tafelberg - British Militarium



tafelberg - British Militarium
Reg Curtis
The Hotel Tafelberg
and the Battle of Arnhem
Reg Curtis
The Hotel Tafelberg
and the Battle of Arnhem
BN1 Publishing
Sussex House
75 Church Road, Hove, BN3 2BB
Telephone: 01273 765 200 Fax: 01273 206 680
The author would like to thank the friends who
have given kind permission for their photographs,
drawings, letters and memories to be reproduced
in this book.
Further copies of this book in soft cover
format may be ordered direct from the
Book design: John Jolly
BN1 Publishing
© Reg Curtis 2007 All rights reserved.
Published in the United Kingdom 2008.
Preface : page IX
Tanno Pieterse MBE
Introduction : page X
Reg Curtis
Chapter One : page 1
Preparation for the Last Battle
Chapter Two : page 8
Action Stations and Away
Chapter Three : page 18
Six Days at the Tafelberg Hotel
Chapter Four : page 28
A German General Inspects
Chapter Five : page 36
Destination Stalag 11 B, Via Apeldoorn
Chapter Six: page 56
The Best Kept Secret of World War II
Visual Memory : page 59
Photographs, Pictures & Documents
We Will Remember Them : page 207
The Men Who Fell
Epilogue : page 214
Julian Brazier TD MP
VI • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • VII
Reg Curtis
Tanno Pieterse MBE
Chairman Lest We Forget Foundation.
This is the most personal story of a man who looked death in
the face on many occasions.
He does not pretend to be a hero, but we in Holland who witnessed that ferocious battle of Arnhem back in September 1944 with
our own eyes as citizens, know that Reg Curtis is one of a great many
hero’s who fought so brilliantly against overwhelming odds. There
were two armoured divisions - with Tiger tanks, the biggest they had
- of highly trained and experienced SS soldiers who were recuperating
from tough battles in France. Yet these soldiers from the skies succeeded in keeping control of the Arnhem bridge for four days, twice as
long as they were ordered to do. And they withstood the German attacks in their Oosterbeek perimeter for another 6 days. After the battle
there was an orderly retreat, fitting the high standard of these first rate
The village of Oosterbeek and the Town of Arnhem were in
shambles. Countless field graves marked the places where Airborne
soldiers had given their lives for our liberation which was postponed
for another 7 months as a result of the lost operation Market Garden.
In this witches cauldron, which lasted for ten days in all, the
individual soldier had to keep a steady mind and do battle against
manifold odds threatening his life all the time. Many books on Arnhem
have been written about all sorts of aspects. Very few have been written, telling the very personal fears and pains all these men had.
Mr. Curtis gives the reader insight in some very private thoughts
and sufferings. In short it is a tale of a proud man who served his country in admiration of the man who was in Holland our hope in dismal
days: Sir Winston Churchill. A story which is a true “Document Humain”. Here and there the soldiers’ “language” will not be understood
by the reader who has no experience in the army, but insiders will recognise a mate in arms.
Well done, Reg.
VIII • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • IX
De Tafelberg Field Hospital 1944
Reg Curtis
This is a story by a veteren of the Battle of Arnhem. code name
“Operation Market Garden”, in 1944 It tells of the close cooperation of
Dutch and Airborne medical helpers.
The Dutch found themselves in most adverse conditions under fire
in a forward field hospital in the town of Oosterbeek during the Arnhem
The particular hospital was Hotel ‘de Tafelberg’ before the Airborne
Landings. It was taken over by a local Dutch Doctor Gerrit van Maanen
and his daughter Angie and son Pual, just before the Airborne arrived at
Gincall Heath and Wolfhazen.
Their aim had been to look after any Dutch civilians caught up in
any conflict or refugees passing through and wanting shelter. Things went
differnently after the Airborne Landings of the 17th September 1944.
Col. Graeme Warrack, of 1st Airborne Division Medical Supply,
came to a quick descision to share facilities at the Tafelberg Hotel and use
it jointly with Dr Maanen as a field hospital.
Originally, before the Airborne Landings, a German, General Model
used the hotel as his H.Q. but made a hasty retreat on our landing.
The Airborne Landings I landed with my 1st Para. Bn of the 1st
Para. Brigade, at 2.45p.m. Sunday September 17th at a place called Wolfhazen. In my book ‘Churchill’s Volunteer’ I describe events up to when I was
wounded in an area near Elizabeth Hospital, opposite a house of Mr Ruders at 92 Klingalebeeksweg where the Bn. was shot up by 88 millimetre fire
from a brick works across the Rhine. After being hit and made comfortable
I spent the night in a local farm and was transported by Jeep to the Tafelberg in Oosterbeek the next day on Tuesday 19th. On the way we passed
the Schoonord Restaurant at the Oosterbeek crossroad where an anti-tank
battery of the Royal Artillery were in position firing down the road toward
The Jeep swerved into the Tafelberg forecourt and I was carried
into the foyer.. There was quite a clatter going on inside and out, with small
arms and heavy calibre fire. I thought, “ah well we will have to make the
best of it”. The Airbourne medics under Major Guy Rigby-Jones, along with
William Roberts of the 16th Para Field Ambulance were kept busy dealing
X • Reg Curtis
with all types of wounds from smashed tibia fibia like mine to gunshot
wounds to head, stomach or peppered shrapnel like Eric Simpson, AntiTank Gunner on the bridge ramparts. There was a German wounded from
the 10th Frundensburg Division on a stretcher moaning. I said, “ what’s the
matter with you mate? “ He moaned and I added, “ you’ll live cock.”
It was just then I had sight of a very young looking nurse. It was
Angie can Maanen, just 17 years young, tending to all the wounded.
The nurses here were a wonderful team with grit and determination
to help beyond their capacity of endurance. Angie’s father, Dr Gerrit van
Maanen was so jubilant that he had delivered a baby to one of his Dutch
patients on the 17th Spetember.
I had a restless night on Tuesday, by Wednesday things hotted up,
outside and in the Tafelberg. The place was right in the front line now, with
odd bullets and machine fun fire passing through. For safety I was moved
to the head of the broad staircase. Thursday and Friday came with no
respite. Angie and Ann Pelester, another nurse with Dr Mannen, plodded
on relentlessly, it was just sheer, marvellous, devotion to duty. Quite a number of German wounded came to the Tafelberg and were treated in the same
manner and respect as any Airbourne or Dutch wounded. There were many
Dutch people caught up in the battle wounded and some killed. One Dutch
nurse was killed in the Tafelberg named Sister Corry, a sibling of Hank at
the Tafelberg.
Angie floated by, carefully stepping over and around wounded on
the landing where I was. By now I was getting a bit delirious. Airborne medics kept coming and going with wounded. It was getting really desperate.
The Tafelberg had no water, which was cut off when the place rocked from
constant shell fire.
The garage at the Tafelberg was absolutely full of corpses. To make
matters worse the Germans were getting antagonistic and demanded we
were pulled out under threat of blowing the place up.
There was a fright when we received a direct hit by shell fire and
after the dust settled Angie’s dog, Finn, emerged unhurt from the rubble.
Hank Albers, a friend of the Maanen family, sheltered Angie’s
brotherPaul in his house in Oosterbeek.
On the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem it was so marvellous meeting up with Angie Maanen again and we had many things to talk
about. Over the years since Arnhem we have kept in touch.
When the Tafelberg fell I was moved to Elisabeth Hospital Arnhem,
then on to Julianner Hospital Apeldour, still under the care of Dutch and
English medics.
Tafelberg • XII
Chapter One
Preparation for the Last Battle
‘A scholar may be gulled thrice, a solider but once.’
On returning to England via Liverpool I found the temperature
bleak but welcome after the mixed variety in N. Africa. The 1st Para Brigade were now in closer proximity but still spread out a little. It was now
possible to meet up for Inter Battn. football, boxing, exercises and socially
by visits to each Battns. place of billet. The 2nd Battn. were stationed at
Stoke Rochford Hall, near Grantham in Lincolnshire. Grantham being the
centre of the Old Coaching Inns. The 3rd Para Battn. were at Spalding, near
which are several ancient Inns, the White Horse, with its bold frontage and
thatched roof is the most attractive architecturally, and the White Hart, the
oldest, tracing its origin back to 1377. The 13th Century Church of S.S.
Mary and Nicholas is very impressive and owes much to the painstaking
restoration carried out by Sir Gilbert Scott.
The 1st Para Battn. were stationed at Grimthorpe Castle, Bulby
Hall and Bourne in Lincolnshire. Its C.O. being Lt/Col P. Cleasby-Thompson who succeeded Col. Alistair Pearson, after the Sicily Landings. Alistair
a Territorial Army Officer with three D.S.O’s and an M.C. would be missed
by the men. After recuperating from sudden Malaria he had contracted in
Sicily he went to the 8th Para. Battn. Colonel James Hill who had taken us
out to N. Africa was from the Royal Fusiliers and earned the D.S.O and
Legion of Honour after being wounded at Gue Hill, he was patched up
and went to the 3rd Para. Brigade. Colonel Eric (Dracula) Down our much
respected second C.O. who really trained and made soldiers of us, left us
to go to the 2nd Para. Brigade and subsequently to 1st Airborne Division
Commander up to Christmas 1943. The best part of the 1st Para. Battn.
going on Christmas leave was that a handful of men were left behind at
Grimthorpe Castle to look after the Battn. gear. I was one of the unlucky or
could it have been lucky ones to stay. We had the place to ourselves, with
plenty of rations which we all mucked in to prepare and cook. Each Para.
entertained his own young lady in the room of his choice at the Castle, with
a truck laid on for trips into nearby Bourne, we were sorry to see the return
of the Battn. from leave.
