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View Full Version : An Amazing True Story - Arnhem 1944 ... and another, very "sweet" story!



mungee
10-19-2009, 10:35 PM
I really have to share this story with you chaps out there!

I work in a firm of attorneys in Durban (South Africa) and my interest in all things "flying"/WWII is well known to all of the partners in the firm - just as well, because a partner in our Estates Dept had recently been dealing with a client who she knew I would be very excited to meet!
So yesterday morning I was summoned downstairs to one of our meeting rooms where I had the honour and privilege of meeting a WWII veteran - more specifically, a man who, during WWII, had served in the RAF and then in the Army Air Corps.

With some prompting from the "partner" of mine, he relayed a most incredible story to me ... and as best as I can recall it, it went like this:

This gentleman (his name is Trevor Francis - I will refer to him as "TF") was initially a pilot in the RAF (not sure what he flew there, but I'll find out!) and subsequently volunteered for, and was accepted into, the Army Air Corps.
TF explained to me that Winston Churchill had decided that a separate entity, the Army Air Corps, should be established to provide glider pilots who had the ability, and the desire, to become "soldiers" as soon as they had landed their gliders.
By the nature of the job (ie a bit of a "one-way-ticket") recruits were to be volunteers.
Apparently it had initially been thought that it would be easier to train soldiers into becoming pilots, than by training pilots into becoming soldiers - anyway, TF came from the ranks of the RAF!

TF asked me if I knew about "gliders", to which I said "oh yes, you mean 'Horsa's"? I must say he seemed quite surprised that someone from my generation (I'm 56 years old) had that depth of knowledge on the subject ... hehe!

Anyway, TF piloted a Horsa glider in the ill-fated Arnhem operation (Holland - Sept 1944) and found himself, with his comrades (men of the 1st Parachute Brigade - the "Red Devils"), dug in to slit trenches near the banks of the River Rhine - fighting off ever-increasing numbers of German troops. They had been fighting for many days without having been re-supplied (from the air).
TF told me that they had in fact not eaten for 10 days, and that their ammuninition had been limited to the very "basic" (relatively small)amount that they had arrived with!

The story goes on that on one particular day, this Dakota air transport plane comes in rather low (500 or so feet) over the tops of the trees ... tail aflame from having taken a lot of German flak ... and drops supplies over the field near where TF and his comrades are dug in.
The pilot of the Dakota then does an incredibly brave thing ... instead of heading off for the "relative safety" of a crash-landing, he decides to do another "circuit" to drop more supplies to TF and co. This time of course, the Dakota is burning more fiercely and after making the second drop turns towards the River Rhine and does a crash landing in the river itself ... out of sight from TF and co. Miraculously the Dakota pilot and his crew survive the crash landing in the Rhine!!

The story now continues many, many years later in Durban, South Africa. TF and his wife decide that the time has come for them to move into a retirement village. They choose one situated in Durban North (where I grew up!) and on moving in, happen to mention to the 'supervisor/manager' of the 'village' that TF had been a pilot during WWII to which the 'supervisor/manager' replied to the effect that "that's amazing because we have another WWII pilot who currently lives here!".

And guess what? ..... the "other pilot" turns out to be the pilot of the Dakota who risked his life (and that of his crew!) to drop the second batch of supplies to TF and his mates during the Battle of Arnhem!
ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!
As one can imagine the two pilots are the closest of buddies!!

But the story doesn't quite end there!!
Mrs F, not wanting to be totally "outdone" by TF (hehe!), proceeds to tell me this lovely (and very sweet!) story of her love for this dashing young pilot.
Her story goes like this:

At the time they met, Mrs F was 17 years old - she had been asked if she would attend a dance at the local RAF station - her dad had said "OK", but that he would drop her off AND he would collect her!! Hehe!
Anyway it was at this dance that she met TF and she then unashamedly admits to falling deeply in love with him.
After some months, she approached her parents to ask for their permission to get married to TF, and if not ... they (TF and Mrs F) would "be naughty" (hehe! Mrs F said that "naughty" was the term used in those days!!). Anyway, permission was granted, and the two of them got married.
As a married woman, Mrs F couldn't live at the air base/station so she took up "digs" at a nearby pub.
The couple who owned the pub apparently took Mrs F "under their wing" and pretty much treated her as a daughter.
In those days, TF was flying night missions across to France - dropping supplies to the French Resistance fighters.
The owner of the pub was clearly concerned at the stress that the young Mrs F was presumaably experiencing and would ensure that on those "mission nights", a tumbler of whisky was left on the table, beside her bed, to assist her in getting some sleep!!
Well, Mrs F then tells me, with a grin on her face, that she didn't much care for whisky then and that she would leave it for TF to have when he returned from his night missions. Mrs F then said (with an even bigger grin on her face!) that TF would then down the whisky, roll over and go fast to sleep ... not surprising if one thinks that only a few hours before, he'd been risking his life flying over German-occupied France, at night!!

