combined Emergency Planning Staff of the Director of Operations, Crookenden soon made his mark. Travelling the length and breadth of the country, his staff produced papers which greatly assisted in operations against Communist insurgents. For his work in Malaya, Crookenden was awarded the OBE. After a spell at the Nato Defence College in Rome, he became Chief Instructor of the Joint School of Air Warfare in 1957; he then had a brief tour as Colonel GS at Staff College before being appointed to command the 16th Parachute Brigade. After a period as Director of Land/Air Warfare, by which time he had added a helicopter pilot's licence to his fixed wing qualification, he was appointed, in 1967, Commandant of the Royal Military College of Science, Shrivenham, a post he held until 1969 when he was appointed GOC-in-C Western Command. In this, his last Army appointment, Crookenden showed that he had lost none of his taste for danger - participating more than once in foot patrols on the Falls Road under the command of a sergeant in his son's regiment, the Scots Guards. He was appointed a Companion of the Bath in 1966, and Knight Commander of the Bath in 1970. He retired from the Army in 1972. Napier Crookenden passed away in 2002.

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