After which we had another change in command, Colonel Cleasby
Thompson was succeeded by Colonel K.T. Darling who stayed with us for
a month and was then relieved by Colonel David Dobie from the 3rd Para
Battn. A likeable man who informed us that he would train us from ‘A’ to ‘Z’
1 • Reg Curtis
if it was soldiers that we wanted to be, he’d damn well see to it that we
proved ourselves worthy to be under his command, he did just that! He
trained us from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ and the 1st Battn. proved their salt! We settled
down in these new surroundings to hard training, to keep fit physically was
the order of the day. With plenty of exercises thrown in, one exercise code
name “Mush” involved the newly formed 6th Airborne Division, acting out
as the enemy together with some Canadians who were always on the spoil
for a fight. Whereupon our Battn. obliged as they did even when not on an
exercise, such was the spirit of the inter-Division rivalry.
Quite soon all over the country things were working up to a terrific pitch in preparation for the second front. Most newcomers were battle
hardened prior to joining us as reinforcements they knew what the fight was
all about, arguably Hitler was the most destructive individual that Europe
has ever produced, in short his aim was world domination to be achieved at
any cost!
In combating and training to deal with this menace long dreary
hours were spent in near combat conditions. After training hard we used
to play hard too, many a pint was downed in the pubs of Bourne, the favourite of many of the lads and where Sam Coster and I put a few away,
was the ‘Marquis of Granby’. Another place of entertainment was the Corn
Exchange Hall, where many a pleasant evening was spent dancing or jiving,
there were two halls, one for Modern dancing the other for old time. At pub
closing time Paras. would converge on the hall to take their pickings of any
spare young ladies, or try to pinch someone else’s if he had half a chance.
A so called passion wagon was laid on to pick up some Land Army girls
billeted near Peterborough. I found myself along with half a dozen other
Paras. escorting the girls back to their billet. Each man thought he had got
I made for the night! But Matron was –a - chasing Paras. out of the girls
boudoir hell for leather! Being a warm summers evening the Paras. were determined to achieve their objective so resorted to light hearted manoeuvers
among the bushes till Matron ‘spoilt sport’ put paid to that too, you can’t
always win.
On the Monday following this particular weekend P.T. was the first
parade, everyone was shagged! Some after spending the weekend with a
woman/wife/girlfriend, we all smelt a little perfumed, all depends on how
close one got, but somebody reeked of cheap perfume, ‘he must have filled
his boots’ Wally Boldock remarked. Guv Beech the P.T. instructor raised his
light bushy eye-brows and said ‘I’ll teach you lot to come on parade smelling like a load of poofs’ with which he started his ranting commands ‘on the
spot run’ ‘come on! that will learn-yer’.
Tafelberg • 2
We were briefed for numerous operations which some how didn’t
get off the ground, one such cancellation was near Paris code name TRANSFIGURATION, another near Cain code-name WILD-OATS, and yet another involving the Albert Canal code-name COMET. Something big was really
in the air, men coming from the old training area of Tatton Park reported
seeing thousands of tanks, they said the Park was like a giant tank park. It is
interesting to ponder a while on the cost of this war. To move one amoured
division one mile it used nearly two tons of petrol, and the cost to Britain of
the war as a whole was approximately thirteen and a half million pounds
per day, a lot of loose change.
Around mid-September 1944, after the cancellation of one operation after the other, being confined to billets then allowed out, but ‘keep
your lips sealed’, they said, I stocked up with a few luxuries when I went
out to Bourne. We had a canteen in the Castle grounds, but not much hard
stuff. I went quite mad and came back with a couple of bottles of ‘Johnny
Walker Whisky’ at twenty-three shillings a bottle it nearly broke me, then I
thought ‘what the hell’ it might be my last for a while, my friends enjoyed
the kick it gave that NAAFI beer! Good thing too, as this was to be the last
fling before setting off for the Airdrome at Barkstone Heath, at Grantham.
As I checked over my gear which consisted of:- one Gammon bomb, two
point 36 hand grenades, combined pick and shovel, Webb equipment with
small pack, two ammunition pouches, a canvas banderlear, with point 303
rifle ammo, a water bottle, mess tin, iron ration, emergency chocolate, field
dressing, a camouflage net scarf, triangle shape air recognition bright yellow
silk scarf which was tied around the neck ready for instant use, one rifle,
an ingenious escape outfit comprising of:- a silk map of Europe, a button
compass about half inch in diameter, a strong file as big as a nail file……..
that was about it, except for a kit bag strapped to the leg and parachute,
plus Mae West life jacket in case we finished up in the drink. In all I felt like
a well overdue pregnant hippo! I didn’t know where to put anything else
but I added a couple of hundred cigarettes and two bars of chocolate and
some boiled sweets.
I wondered how the rest of the Battn. were going to fare on this hop,
I was just getting used to the new faces of the lads who seemed to take to and
cooperate quite well with the old hands like Frankie (PANZER) Manser, Bill
Silbery, Terry Brace, Dick Bingley, Dolly Gray, Major Perrin Brown, Sid Oxley, Guv. Beech with his top hat, Joe McCready, Paddy McCormack, Capt
Joe Gardinder and a host of other, sadly Sergt Busty Everett fell ill and died
at Bourne. In all the Micks, Geordies, Jocks, Cockneys, Brums, Swede-bashers and other foreign elements in general made up to one big happy family.
3 • Reg Curtis
Charlie Best a PIAT man motioned to Sergt Joe Dimmock ‘could
you pass the grenade?’ directing his eyes in the direction of Shirley Temple,
‘I couldn’t even swallow it mate’, Joe remarked so smoothly.
It was daylight and we clambered into the T.C.Vs, on the way to
the drome, everyone was tense but ready to go come what may huddled in
the curtained trucks covered from view for security reasons men, chatted,
smoked, and wondered, then someone started humming an old favourite
ditty, more joined in the humming, then words added till the air was filled
with that refrain; My Brother Sylvest,
That’s my brother Sylvest;
Gawt a row of bloody medals on his chest, big chest,
E fought forty soldiers in the west,
That’s my brother Sylvest.
That’s my brother Sylvest;
Gawt a load a bushy air upon is chest, big chest,
E can will any woman from the rest,
That’s my brother Sylvest.
My brother Sylvest;
Can do any turn like the rest,
E can jump fight F**K…..
Wheel a barrer, push a truck,
Turn a double somersault,
An whistle with is arse-ole.
That’s my brother Sylvest!
At the drome everyone was waiting calmly but with an eagerness to
get going, on airfields all over the South and East England men were waiting
to be taken by glider or plane and set down at Arnhem in Holland. The objective was to capture and hold the bridge straddling the Rhine at Arnhem.
The high ground to the North was to be seized by my 1st Para. Battn. At the
moment I feel like a stuffed duck, the battle order is not too bad, but with
the addition of parachute oversmock, parachute, and kit-bag strapped to
your leg, you feel somewhat overstressed. We waited at the airfield for over
two hours, feeling tense but eager to get going before someone decided to
cancel the operation. Guv. Beech in his top hat floated by, the Germans will
surrender in surprise if he takes that with him!
Tafelberg • 4
Amid the roar of engines warming up I heard the order to prepare
to emplane, waddling into line we numbered down and emplaned. I was
number thirteen, in the ninety-third aircraft, in the third wave to take off
and scheduled to drop in Holland at three o Clock, superstitious – no! But it
did make me think. I have carried out the procedure emplaning sixty-times
before and this was my third action jump.
The American C. 47 Dakota Transport plane roared down the runway. I thought that it would not make it in becoming airborne, but somehow it lifted in time, after the point of no return!! We circled around for an
hour manoevuring into a mass formation before setting course for Holland.
It was a great sight seeing all those planes, giving one a sense of absolute
security and to know that you were not alone on this mission. Being a few
thousand feet up in the blue I did not readily recognize the scenery below,
anyway my attention was fully occupied by the inspiring sight of all those
aircraft. Hundreds of them, I have never seen so many planes in the air at
one time. I wondered where the heck all those men and machines came
from, it was a far cry from the Dunkirk days when we had no Paras. and
lucky to scrape up a few fighter planes.
As we approached the south coast I noticed the familiar Thames
Estuary and Kentish scenery. We were now passing over my home county
of Kent, the coast of which had been Britain’s front door for continental invaders from time immemorial, Romans, Saxons, Jutes, all chose this route.
Passing over Dover the gateway to England, which lies in the mouth of the
steep valley carved in chalk hills by the river Dour. It is an important strong
hold against enemy invasion, my gaze wandered toward the ancient market
town of Sandwich on the river Stour, where immigrants from the Netherlands and France in Elizabeth 1st reign brought back a certain revival to the
area; for new settlers plied with success their trade in serge, baize and flannel, and market gardening. A few miles south I could see the town of Deal,
which although having an ancient foundation is essentially a town of memories, at Deal Caesar landed; there Becket returned from exile; Kings and
Queens have gathered there and at the Royal Hotel, Nelson was reputed to
have courted Lady Hamilton. Behind me lay Canterbury the chief cathedral
city of the Kingdom. Signs have been discovered of occupation during the
iron age, evidence can be seen by the Roman pavement in Butchery Lane! It
was Ethelberts capital at the time of his conversion to Christianity in 597.