An amazing story (from TF) and a lovely story (from Mrs F), I'm sure you'll agree!

PS I've contacted our local press and put a reporter onto this!! It's a story that must be told!

mungee
10-19-2009, 10:35 PM
I really have to share this story with you chaps out there!

I work in a firm of attorneys in Durban (South Africa) and my interest in all things "flying"/WWII is well known to all of the partners in the firm - just as well, because a partner in our Estates Dept had recently been dealing with a client who she knew I would be very excited to meet!
So yesterday morning I was summoned downstairs to one of our meeting rooms where I had the honour and privilege of meeting a WWII veteran - more specifically, a man who, during WWII, had served in the RAF and then in the Army Air Corps.

With some prompting from the "partner" of mine, he relayed a most incredible story to me ... and as best as I can recall it, it went like this:

This gentleman (his name is Trevor Francis - I will refer to him as "TF") was initially a pilot in the RAF (not sure what he flew there, but I'll find out!) and subsequently volunteered for, and was accepted into, the Army Air Corps.
TF explained to me that Winston Churchill had decided that a separate entity, the Army Air Corps, should be established to provide glider pilots who had the ability, and the desire, to become "soldiers" as soon as they had landed their gliders.
By the nature of the job (ie a bit of a "one-way-ticket") recruits were to be volunteers.
Apparently it had initially been thought that it would be easier to train soldiers into becoming pilots, than by training pilots into becoming soldiers - anyway, TF came from the ranks of the RAF!

TF asked me if I knew about "gliders", to which I said "oh yes, you mean 'Horsa's"? I must say he seemed quite surprised that someone from my generation (I'm 56 years old) had that depth of knowledge on the subject ... hehe!

Anyway, TF piloted a Horsa glider in the ill-fated Arnhem operation (Holland - Sept 1944) and found himself, with his comrades (men of the 1st Parachute Brigade - the "Red Devils"), dug in to slit trenches near the banks of the River Rhine - fighting off ever-increasing numbers of German troops. They had been fighting for many days without having been re-supplied (from the air).
TF told me that they had in fact not eaten for 10 days, and that their ammuninition had been limited to the very "basic" (relatively small)amount that they had arrived with!

The story goes on that on one particular day, this Dakota air transport plane comes in rather low (500 or so feet) over the tops of the trees ... tail aflame from having taken a lot of German flak ... and drops supplies over the field near where TF and his comrades are dug in.
The pilot of the Dakota then does an incredibly brave thing ... instead of heading off for the "relative safety" of a crash-landing, he decides to do another "circuit" to drop more supplies to TF and co. This time of course, the Dakota is burning more fiercely and after making the second drop turns towards the River Rhine and does a crash landing in the river itself ... out of sight from TF and co. Miraculously the Dakota pilot and his crew survive the crash landing in the Rhine!!

The story now continues many, many years later in Durban, South Africa. TF and his wife decide that the time has come for them to move into a retirement village. They choose one situated in Durban North (where I grew up!) and on moving in, happen to mention to the 'supervisor/manager' of the 'village' that TF had been a pilot during WWII to which the 'supervisor/manager' replied to the effect that "that's amazing because we have another WWII pilot who currently lives here!".

And guess what? ..... the "other pilot" turns out to be the pilot of the Dakota who risked his life (and that of his crew!) to drop the second batch of supplies to TF and his mates during the Battle of Arnhem!
ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!
As one can imagine the two pilots are the closest of buddies!!