Augustine founded the Abbey there, which still bears his name, and it was
within the walls of the Cathedral that Thomas a Beckett was murdered.
Leaving the Kent coast we found ourselves with nothing but the sea to feast
our eyes on. Not far off, was the enemy occupied coast of Holland.
5 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 6
Chapter Two
Action Stations and Away
‘The devil’s Chaplin is he who preacheth up war.’
It must be realised that a Parachutist’s job is different only in as
much as he is transported to battle in a somewhat unusual and hazardous
method than the normal low key Infantry man on the line. Although given
a task miles behind the enemy lines with the hope that inevitably the main
body of the Army will link up with him, his main task when down to earth
is the roll of that of an Infantry-man. He may have a tougher mental and
physical standard to achieve before becoming a fully efficient Parachutist,
and in some quarters of the Military and Government departments they
realized that it costs a hell of a lot of money to train.
But just let me mention some of the set that did not arrive for the all
important scene one. In the way of some equipment which I am sure would
have been a deciding factor for quicker and more decisive course of action
being taken at Army Corps level. Two, American combat teams known to
have been in Arnhem battle with special communications and two radios
to operate very high frequency ground to air, was found to be useless, and
the Americans unknown and never traced. All wireless communication was
useless because of incorrect settings, we seemed to have better wireless communication in the desolate foot-hills of North Africa. To top it all 36 Gliders were lost with vital supplies, including 22 Jeeps before landing Tommy
Atkins luck was a bit thin.
Which brings me to think of the origin of the British soldiers nickname, it goes back to the Duke of Wellington’s time in 1843, when a name
was required on a sheet of Army paper administration ‘for the use of…..’
soldiers to sign for their pay, the Duke pondering his thoughts of past deeds
remembered a wounded man when he commanded the 33rd Regiment of
Foots, saying ‘its alright sir, its all in a days work.’ Then he died, his name
was Private Thomas Atkins, the Duke of Wellington made sure that Thomas
Atkins name should live forever.
Looking out of the DAK door brought me back to reality sharply
as the forms of fighter planes, Typoons, Spitfire and Mustangs, weaved between our planes.
Hopping over the English Channel tension began to mount in my
plane, as we approached land on the other side. I could clearly see the flooded area in Holland, the work of the Germans to try and stop or impede the
7 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 8
advance of our land forces. I was busy admiring the Dutch landscape, when,
that old order rang out ‘Action stations!’ ‘hook Up’ ‘Green light on…..’
‘JUMP’ Being number 13 I had a bit of a wait, not long, I shuffled forward
then everything seemed to happen so quickly, I felt a slight pat on my parachute pack next I found myself tumbling out of the doorway into that familiar open void again, my chute once more obediently opened. After a good
three point landing I suddenly realised that I was now in enemy occupied
Except for occasional machine-gun fire, and, blasting of enemy gun
emplacements the landing was unopposed. The whole dropping zone north
of Heelsum was packed with Gliders and parachutes discarded, now that
the occupants had arrived, everyone soon collected themselves and rendezvous at their respective points. The time was just after 3pm on Sunday September 17th 1944.
The 1st Airborne Landings were going reasonably well with progress gathering momentum toward the intended goal. The bridge at Arnhem,
the drop zone was like a giant inter-section, with Jeeps calmly bouncing over
the plough, gliders were coming in to land like an inter-city air service, soldiers were collecting equipment from containers, then sprinting off sharply
to join up with their respective units earmarked by various coloured smoke
Our 2nd Para Battn. code-name (LION) under Col J.D. Frost, set
off along the lower and southerly route, below Oosterbeek , to push on as
fast as possible to the bridge. The route 3rd Para Battn. code name (TIGER)
under Col. J.A.C. Finch took, was the route directly through Oosterbeek.
While my 1st Para Battn. code name (LEOPARD) made for the northernly
route above Wolfheze. But unknown to us was a rather formidable formation of German troops just north of the Utrecht-Arnhem road, in the name
of the 9th S.S. Panzer-Hohenstaufen DIV under STURMBANNFUHRER
(LtCol) WALTER HARZER, linking up with BRIGADEFUHRER (Brig
Gen) HARMEL’s 10th S.S. PANZER FRUNDSBERG DIV. facing south toward the Arnhem bridge, plus an S.S. Battalion under S.S. MAJOR SEPP
KRAFT, in the wooded area between our 1st Para & 3rd Para Battns. Wolfheze & Oosterbeek respectively.
Leaving the drop zone we made our way along a track running
alongside a wood situated west of Wolfheze and south of the railway, the
end of the track linked up with a road running parallel to the railway. Turning right here, then over the road and onto the railway sidewalk we nosed
our way toward Wolfheze Station. Suddenly there was a loud explosion
up ahead with sporadic machine-gun fire. Stopping awhile I kept my eyes
9 • Reg Curtis
peeled on the woods to our right and the railway track running from east
to west. We moved on, the leading Coy ‘R’ Coy under Major Timothy met
with hit and run jabs from the enemy. Stopping again, mortar bombs starting whining and bullets slashed the undergrowth, we pushed on hard, and
nearing Wolfheze Station and rail-crossing we came upon a knocked out
ack-ack gun, its crew sprawled grotesquely around its perimeter, bomb craters could be seen, buildings were smashed and the Asylum in ruins. Some
of the occupants were roaming about in a daze this was the aftermath of our
bombing, the prelude to our arrival.
The smell of war was beginning to circulate my nostrils, turning left
at the road-rail crossing we headed toward the Ede Arnhem Road, ‘R’ Coy
still up front became engaged in a fierce battle with armoured cars, mortar
and machine–gun fire. It was getting dark now eventually the whole Battn.
lay dog-go for a while to try to avoid further detection. Our objective being
the high ground north of Arnhem, we lay up in the woods for what seemed
hours pushing on occasionally but cautiously at one time, unbeknown to the
We were completely surrounded I could see the vehicles. After
a while they left the area and we pressed on. Odd enemy small arms fire
helped to smother any noise we may have been making. We came to another
sudden halt by more small arms and mortar fire at close range, quick action
by the forward Coys quelled the rude awakening, we hadn’t gone all that
far but it was rough, tedious going, plodding on in the semi-dark we passed
along winding lanes and woods. Then along the south side of the Ede Arnhem road, which was about five miles from the Arnhem bridge, time and
luck seemed to be with us, but not for long.
It was quite dark now and keeping cover along avenues of trees off
of the road we were suddenly halted by the leading scout just short of the
main Ede Arnhem road, just as well too, because up and down that road
cruising undecidedly were a large number of German S.P. Guns. Not more
than 80 feet away the Battn. lay ‘dog-go’ again and watched this display of
German armour, we had not much choice, as to take on this little lot would
have been slaughter for us, we were not in a favourable position either. After
an uneasy breathtaking hour laying up quietly, but, ready for anything we
moved off, groping our way through the thick wooded country in the dark
was rather disconcerting and everything was too calm.
About 2am there were sounds of battle ahead, it seemed to be coming from the area around North-East of Lichtenbeck. On arriving there
about 3am we found that the leading companies had met more fierce opposition and suffered heavily. After the area was cleared, for some unknown
Tafelberg • 10
reason, the 1st Battn. cancelled its original plan to go for the high ground
north of Arnhem and turned south toward Mariendaal and Oosterbeek.
At 6am on Monday September 18th 1944, where we were greeted
by the Dutch underground movement, they quickly set about showing us
the easiest way to the bridge, as that was our main task now along with the
2nd and 3rd Para ‘moving cautiously’ in file and ready for action. Everything still seemed a bit too calm, it was now 6:30am. Dawn was breaking
and we were moving into a built-up area, then it started.
The Germans had been busy over-night, preparing gun emplacements, taking up positions at vantage points, posting snipers, concealing
tanks and S.P. Guns, German machine-gunners shattered the peace of the
early morning. I darted for cover and took up position in a neatly laid out
garden of a nearby house, more firing came from the house direction, with
a couple of men I went round the back and fired at two Germans in the
shrubbery. They must have had their chips, amid the rattle of machine-gun
fire S.P. Guns and six barreled mortars.
The smoke and battle raged in no time to such a pitch, that I became quite accustomed to it, and went about the task as though I was on
street fighting training back in England. In an area approx. south of the
Elizabeth Hospital in Arnhem, ‘S’ Coy under Major Robert Stark M.C. of
our 1st Battn. were having an extremely sticky time, as were ‘T’ Coy under
Major Perrin Brown. ‘R’ Coy had already received merciless punishment
during Sunday night and the early hours of Monday.
It was gone lunch time now but no one had stopped for a snack,
funny thing…I wasn’t hungry, too busy I s’pose, to say the least. Movement
was rather slow, casualties were mounting incredibly fast, in every direction
I could see the motionless forms of our men cut short in their tracks, as we
did advance the battle become more heated as the Bridge loomed nearer.
At a point south between Den Brink and the Elizabeth Hospital and
a factory area near the river, we encountered more heavy machine-gun fire
and mortaring with two chaps I did not know, reinforcements I expect. I
chased after some Germans in a house, after slinging in a grenade, I dashed
through the door to finish off with the Sten and rifle. Looking round for
any more customers, we belted to the rear of the house, tripping over a
broken fence I went sprawling, as I scrambled up, I heard a close whine,
recognized the sound and dived for cover by a low wall. ‘WHAM’ a mortar
bomb landed very near, near enough to feel the draught, a number of snipers
were taking pot-shots at us, dodging and weaving through gardens and back
yards I came to a stop opposite a factory, being held up by heavy mortar and
machine-gun fire yet again. I threw myself to the ground, there was absolute
11 • Reg Curtis
bedlum. The slicing sound of German Soloturn guns, their bullets cutting
the air in every direction. The S T O N K – S T O N K of mortar bombs
followed by the whine and F r r r r r of the hot strapnel pinging roof tops.
It must have been a small piece but a lump sounded like a pea in a drum as
it hit my helmet.
In the heat of the battle men were shouting curses, lobbing grenades
through open doors and windows to follow up with a further shriek of contempt for the enemy with the cry of ‘W O …. OH…O…OH…M A H O M
E T’. Casualties were really mounting now, there were groans of men who
had been hit, motionless Paras, lay in the road, slumped over walls, a pair
of feet seen protruding from the gateway of a Dutch garden, one boot was
blown off leaving the foot complete, such was the magical phenomenon of
The German fire power was murderous, I had to think of the best
course of action, all I could do was keep an ear alert for the sound of English, I had a horrible feeling that my Battn. were being cut to ribbons. Fire
was coming from my left behind a row of houses and from the roof tops and
windows, and at the same time an S.P. Gun, mortar, and machine gun fire
was coming from my front, from the direction of the Elizabeth Hospital.
To my right was a factory with the river beyond and a brickworks,
a couple of shots came my way very close, ‘the bastard is trying to single
me out’, I thought. I made for the factory I heaved into a crouching position and catapulted forward like an Olympic runner zig-zagging for twenty
paces I then hit the ground unceremoniously rolling sideways to dodge those
Jerry snipers. I came to a stop with a bump at the corner of the factory
across the road. Peering causiously round the corner in the direction of the
river I noticed our men charging on, so I slipped round the corner out of the
line of fire of the sod who was trying to get me to my left. ‘Maybe fifth Communists were busy;’ We knew that in the area working in cooperation and
collaborating with the Germans, were quite a number of Dutch National
Socialist Party, with a large contingent of Fifth Communists. Although none
were caught red handed in the conflict with our troops, the element of suspicion was there, of the collaborators.
On entering the outskirts of Arnhem early in the morning, we were
warned by the Dutch under ground movement to be wary of these elements.
Taking up position by the factory with my back to the river my time was
taken in taking pot shots at Germans who frequently appeared at windows,
behind chimney pots, even in trees, the cunning of the German must be observed. They were strapped in the trees so when hit, their position would not
be given away by falling to the ground. There was quite a battle going on
Tafelberg • 12
inside the factory. Men were scrapping like gangsters with grenades. Sten,
45 colt and the fighting knife, the wall of the house opposite received a blast
of machine-gun fire which came from behind me. Quite a battle was going
on with our men giving all they had got.
I was about to move off after a German in the garden of a terraced
house on my right when, I felt a sharp pang together with an explosion just
beneath me, reeling over and looking down, I noticed the lower part of my
right leg in a most unusual position. Blood was oozing out steady and fast,
I shouted for help and two Para’s one a Sergt Nobby Hall dashed up and
quickly rendered first aid, Nobby shouted everyone was so busy without being lumbered with me, I was placed on a stretcher and carried to a wooden
shed a few yards away, the medics cut the boots from the foot of the shattered leg. It looked awful, strangely I did not feel much pain, tearing open
my field dressing which I have carried for so long in different parts of the
world, I never thought that I would become a casualty and have to used it,
a quick and thorough job was carried out.
Pandemonium was prevailing outside with machine-gun fire echoing round the built up area; a mortar bomb landed quite near, the medic
simultaneously made himself smaller still keeping a steady hand as a morphine injection was miraculously driven home with such unperturbed accuracy, he could have been in the safety of a hospital back home. While
a medic hunted round for a suitable makeshift splint, a young Dutch girl
appeared from nowhere and offered me a welcome cup of water. I was feeling cold and clammy now her help was of great comfort. The morphine was
taking effect and what pain did start was instantly dismissed for the time
There was another series of explosions just ahead which was subsequent signal by one of the medics to get moving, turning right of the shed
I was carried cautiously to the corner of a house adjacent to the road I had
only a short while ago come down, now, everyone was scattered in various
positions, there were dead Paras. in the road. The sidewalk, and gardens
Snipers were busy and our men were bent on winkling them out. There was
a thud, a whiz and satanic bark of an exploding shell followed by another
and another, all bursting in the roof-tops of houses thirty yards back, the
atmosphere was tense, something flashed from an upper window twenty
yards down the road, bullets splattered the wall of the building above our
heads, the medics set me down and waited for an opportune moment to get
across the road.
Four Paras. pressed themselves into the wall of the building opposite, working their way stealthy toward that flash, then at a door under
13 • Reg Curtis
the window, the leading Para. kicked the door, his theory worked out of the
window came a potato-masher, he picked it up and threw it back into the
downstairs window which was accompanied by a mills bomb thrown by
another Para, there was a rendering explosion followed by the four Paras
dashing into the building spraying sten-gun fire in the room and up through
the floor boards, a trick, carried out in training. Here it paid dividends a
Schmeisser automatic fell from the top window followed by a German S.S.
man. At this point the medics grabbed my stretcher and sharply crossed the
road, I was more relieved to get out of the line of fire, I reached the safety
of a garden wall the other side of the road, when a Jeep with four Paras.
decided to run the gauntlet and belted by accelerating and zig-zagging like
mad, Brens and Stens blazing.
As I lay behind the wall I had a clear view of the battle scene through
the demolished gateway I lay helpless as the clatter and confusion of battle
went on. The Jeep must have been doing 40mph the drive was fighting with
the wheel as he dodged shell bursts and pot holes in the road. The Jeep
swerved bouncing round, and over obstacles, hurled round a dead Para
spreadeagled in the centre of the road and came to a halt so vigorously that
the four occupants were shot out. Unscathered they collected themselves up
and disappeared into the brick and concrete jungle, leaving a now hissing
jeep with a broken front wheel pinion, a few moments later a volley of mortar descended around the Jeep instantaneously enveloping it in flames.
After a somewhat noisy and nerve-racking day, I was moved with
other wounded to a near by barn, where I spent as fairly easy night thanks
to the action of the morphine injection.
The following morning, Tuesday Sept 19th 1944 6:30am, all was
reasonably quiet in the immediate vicinity, but not far off I could hear the
sound of battle. Looking around the barn I tried to see if I knew anyone
from my 1st Battn. I didn’t recognise anyone and those I asked what unit
they were from just didn’t want to know, they were too preoccupied with
their wounds or could not talk at all. Some looked as though they had had a
nightmare. Medical orderlies were busy with Jeeps running a shuttle service
moving the wounded back to Oosterbeek.
My leg was beginning to give me a bit of hell now and movement
of any sort was most painful as the lower part was smashed by an explosive
bullet. Two medics came up to me and said ‘Your turn next’. Lifting the
stretcher they carried me to a waiting Jeep its engine running I was strapped
to its bonnet alongside another chap, he forced a grin ‘What’s yours?’ I
asked, ‘They got me in the guts’ he said bluntly, I felt sorry for him, Nasty
place to cop it, I wondered how all my friends were getting on, ‘Had they
Tafelberg • 14
made it to the bridge?’ ‘Were any of them wounded or killed?’ There was
certainly a strong possibility. Ray Sheriff of the 3rd Para Battn was hit on
the second day, a grenade exploded in his face, shrapnel from the blast cut
across his eyes blinding him. Later in the day he was hit for the second
time by a bullet in the leg. He was well known with inter-Battn boxing
back in England. Our 1st Para boxers being Walker, Jones, ‘Frankie Maser’
heavyweight and Jimmy Metcafe flyweight. It was Ray’s 3rd Para Battn
who ambushed the German General Kussin in his Staff car. All occupants,
the General and a German motor cycle dispatch rider were killed. The shiny
they were notorious for their individuality and aplomb in Africa. They demonstrated more skills once more quite early in the battle at Arnhem.
More early casualties I heard was the 3rd Para C.O. Lt/Col J.A.C
Fitch who was killed, our own 1st Para C.O. Lt/Col David Dobie who was
engaging enemy with his mortar was confronted by German armour at
Mariendaal, received direct burst of machine-gun fire, which resulted in the
loss of his left arm. At the time he was with 1st Battns ‘S’ Coyunder Major
Robert Stark M.C. and Andy Millbourne who was engaging the enemy with
a Vickers machine-gun in the area of the Elizabeth Hospital, he received a
direct hit by enemy mortar shell, severing both hands and resulting in the
loss of one eye.
1st Para Medic who was on the spot at the time, rendered every possible first aid under most hazardous conditions. Another friend who joined
us at Bulford in 1942 Wally Boldock received a bullet wound in his side
penetrating from the front just above the belt, and coming out of his back,
as always the bullets point of exit was much larger than entry, he finished
up in the house of ‘Mrs Kate ter Horst’ in Oosterbeek which housed more
wounded. Word too, was getting round that General Roy Urquhart, the 1st
Division Commander was holed up in a house in a road called Zwarteweg
on the outskirts of Arnhem, Antoon Derksen, the Dutchman who lived there
with his wide Anna, daughter Hermina, and son Jan, must have been misapprehensive as to the great importance attached to the sudden appearance of
the their visitor from England.