But the story doesn't quite end there!!
Mrs F, not wanting to be totally "outdone" by TF (hehe!), proceeds to tell me this lovely (and very sweet!) story of her love for this dashing young pilot.
Her story goes like this:

At the time they met, Mrs F was 17 years old - she had been asked if she would attend a dance at the local RAF station - her dad had said "OK", but that he would drop her off AND he would collect her!! Hehe!
Anyway it was at this dance that she met TF and she then unashamedly admits to falling deeply in love with him.
After some months, she approached her parents to ask for their permission to get married to TF, and if not ... they (TF and Mrs F) would "be naughty" (hehe! Mrs F said that "naughty" was the term used in those days!!). Anyway, permission was granted, and the two of them got married.
As a married woman, Mrs F couldn't live at the air base/station so she took up "digs" at a nearby pub.
The couple who owned the pub apparently took Mrs F "under their wing" and pretty much treated her as a daughter.
In those days, TF was flying night missions across to France - dropping supplies to the French Resistance fighters.
The owner of the pub was clearly concerned at the stress that the young Mrs F was presumaably experiencing and would ensure that on those "mission nights", a tumbler of whisky was left on the table, beside her bed, to assist her in getting some sleep!!
Well, Mrs F then tells me, with a grin on her face, that she didn't much care for whisky then and that she would leave it for TF to have when he returned from his night missions. Mrs F then said (with an even bigger grin on her face!) that TF would then down the whisky, roll over and go fast to sleep ... not surprising if one thinks that only a few hours before, he'd been risking his life flying over German-occupied France, at night!!

An amazing story (from TF) and a lovely story (from Mrs F), I'm sure you'll agree!

PS I've contacted our local press and put a reporter onto this!! It's a story that must be told!

Waldo.Pepper
10-19-2009, 11:28 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">PS I've contacted our local press and put a reporter onto this!! </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Absolutely.

Zeus-cat
10-20-2009, 09:22 PM
Great stuff. Please pass along more if you can.

M_Gunz
10-20-2009, 10:36 PM
Check to see if your library has Silent Wings by Gerard Devlin (http://www.amazon.com/Silent-Wings-Marine-Combat-Glider/dp/0312724608/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256099480&sr=1-1)

It covers a lot of detail on the Arnhem Raid and throughout the war that perhaps you and TF would like very much.
Yes, I have an old copy and enjoyed it very much twice so far.

Feathered_IV
10-21-2009, 06:00 AM
Thanks for sharing that. I hope the story gets written down for history. It would be a terrible shame if it were lost forever.

mungee
10-30-2009, 03:22 PM
Just an update on this.
The local press aren't showing any interest in this story (bloody amazing - TF said that he wasn't surprised because he believed that the folk of the current era have no real interest in WWII - how sad and to think of the millions of people who put their lives on the line so that future generations would experience freedom - we all owe them such a lot!!). Anyway, I'll therefore be having a crack at writing the article myself and will then send it to WWII/Miltary Aviation magazines around the world - what was life like before internet?!
Yesterday evening I visited the two gentlemen concerned ie Trevor Francis, the British glider pilot (fighting German troops just outside Arnhem, and alongside the banks of the River Rhine) and Stanley Webster, the Dakota pilot (who risked his life by doing a second supply-drop "run", notwithsatnding that his aircraft was on fire).
Stan Webster explained to me what it was like approaching Arnhem(in a Dakota)during those days (at the time, the "Red Devils" had been encircled by divisions of Waffen-SS troops and tanks ... with their backs to the Rhine and with minimal supplies of food and ammo to enable them to continue to hold out against the strengthening German forces ).
Stan told me that as one appraoched Arnhem, one would see a large cloud of smoke hovering over the combat area - the smoke was in fact caused by exploding German flak shells, being pumped up into the sky at a dizzy pace.
Stan said that this sight was very intimidating (an understatement, I'm sure you'll agree), knowing that you were required to fly straight into this cloud of flak - and almost certain to be hit, at least once. He did add that some pilots lost their nerve and would take their aircraft up to a higher altitude (beyond the flak pattern being laid by the German AA batteries)to then drop their supplies (by parachute) from the higher altitude - Stan told me that he actually saw a supply parachute that had been dropped from one of the "higher" aircraft, get snared up on the tail of a Dakota, causing the aircraft and the parachute to nose-dive down to earth! Apparently this practice of dropping supplies from above the designated altitude resulted in a number of fatal accidents/casualties.
I told Stan that I would have expected him to have received a medal/decoration for his act of bravery in continuing to fly his "torched" Dakota to drop further supplies to the stranded parabats below (I had understood from TF that Stan had merely received a commssion after what he had done at Arnhem. However, Stan said that he did in fact get a medal - the US's Air Medal (note ... being given to an RAF pilot!!). Stan explained that the "air element" of Operation Market Garden (Arnhem etc) was under the command of a USAF general and it had been decided that the British pilots/aircrew who were to be awarded medals for bravery would receive US awards/medals, and that the US pilots/aircrew that had distinguished themselves in battle would receive the British (medal) equivalent - strange, but true!!
I will keep you guys posted on developments.
We owe so much to these guys ... and to look at them today, as elderly gentlemen (and I really mean "gentlemen", because that they truly are)and to think what their eyes must have seen ... gee, what bravery!

Waldo.Pepper
10-30-2009, 06:18 PM
Take your camera with you, and thanks. Thanks them for me to will you?

biltongbru
11-01-2009, 12:09 AM
Rob;

This is a great story, thanks for sharing!

Try to get hold of some war-time pics of these gentlemen to be published here...

mungee
11-01-2009, 12:19 PM
Thanks Biltongbru ... I'll keep you posted.
Just another thing that I now recall Stan Webster telling me ... not sure if any of you guys out there are old enough to remember Jimmy Edwards - I can ... just!! ... he was a British comedian in the 50's and early 60's - I remember seeing him in black-and-white movies, usually playing the role of a (funny) cane-carrying headmaster - he was also on that radio show "Ron & Ef" (sp?) and his standard line was "Hello, hello, hello ..." usually when confronting that "idiot" Ron (I think the "son-in-law") and his wide Ef doing something silly - well, Stan watched Jimmy Edwards' plane (a Dakota, I presume) going down in flames right in front of him (at Arnhem).
I'm now reading up on the subject of Arnhem (not surprisingly) and read today about 2 things that were unknown to me before that may interest you guys:
- during the training of British paratroopers, they had to make 8 proper parachute jumps (2 from balloons and 6 from aircraft) - during those 8 jumps they could refuse at any time to jump and that would be accepted (no questions asked/no disgrace!)and they would be returned to their original outfit/unit - however, after these 8 jumps, a refusal to jump would result in a court martial;

- the British paratroopers of WWII only had one parachute ie no reserve chute (however, the US parabats did have reserve chutes)

Gee, it's amazing this Arnhem thing has opened up a whole new area of "study" for me ... hehe!

ptg101
11-04-2009, 04:35 PM
mungee, that's an awesome find! The link between the two men and their substantially diverse flying careers are an extremely interesting mix.

I read Flypast magazine here in the UK and I'm pretty sure they'd jump at this sort of story. The editors email is online and freely available - it is:

Ken Ellis: flypast@keypublishing.com

I can't guarantee that they'll accept an article writen by you, but they may send someone over or contact the gents themselves through you. Whatever - their story needs to be told!

mungee
02-03-2010, 06:42 AM
I've been rather "naughty" and haven't followed through on my intention to write an article on this amazing story.
Part of the reason is that I've been reading up on the subject (Arnhem and the "Red Berets") - and I've just about finished the two books that Trevor Francis lent me ("Arnhem 1944" and "Airborne Gunner") - incidentally he gets a mention in both!
I've also been looking at old copies of "The Eagle" (the magazine for The Glider Pilot Regimental Association")and in one of the issues, Trevor Francis recorded the following:

“… the following day I was asked to see if a Halifax could be used in the low tow position without turning the Horsa upside down. I did it and it was no difference to the Lancaster. This was an RAF request.

“Using my favour to them, I asked permission to prove you could fly a power plane backwards, I remember reading it could be done but most of our chaps would not believe it. When we had a 70 mph wind, I took off in a Tiger Moth which took a long time to reach the end of the field where upon doing so, I throttled back to just below 60mph finally reaching where I had taken off from and just landed."

Extract from “The Eagle” – the magazine of ‘The Glider Pilot Regimental Association’

Amazing chap!!! What stories to tell!

GBrutus
02-03-2010, 07:36 AM
Terrific story, Mungee. Thanks for posting.

K_Freddie
02-03-2010, 10:42 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by mungee:
The local press aren't showing any interest in this story </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
Not surprising when you have a 'psuedo liberal' councillor/mayor (Actually is this IDIOT still around ?) who wants to change Edwin Swales VC drive to some other non-descript name - trying to tell us he knows a bit about history.