15 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 16
Chapter Three
Six Days at the Tafelberg Hotel
‘Tafelberg’ A field hospital under Major Guy Rigby Jones one of
two Surgeons with 181 Field Ambulance Medical Team, Between September 19th and 24th before finally being taken as a P.O.W. to St Elizabeth
Hospital, Apeldoorn Stalag 11.B.
After being wounded by a wool factory in the Klingglesbeekweg
area south of the St Elizabeth Hospital at 1500 hours on Monday September 18th, I spent the night in a farm outbuilding, and being under the influence of the morphine injection when I was first hit I spend a reasonably fair
At 0700 hours on Tuesday 19th September, I was carried out to a
waiting Jeep where four walking wounded were sitting in the back seats.
Another stretcher case was already placed on the bonnet of the jeep nearest the windscreen, just my luck being at the nose end of the bonnet, well
it was one way to get to a hospital, but we could not get through to the
Elizabeth Hospital as German armour blocked all approaches so everyone
was strapped safely to the jeep and we started off toward Oosterbeek.
A short stocky medic slid into the driver’s seat, ‘hold tight in the
back! and don’t worry you two in front on the bonnet we might have a
rough ride and will be going a bit fast.’
It is all right for him, but I found it rather disconcerting strapped
to the front of that jeep, I had the horrible feeling that I would crash into
whatever obstacle happened to suddenly loom up, but the lad managed to
miss them all. On route enemy machine gunners decided to open up on us
although we were flying the red cross flag. I was worried in case I got hit
again, the driver and sitting wounded in the back made themselves as small
as possible, the other bloke and I, strapped to the bonnet had to take pot
After a fast and bumpy journey the jeep tore through Oosterbeek
past divisional H.Q. at the Hartenstein Hotel. Pulling up sharply in the
drive of the Tafelberg Hotel a few hundred yards further on. This was to be
my home alongside many other wounded for the next six days and nights.
Airborne medics quickly unstrapped me and set me down on the floor opposite the window in the entrance hall. Looking around I saw two wounded
Germans laying alongside our airborne men, and Dutch civilians who have
been caught up in this battle. ‘Wie geht es ihnen morgen’ the German spat
out looking in my direction, ‘What’s he on about’ I asked of an orderly, ‘just
17 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 18
enquiring of your health’, ‘tell him to get knotted!’ I said ‘I am not in the
mood for niceties’.
The day had been long and uneasy I tried to settle down to some
sleep, but the interruption of shelling and mortar fire prevented that. The
place must have taken a few knocks, it was an absolute shambles. Except
for a bar of chocolate and a mug of tea on arrival at the Tafelberg I have not
had anything to eat since leaving England last Sunday, the 17th September. I
had an iron ration, a ghastly chocolate which is only eaten in an emergency,
and as usual the British Tommy even in these hazardous conditions has
managed to brew a cuppa. I longed for daylight to come, I hated nights. It
is bad enough meeting angry Germans in battle not in my sleep thank you.
The next day Wednesday September 20th I was grateful when I was
taken to the operating room, ingeniously rigged up in the kitchen of the hotel, work was certainly made very difficult for the medical staff but, under
the guidance of Col. G.M. Warrack the A.D.M.S. conditions were overcome
for a while, and the Surgeon Major Guy Rigby Jones, operated on my leg as
best as could be expected. Captain Michael James, the other surgeon at the
Tafelberg was in the entrance hall when a shell landed a few feet from the
foot of the stairs, just before I arrived, he was wounded along with his team
and became another casualty at the Tafelberg. My treatment completed I
was returned to the entrance hall.
The din of Battle and bullets splattering the wall of the hotel outside
made me glance out I was quite surprised to see a German wandering about
he took up a stand position by the door then, began pacing up and down!
Things began to warm up again, all sorts of rubbish was flung our way. A
Dutch doctor Gerritt van Maanen, moved fast up the stairs, the airborne
medics thought it was best to move some of us up to the next floor. A chap
named Bannister, and William Roberts of the 16th Para Field Ambulance,
hastily picked up my stretcher and hauled me up the wide and littered stairway, there was a loud CRRRRRUMP outside and debris, plaster and glass
fell all around. I looked to see where that one had landed just as the medics
got me half way up the stairs, the German I had seen outside a few moments
ago was now sprawled out, killed I presume by one of his own mortar
I was set down at the head of the stairs which were about 4 feet
6 ins wide, to my right on the wide landing lay a Glider Pilot, he’d a face
and arm injury. Then amide the wounded, covering best part of the wide
landing came a walking wounded, our eyes met, ‘Did I know him?’ I hardly
knew anyone unless, they were unrecognizable through being clotted up
with blood and muck. He said was from ‘R’ Coy 1st Para Battn ‘I got my
19 • Reg Curtis
lot near Mariendall’ ‘What about your Coy Commander Major Timothy?’ I
asked ‘Dunno’ he snapped, he was looking outside and remarked ‘They are
getting bloody cheeky their muck slinging’ then up the stairs belted some
combat Paras ‘How’s it going out there we asked urgently?’ ‘Not too bad,
not too bad, could be better though’ they replied, then they disappeared
whence they came.
Although my leg was giving me real gip now it was offset by the
activity in and around the Tafelberg. A lad was calmly going around brewing tea, the medics as ever were doing a grand and very efficient job under
appalling adverse conditions.
Ann Pelster Caspers, a Dutch nurse one of many at the Tafelberg,
glided by with an arm full of sheets, and curtain material for use as bandages, they made shift bandages partially hiding a blood stained apron. One
became accustomed to the smell of death, together with body odour caused
through the lack of washing. A walking wounded, his arm in a sling, approached me with an enquiring look, ‘What unit chum?’ he asked almost
in a whisper, ‘1st Para’ I replied amid a shower of dust and smoke, caused
by yet another shell which exploded so very near, he winched and withdrew
from the direction of the shell blast as the ominous vacuum of warm air
was felt. He seemed incoherent as he glanced round the scene of man-made
destruction. ‘I just left the bridge’ there was quite a pause, ‘what’s it like
there?’ I asked he swung round glaring at me as if the whole war was my
fault, his eyes were hard, staring, and red with fatigue. Poor sod he’d been
through something bad, I offered him a cigarette, with trembling hand he
selected one, it hung limp in his grasp, ‘thanks, I don’t really smoke, but I’ll
have one’. ‘Tell me about it’ I said motioning him to squat at my side. ‘It
was bloody hell there, tanks belching fire, blokes getting killed right and left,
with shit flying all over, the carnage was terrible, and smell of burned body’s
was horrible’, he paused a while as a medic passed by with a chap clutching his side, and hobbling on one leg, a bloody congealed bandage wrapped
unsightly round the stump where once was a foot, our lad drew hard on
his cigarette and coughing like mad he continued ‘there were hordes of the
boche, it went on for hours, attacking, shelling, then the bastards started
burning us out, my two mates got killed twisted and broken carcasses of our
men were strewn everywhere.’ I dunno but I think that I must have been the
first person he had spelt out his experiences to. He leaned back against the
wall looking a little more at ease. He told me later that it was his first time
in action, I thought that he rode it bloody well!
The next few days seemed to drag on forever, what with my leg
giving me much more pain than the first 24 hours after being hit, maybe the
Tafelberg • 20
morphine injection had worn off. The pain was excruciating, like someone
making a short sharp jabs with a knife with a blunt serrated edge, momentarily the pain would dispensed, with the thundering crash of a shell
landing somewhere downstairs. It sounded much too near for the comfort
of the wounded down there, for all the hum ding that’s going on inside the
Tafelberg, we might just as well be outside, the fact that so many shells keep
landing in, on and around the building plus the occasional burst of machine
gun fire spattering the inner walls I should imagine that we must be plonked
in the front line or somewhere in no-man land!
A flurry of a couple of airborne medics and Anje Maanen and her
brother Paul, together with the Dutch nurse Ann Pelster Caspers suddenly making a dash down the stairs, was the preliminary to collecting more
wounded who had turned up in a couple of jeeps packed with walking
wounded from the perimeter area.
The Tafelberg already overcrowded could take no more wounded
in so, every man fit enough to fight, which included the slightly wounded by
which was meant anyone with a flesh wound or injury that did not hinder
the use of a fire-arm of some sort, had to get outside.
Saturday September 23rd, I am still laying at the head of the broad
stairway when there was an added commotion going on down below, ‘those
ruddy huns again’ the Glider pilot remarked, as shuffling and German orders being rapped out preluded the sudden appearance of S.S. troops dashing up the stairs.
A sinister looking bod about 20 years old led the way and was
coming right at me. I found myself looking straight down the barrel of his
Schmeisser automatic. His trigger finger shaking like billy-o I didn’t bat an
eye lid. I just did not want to upset him or let that trigger happy bum let rip.
He was glaring at me with red beady eyes, ‘Christ this is it’ I had heard of
other wounded being shot up.
My luck was in, he passed me by and with two other S.S. Wallahs
looked around the room leading off of the landing and started to fire out.
Col. Graem Warrack dashed up the stairs swearing and rebuking them for
firing from a clearly marked red cross building. Discipline took over these
S.S. men they looked defiant and sullen, with fingers handling their automatics hesitantly they reluctantly obeyed. Pacing up and down, still glaring
at everyone, someone remarked ‘Had something sour to eat mate?’ the German turned quickly and in that guttural foreign sound said ‘nicht verstehen
englische’ ‘Nevermind lad nevermind’ our friend cut in.