Nice story. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

FI.Spitsfire
02-03-2010, 10:52 AM
Thanks for the story, you never know the (B)ig (B)ouncy (C)astle might be interested http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

Also let them know that many more people are not just interested but awed and thankful for what they have done. Including younger generations!

I'm 22 http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

sce8on
02-03-2010, 11:12 AM
Thanks for sharing Mungee - from the moment I started reading I couldnt stop. Don't think we can ever imagine what these men (and women) went through. To hear stories like this warms the soul - but I think it's something that many people have lost touch with. Whenever I hear a story like this I try to pass it onto my friends and family - but they just dont seem to get it at all http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_frown.gif

Having said that I'm a secondary school teacher - and I can normally find one or two pupils in a year that have a fantastic knowledge of what went on in WW2. There is hope yet!

You tell those guys for us that we're all proud of them!

ON

BluesmanSF
02-03-2010, 12:06 PM
A fantastic story indeed! Thanks a lot for sharing and I'm sure it would put a grin on the gentleman's face if you told him how many of us would like to thank and gongratulate him! =D Alhough war is a terrible thing and hence I'm sure his recollections from that era might be but a misery and sad losses, but he sure showed some heck of a bravery!

6S_Blues

mungee
02-03-2010, 12:14 PM
K_Freddie, you've really touched on a "raw spot" with me on the street re-naming issue!!
The eTthekwini (Durban) Council decided to rename approx 100 streets in Durban - including 'Edwin Swales VC Drive' (now Solomon Mahlangu Drive!!) - it was blatantly a political decision and I guess done because they felt that they could just do it!! - the subsequent "fall-out" was immense - the new names (mainly of black political activits/freedom fighters) were being "painted out", cleaned and then "painted out" again.The matter is now the subject of a court case (still to be heard).
I must tell you the street re-naming infuriated me no end - in fact it changed my thinking about reconciliation within the so-called "Rainbow Nation" dramatically/overnight - and I think millions of others as well!
Edwin Swales was an old boy of my school, Durban High School (DHS), and I'm very proud of that fact - actually Edwin was at DHS at the same time as my father. There were 4 SA recipients (incl Edwin) of the VC during WWII and the eThekwini Municipality sought fit to try and erase the "memory" of Edwin Swales by changing the name of Edwin Swales VC Drive.
I was therefore delighted to recently attend the unveiling of a memorial to Edwin Swales at DHS - the unveiling was performed by the Chief of the SAAF. Another memorial was unveiled later that day at the grounds of the Natal Mounted Rifles (NMR) - Edwin had served with the NMR prior to joining the SAAF and then being seconded to the RAF (to be a Master Bomber in the Pathfinders).
I will try to remember to let you guys know whether the court case against the Municipality succeeds (the argument being that there was no consultation with the local citizens etc).

K_Freddie
02-03-2010, 01:28 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by mungee:
.. of my school, Durban High School (DHS). </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
OOhhhhhhhh.. the 'enemy' http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif
Glenwood High School old boy here... http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

Ja! I wasn't happy about that lot either.
http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/51.gif

http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

K_Freddie
02-03-2010, 01:32 PM
Here's an old pic of my grandfather and his brother DHS-1926
http://www.vanjast.com/IL2Pics/DHS1926.JPG
http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

mungee
02-07-2010, 12:49 PM
Some pic's of the man - Trevor Francis.

I believe thses were all taken in 1944.



http://img705.imageshack.us/img705/3893/trevorfothers.th.jpg (http://img705.imageshack.us/i/trevorfothers.jpg/)&lt;IMGhttp://img706.imageshack.us/img706/9620/trevormegfrancis.th.jpg (http://img706.imageshack.us/i/trevormegfrancis.jpg/)


IMG:top]http://img237.imageshack.us/img237/4268/trevorfrancis.th.jpg (http://img237.imageshack.us/i/trevorfrancis.jpg/)[/IMG]



The first pic shows Trevor Francis (in the middle) with his instructor P/O Booth.

In the second pic you can see Trevor with his wife, Meg - they're still together today - 66 years later!!

The third pic is of Trevor - note his glider pilots' wings.

I must apologise for the "URL residue" around the pic's - this is the first time that I've embedded pic's in a forum and I'm obviously doing something wrong!