Then for something better to do they started scrounging for cigarettes. I had 200 tucked under the blanket and bandage to my leg, try-
21 • Reg Curtis
ing each man in turn, one came up to me and interrupted my unpleasant
thoughts of him ‘Zigaretten?’ ‘No mate’ was my innocent reply or, was I
trying to needle him, his piercing pale blue eyes were studying at the half
smoked fag in my hand ‘Vot is Dat?’ ‘ooh that is a dog-end’ it seemed to be
working, he was getting a bit edgy, ‘Vot is dock ent?’ bloody hell I thought!
‘it’s a doofer mate, doofer-nother-day’ he gave up the ghost, shrugged his
shoulders and sloped off.
After a very short while the S.S. troops were gone, and our own
men were back in charge, it seemed quite strange to have the enemy in the
building one minute, and quickly replaced by our own combat men the
I wondered how the rest of my 1st Para Battn. were doing. Right
from the Sunday night of our ‘R Coy’ had a sticky wicket loosing half its
men in the ‘De leeran doodle’ area.
Forty men of 6 Platoon ‘S Coy’ were killed in two minutes in the
Mariendaal area on the approach to Arnhem then in the Den-Brink, Elizabeth Hospital and factory area of Klinglesbeekweg, where I was hit, the rest
of the Battn. were badly mauled.
In the Tafelberg the conditions for medical people must have been
most exasperating, water and lighting were almost non-existence, but an
electrician from Oosterbeek managed to keep the electric and water supply
going for a while. The medics had to stop all operations since Wednesday, because of the pounding the Tafelberg took from shell fire, all medical
instruments were buried in deep debris. Across the landing I noticed Atie
Schults was doing her best to comfort a rather frustrated young airborne
lad, he’d been hit in the gut’s a couple of airborne medics were tending to
men who were wounded for a second time after a shell hit the roof of the
Tafelberg. Father Benson a Roman Catholic Priest was busy making his
rounds and answering urgent calls, one man so constantly needed.
Early in the morning things began to get on my wick, what with the
continuous din of Battle outside and my leg getting more painful through
lack of proper medical attention, I called for a Priest to say a few words of
comfort, Father Benson came and put me at ease. Later that same Priest was
wounded by tank fire into the Tafelberg, he subsequently died of his wounds
and was buried in the grounds of the Elizabeth Hospital.
By Sunday September 24th I found the disposition somewhat frightening, our men were still doing their damnest, but the Germans were slowly
closing in, very slowly mark you. They lost heavily and had to fight like mad
to gain every inch of that bloody ground. Out there things seemed to be getting hotter still and I was moved again to what was thought might be a safer
Tafelberg • 22
spot, just to the other side and along the wide landing area.
I was taking in the new scenery about me, it was great to be move
for only a few yards I was given a new lease of life. Every bit of floor space
was taken up with wounded, with just enough room for the medial people
to pick a way through.
Suddenly there was an almighty explosion in a room on my right,
men already wounded one, twice, were hit again, some were killed. Major
John Waddy of the 156 Battn. was wounded again, he started his parachuting days in India.
Doctor Gerrit van Maanen and his seventeen year old daughter
Anje and son Paul, did a wonderful job amid the ruins of this once quiet
Hotel Tafelberg, in the battering that the hotel took, two English medics and
a Dutch nurse were killed while tending the airborne wounded. Outside the
situation I think, was getting a little out of hand, and inside was none too
comfortable to say the least.
Further enemy reinforcements were mustering around the perimeter in the form of powerfully armed tanks, with long barreled H.E. and
armour-piercing shells from the S.S. Panzer Divisions, which had been a
headache to us since the Sunday night of the 17th.
The passage where I lay now ran from front to rear and almost had
a grandstand view of the battle, through a gaping hole in the wall where
once was a window, occasionally an airborne man would break cover to
stalk the enemy, the enemy would repeat the process with the multiple accompaniment of shell burst, tanks barking and machine gun chattering.
Amid this mad man-made war, were curses and yelps of pain. I noticed the
ominous sound of an approaching tank, I couldn’t see it, but the squeaking
of its caterpillar wheels grew ever louder as it trudged and edged nearer. It
was an S.P. gun coming at right angles from right to left. It picked its way
through the trees, stopping for a spell of a few minutes to feel its way. Its
great gun barked out sending a shell across my front to a target unseen by
me, there were some Airlanding Anti-tank guns in the vicinity of the Tafelberg, maybe the S.P. gun was after them, the tank was approximately 150
yards off and was edging in my direction. Stopping periodically and traversing the gun turret, the tank straightened up, crept forward to approximately
100 yards then, I went quite cold. The S.P. Gun slewed round and came to
rest for what seemed hours instead of minutes, I appeared to be face to face
with this awesome looking gun. Its gargantuan barrel pointing right at me,
the gun bellowed out, I froze and shut my eyes, I don’t know whether the
shell passed through the Tafelberg via the gaping holes already made by
shell fire, or very close outside, but I certainly felt the draught as it sailed by.
23 • Reg Curtis
‘Sod that’, I thought and looked round for someone to move me to a safer
The medics picked there way carefully between the stretchers and
other wounded laying huddled together trying to afford each other protection. The place was an absolute shambles, floor littered with debris, blood
and glass, plus the acrid smell of smoke and gun-cotton mingled with the
incessant whine and explosion of mortar bombs, together with the shriek
and crash of artillery vibrating the very foundations of the Tafelberg. I
thought that the building would eventually tumble down. There were pitiful cries coming from that room, where men were wounded again. A medic
came out cradling a form in his arms, the chap could have been dead or,
maybe unconscious, he was covered in blood. His arm shattered and hung
pathetically by his side, his left leg was bandaged from his first wounding,
the medic faltered hesitantly his eyes red, face drawn and dust covered his
whole frame crying out with gross fatigue. Bracing himself he picked his
way through the forms of the floor. Unwittingly his foot came in contact
with an airborne’s hand ‘sorry lad’, ‘sall alright’ was the reply then the man
slid off in a coma. Christ I wished I was outside, there was another resounding crash of bombs, followed by curses of men having a verbal encounter
with the Boche. Perhaps I was better off here, I dunno its bloody awful for
everyone, everywhere.
A medic came into view, a lonely man among hundreds of wounded
we all wanted comfort, help, to be consoled or whatever to get away from
the effects of pyrotechnics of war. I tugged at his trousers as he was passing, he stopped instantly, ‘what’s up lad?’ I was shaking and felt a coward
bothering him, ‘What’s going on out there?’ I asked almost pleading, he put
a hand on my shoulder ‘That’s 30 corpos medium artillery at Nijmegen, the
shells are falling close but they are ours’ I breathed a sigh of relief I thought
they were Jerry shells.
By now, Monday 25th September, the Tafelberg was in absolute
shambles hardly anyway to recognize the place as having been an hotel eight
days ago. Hundreds of wounded, enemy included, as well as Dutch people
caught up in the fight, so many in fact that many wounded were moved to
the annex to the Tafelberg across the driveway.
The British Airborne medical team under Major Guy Rigby Jones
and Captain C.C.M. James were the two Surgeons responsible for the Tafelberg wounded, this team from 181 Field Ambulance R.A.M.C. together
with medics as far as I recall were Bassell Cornell, Stan Briggs, Taffy Phillips, George Wardle, and a William Roberts from 16th Para Field Ambulance.
Tafelberg • 24
Captain James told me that he and his surgical team were in the
entrance hall when a shell burst and they were all wounded, the Captain
was blown through the double spring doors into the main ward, which was
the dining room before the battle when he got up to return to the hall he
could see nothing but dust and smoke. At this time I was in comparative
safety upstairs. Carrying on he told me that he had to get his own bleeding
stopped and to attend to his team members, after he remembers vaguely
trying to visit patients upstairs but could not make it for long before superficial wounds and through loss of blood he too became one of the many
Upstairs I was just beginning to get a little weary of the shelling when a Dutch civilian sidled by gingerly picking his was through the
wounded, now and then giving an apologetic gesture, ‘Who’s he?’ I asked a
medic, ‘That’s Mr Bouwman, he and his family with a ten year old son have
been in the cellar since we arrived.’ ‘Good luck to them’, I almost enviously
replied in a croak.
I could murder a cup of sprog’ someone called out, someone
chipped in ‘me too wack, anyone wishing to volunteer to brew up, I’ll have
two lumps of sugar’ ‘You’ll be bleedin lucky to get a mug of water if Jerry as
anything ter do wiv it’, barked a rather down to earth cockney. All the back
chat and frivolity came to a sudden end upon deliverance of another shell
landing much too close for comfort.
For the life of me I just did not know what the time was when the
shelling stopped along with the incessant small arms and machine-gun fire.
After the din of the last six days it appeared rather eerie to be so much quieter, there was a little spasmodic firing in the distance, a little shelling, but
nothing to worry about. This lull in the battle that had been raging and going on for about an hour or so, allowed the wounded to begin to converse
more freely. ‘What’s going on?’ someone remarked ‘Gone on strike Jerry?’
another almost shouted, except that he had half his mouth bandaged from
a shell splinter wound. ‘Na, Ees packed up as, Jerry un buggered orf’ as a
cockney put it.
The Glider pilot was a fraction more cautious remarking ‘Crafty
sod is the Hun!, he’s gof something up his sleeve’. Then I saw men being carried downstairs, with great activity going on outside, but not one of battle,
two medics picked me up, both of them were silent and did not look too
pleased, ‘Where to now?’ I asked ‘St Elizabeth Hospital in Arnhem’.
Outside was a ghastly sight with Airborne and enemy dead still
laying where they had fallen. Jeeps were being laiden with the wounded by
British and German medical orderlies. Anje Maanen, Ann Pelster Caspers
25 • Reg Curtis
carried on working to the end trying to make things a little more bearable
for the many wounded. A couple of small vans were improvised as makeshift ambulances to transport the wounded. Every possible type of transport
was commandeered to get us away from this Hell Hole. There were three
of us stretcher cases loaded onto this small open German lorry, it had shallow sides but enough to prevent us bouncing off in transit and, there was
just enough room for five walking wounded. The journey was made more
hazardous because of the shell holed and litter strewn road. Thank goodness the German driver couldn’t go too fast, but he was still rather erratic in
negotiating heaps of debris from gutted buildings which had been partially
destroyed by shell fire. There were dead British and German littering the
road and side walk all the way to the Elizabeth Hospital, plus our own and
enemy knocked out equipment, heaped unceremoniously everywhere.
We all had shattered bones of some sort on this blasted antiquated
lorry, which made us cry out in pain during the rough ride to the hospital.
I was more pleased when it came to a standstill at the Elizabeth Hospital in
Tafelberg • 26
Chapter Four
A German General Inspects
I heard the familiar voice of a friend ‘what the hell are you doing on
that stretcher? Scrounging a lift?’ I went to answer but nothing came out, it
was not his remark, I could not careless, it was that ride from the Tafelberg.
Sam was discussing the battle with someone who lumbered through a sidedoor, a medic I think. The Poles had a rough passage, only 200 got over to
us he remarked, the Lonsdale Force has had their hands full too. That was
the force formed by Major Dickie Lonsdale of the 11th Para Battn. when
things went drastically wrong in the early stages, the force was made of
units that were left from the 1st & 4th Para Battn. Fred Radly from the
3rd Para Battn. was in this force along with Sam Coster, and a few other
remaining 1st Para Battn. During the fighting at the Hospital there had been
running battles in the corridors and hoards of spent cartridge cases could
be seen littering the floor and entrance way. Word got round that the whole
show was over but, we had certainly left our mark. One in four houses in
the battles that raged at Wolfhezen, Oosterbeek, and Arnhem were totally
destroyed and most of the remainder uninhabitable.
On the day of our arrival September 17th a nation wide railway
strike started in Holland and the Germans had reflooded the area south
of the bridge during the battle, to try and prevent a link up with us from
Nijmegen I began to wonder what had really gone wrong at Arnhem. I only
hope that Alan Wood the Daily Express reporter makes it to tell the tale,
he was at the Oosterbeek perimeter area along with Stanly Maxted from
the BBC. I had been laying on the same stretcher since last Monday week,
I eventually found myself in a bed with white sheets, given a good bed,
bath and started some sort of diet which consisted of peas-pudding, milk
puddings, soups, dark brown bread with butter made from coal, trust the
Germans. It was tasteless but edible to finish up with black coffee with no
milk or sugar. Many of the fit or fitter type of Airborne bods were nipping
over the wall when the Germans were preoccupied they were assisted by the
Dutch underground movement who did so much valuable work in this field,
risking everything to help our men to escape.
Mortar Sergeant Dick Whittingham later wryly remarked ‘we may
have lost the battle at Arnhem, but we did come in second’.
My thoughts came back to the Elizabeth Hopsital by the drone of
‘brude, brude’ spelt out by the German nun with the infernal blank expression they were only words she uttered as she glided from bed to bed with
27 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 28
her basket of bread. The hospital was now Choc-a-bloc with wounded, I
spoke to the man next to me, he didn’t answer he was miles away or did not
want to know. He had one leg off the other in plaster, the other side a chap
had a leg amputated and flesh wounds to his left arm. ‘If its not a stupid
question’ I said, ‘how are you?’ after a while he turned slowly with hoarse
voice remarked ‘Except for shrapnel in my arm, a leg missing and a splitting headache I’m ok, but I suppose I am luck to be alive’ A British Tommy
with no Para gear hobbled by, a bloody bandage wrapped round his head,
‘What mob are you then?’ I asked of him, my first thought was of spies in
our midst ‘The Dorset’s’ he almost cried it out, ‘my lot were wiped out’. I
was more concerned with the loss of my own friends in the 1st Para. ‘Oh,
were they’ I said tough luck apparently only two Coys of the Dorest’s from
the 43rd Division made it to the 1st Airborne Div Perimeter in Oosterbeek
most likely the only outside force who managed to get to us.
My leg was giving me hell now, getting worse every hour, medical
orderlies were constantly up and down the ward going about their duty
tending the wounded. A whispered call to a Medic, ‘Medic help me’, a passing medic would console, or administer any medical treatment within his
power or learning, passing on to be called again, and again before disappearing through the door. He reappeared again as a stretcher bearer with yet
another battered body, along with civilian nurses. These wonderful people
were everyone’s absolute comforter. Some of these nurses were quite robust
and good looking made some of us ogle, but any other feeling that I might
have had given half the chance with a willing party was kept in check by the
reminder that some of these fair Damsel were no more than planted Gestapo
agents who exercised all their charm, plus showing that little extra cleavage,
in an attempt to extract maximum information.
To my right rear was a door leading off the main ward to a small
corridor where a number of rooms were situated I.E. store and private
rooms. In one of these rooms away from the scrutiny of German inquisitiveness was Brigadier J.W. Hackett the 4th Para Brigade Commander, he
had been badly wounded in Oosterbeek and to mislead the Germans as to
his true rank he was posing as a Lance Corporal, which goes to show that
Lance Corporals have other uses.
The black shrouded Nun glided by once more, I wondered if living
under the religious vow of her convent and being German whether it had
any bearing on her feelings toward the detestation and predicament of war,
it did not seem to show one way or other. If only she could grimace or to
partially smile, one might get through.
I was brought back to my own discomfort by a sharp pang of a
29 • Reg Curtis
thousand knives, caused by the throbbing puss filled wound of my leg it was
literally the size of a football, I had not been attended to yet and I was getting very concerned, I knew that the worst cases had to be seen first.
Since I was hit, except for the morphine jabs and comforting words
from the medics nothing else prevailed to rid me of this seemingly useless
painful leg. The medics came for me I don’t know when exactly, to me night
and day was one big nightmare, trying to succour my own individual private
agony. Not daring to show any sign of it to my neighbour ‘OK, fellar, we’re
going to make you comfortable now, you’ll be fine in not time, you’ll see’
‘Oh sweet bloody words’ I thought ‘lets get cracking then’ .
I don’t know where they took me, to me it was one conglomeration
of walls, doors swinging open, the soft sound of nurses and nuns as they
whisked by to their next mission of mercy, then the unnecessary clatter of
S.S. guards boots, who gloated over the physical discomfort experienced by
the wounded, plus the screech of our own artillery shells with the subsequent ‘cccrump’ as it landed much too near for comfort.
A South African Doctor Capt. Lipmann Kessel, was going to see
me, he was here along with others of the 1st Airborne Div Medical staff
together with Dutch doctors, thank goodness I was not going to have a
German butcher. I saw the end result of a German doctors amputation of
a man’s foot it was crudely almost guillotined and without anesthetic. I
was carried into a large room with numerous medical apparatus everywhere
trolleys and tables laden with all sorts of instruments, bandages, field dressings, and splints. I was placed on a table, it was hard narrow and about
four feet from the ground in the distance I could hear the sound of gunfire
coupled with ‘ack-ack’, fire aircraft must have been in the vicinity.
The anesthetist was at hand with a needle ready, medics were feverishly going about their task for the pending operation, when all hell let
loose. I though the place had been hit, with very quick presence of mind a
medic threw a blanket over me and placing his body between me and the
blast, then a terrific explosion preceded by a mysterious noise like a giant
balloon having air released, shattered glass fell in small pieces and slithered
all over the operating theatre. Then it was quiet, the blanket was pulled
carefully off to reveal yours truly with popping eyes! A quick inspection assured the medics I was OK.
Apparently a typhoon of the RAF came down low to blaze his rockets at some German armour that was on the move in Arnhem, I hope his
effort was 100% on target because my operation was put off for another
day while the place was cleaned up. My next visit was uninterrupted, I was
cleaned up redressed and had my first plaster cast put on. This was the pre-
Tafelberg • 30
liminary to weeks of itching and agony. As far as the itching went one could
get over that, some of us ingeniously used knifes, forks, spoons, a pencil, or
anything long at hand, to push down the side of the cast to locate that awful
itch. As far as I was concerned my luck was right out, my cast was from the
crutch, encasing the whole leg, except for the toes peeping through, what
the blazes could I poke down a cast three feet long! That is the worst thing
about being so long legged.
It was of help though to a friend of mine in the Grenadier Guards,
he lost both legs in action prior to Dunkirk in 1940, he was six feet four
inches tall and when it came to being measured for artificial limbs, the fitter
asked for various measurements and height. The guardsman faltered at the
question of height the fitter repeated ‘height?’ quite nonchalantly but after
a while the answer came ‘Five feet 10 inches’. The fitter being an authority
on military know-how remarked ‘only just made it for the guards then’ ‘yep’
quipped the guardsman, ‘but a nice comfortable height don’t you think?’
‘Sure’ said the fitter, so everyone was happy, especially our guardsman who
thought that he had been cut down to the ‘right’ size.
My expectation of another operation was banished on hearing that
we were all going to be moved to a place north of Arnhem, to Apeldoorn
there was a lot of coming and going with people collecting their personnel
belongings, when I heard a commotion at the ward door entrance, looking
up I saw the effeminate S.S. Doctor Captain Skalka waving his gloved hand
and gesticulating to our medics, we learnt that a German General was coming from Berlin to pay us a visit, ‘how nice’ so everyone was hastily tidied
up and bedding arranged ready for inspection. Eventually through the doors
at the end of the ward, they suddenly appeared half dozen S.S. officers, uniforms in various shades of blue, blue-grey, field grey, brown and black. The
accoutrement with many insignia were immaculate, with brightly polished
boots and in keeping at a passing out parade, but here in the middle of the
war for their survival, as well as looking stupid, it was a complete unnecessary waist of time and energy. But then, who cared, it was their time and
Heading the amusing entourage was the visiting General, in a very
pale blue uniform with loads of silver braid and complete with monocle.
The last time I saw a military man wearing one was before the war, he was
a Major Gascogine from my own regiment of Grenadier Guards, so this is
Obersturmbannfuehrer W Harzer 9th S.S. Division a big square headed true
German you could ever wish to meet was just right to play the part with him
Captain Skalka, looking more than ever the type of S.S. officer I have seen
in films back home.
31 • Reg Curtis
Following up the rear, a few paces away from the main party as
ever the accompanying sallow faced Geheimestaatspolizei or (Gestapo) one
was an Oberscharfuhrer (Colour Sergeant) identifiable by two pips on his
left lapel, with an eagle spread and a swastika on the left arm, the other was
a Sturman or Lance Corporal with a stripe as in the British Army but with
two short parallel stripes on the left lapel and with the usual S.S. flash on the
right lapel. Both had that forbidding symbol of hate in the way of an arm
band above the left elbow, as red background with narrow black band top
and bottom to be completed with a black swastika on a white circle together
the black jack booted individuals swaggered with a squeakiness abounding
with every tread. The belted gun holsters, shoulder strap, black tie, and peak
cap completed the all black uniform presenting to the onlooker for the first
time a sinister looking apparition. The gloved left hand resting on the waist
and thumb hooked in belt. There was absolute silence at this sudden bizarre
entrance. The Gestapo walls were drawn level with my bed when one of
the most beautiful Bronce Cheers (Raspberry) I have ever heard vibrated
from the far end of the ward whence they had come. The entourage froze
momentarily the Generals left eyebrow twitched, Skalka went paler still and
looked dead worried, whilst fidgeting with his cuff, the other S.S. officers
taken completely unaware looked slightly sheepish not knowing how to
take necessary evasive action to the sound of raspberry being blown in the
presence of their General. The two Gestapo instinctively put a hand on their
gun-holsters, they, were the only ones to turn to the direction of the offending deliver of one, long ripe………raaasssspppbery, I watched the index finger actually undo the holster, making bare the brown plastic cover plate to
the handle of a Luger pistol, but even this lout had enough discipline inside
his ginger bonse, to tell him not to be fooled by a raspberry from a stalwart
British Tommy.
At the point terminating the end of the ward they wheeled for the
General to carry on his inspection down my side, I fixed my gaze on him till
he drew level, he glanced at my Parachute cap badge then at me. He seemed
expressionless, the whole of the entourage stopped at the foot of my bed,
I had an audience for the very first time I had a close up of a heel clicking
German General! I was wearing my first issue red beret, it has been to Africa
and Sicily with me and the badge too! ‘Bei welcher Waffe haben sie Gedient?’ (‘What branch of service were you?’), he asked looking me squarely in
the eyes, I proudly announced ‘Ich war Fallschimjager’ (‘I was a parachutist’), he replied ‘Die Armee Airborne wurde geschlagen vernichtet, Sie der
Kriegsgefangene lager’ (‘you are going to a P.O.W. camp’), the translation
was offered to me by Captain Derek Ridler, the British Army dental officer,
Tafelberg • 32
come anaesthetist, who stepped forward when he must have noticed I did
not fully understand this onslaught of German chatter.
The General abruptly turned and carried on his way, the remainder
with an air of wary aloofness followed while the two, law unto their own
Gestapo, gave arrogant icy stares twixt sarcastic sadistic gawp, before departing through the doors. Outside they stood around chatting then amid a
helluva lot of heelclicking and heil-Hiltering, they dispersed, which was the
ultimate signal for various discourteous remarks intermingled with hilarious laughter. We had had our entertainment and it was great to exercise the
lungs, after so much tension, I think it was the first time that a lot of us had
laughed since leaving England on the 17th September.
33 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 34
Chapter Five
Destination Stalag 11 B, Via Apeldoorn
It was Tuesday 28th September when German orderlies carried me out on a
stretcher, not so carefully as our own medics, going down the stone steps at
the Hospital entrance I had to hang on like mad to the sides of the stretcher,
otherwise I would have slid off, at the entrance were a number of dilapidated small grimy ambulances into which we were put or rather stacked,
there was four to an ambulance, I was bunged down below, I don’t know
which was the rougher journey. From the Tafelberg to Arnhem or from here
to Apeldoorn, there was endless pitching and tossing, bumps and jerks and
encountering on the way, and a not so welcome Spitfire bent on doing his
own thing. We stopped a while, the German orderlies bugged off till it was
over. I was glad I was in a vehicle with a red cross, although by the sound
and noise going on out there, they didn’t completely trust the good intentions of the particular Germans transporting us to Apeldorn.
Unscathed we arrived at the Queen Wilhelmina Cavalry Barracks
taken over by the Luftwaffe and guarded by S.S. troops. The Germans must
have thought highly of their prisoners to continue to engage S.S. troops as
guards. The doctor being Lt/Col Zingelin S.S. My stay here thank goodness
was short around one week, it was not exactly a four star hotel, the floors
were dirty, iron beds with straw filled bedding, no heating, a meager supply
of medical wants and food.
Out of the blue our walking wounded and medics got things going
and organized, after tough parleying with the Germans, two of our walking
wounded acted as orderlies and carried me to a room and placed me on a
table, the plaster and dressing was removed at considerable discomfort but
was eased by a morphine jab half way through. It was sheer delight to be
free of its prison to be able to breath air and rub the dull flesh once more, the
final dressing was removed revealing a gaping ghastly inflamed leg, swollen
up to the size of a football, it was the first time I had seen it. ‘Jesus, what the
blazes can they do with that?’ I asked of an orderly ‘It’ll be as good as new
when we’ve finished mate’, ‘I bloody well hope so’, I remarked at which a
doctor, or I presume he was the doctor, entered the room, he was a civilian
and wearing a white short coat he was accompanied by a Rottenfuhrer of
the S.S. Medical Corps, the stench from my wound showed disapproval on
the face of the doctor grabbing my big toe with his fingers he slowly raised
the leg, it began to bend at the wound below the knee where both tibia
and fibia bones were broken, stopping he peered at and around the wound
35 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 36
inquisitively, I said ‘do you mind that hurts’ he released his hold of the leg
which was about one foot from the hard table top, if fell with a sickening ‘pholp’, instantly he turned to go, looking me in the eyes as he did so
I grimaced, I saw a sadistic change in his expression, ‘You bastard, square
headed, Shite Hawk!’ I couldn’t care less if he understood the phrase. He
but raised an eyebrow with an enquiring look, then departed.
I nursed my leg in my own private world of pain, then the medics
with that infernal S.S. guard wallah came in, my leg was redressed and replastered. I was returned to a room which housed about thirty severe cases,
including an R.A.F. chap who had been burnt. I could not converse with
him as he was swathed from head to waist in bandages, three holes were
left for eyes and mouth. His Air Force boots and trousers were scorched,
he may have been on fighters, or possibly on the re-supply run at Arnhem
where one supply plane, a Dakota, carried on in flames to the end. Its Pilot
Flight Lieutenant D.S.A. Lord was awarded the Victoria Cross his Navigator Flying Officer Henry Arther King being the sole survivor finished up in
the Perimeter area in Oosterbeek.
One morning there was the usual bustle and German commands
being rapped out with ‘Raus, Raus, Englische Soldat’ which was the prelude
to yet another move. This time by way of a change I was transported with
two other chaps by horse and cart, ‘What on earth is the so called mighty
German Reich coming to?’ It was a cold, but pleasant sunny October morning, a few German Infantry were on the move in motorized transport, Dutch
people were going about their daily tasks, they looked drawn, bewildered.
I had heard reports of a group of Dutch hostages being shot after
failure to produce a workforce for the German Military in Apeldoorn. I
had no idea of time or date now. I know I left the Elizabeth Hospital in
Arnhem around the end of September I glanced at a couple of elderly men,
they stopped and stared, wondering who or what we were, we had our dirty
torn, bloodstained Airborne smocks on, and laying on stretchers across the
cart which had no sides, the lower part of out legs covered with blankets of
a low grade German Army issue, much worse and thinner than the lowest
grade British Army issue.
The cart lumbered on, its solid wheels giving no comfort what so
ever to already aching wounds, as it clanked in a pot hole or mounted a raised
stone in its path. The two seated German orderlies, one a Schutze (private)
the other a Sturman (Lance Corporal) looked as bored and browned off as
pigs out of S**t. The journey was short from the Wilhelmina Barracks to
the Juliana Hospital perhaps that was the reason for horse transport. My
stay here was going to be the longest, and best as far as medical care goes.
37 • Reg Curtis
The hospital was staffed by Dutch doctors and nurses, with added
help of our own doctors and orderlies, the Germans left us well alone, to
fend for our own medical requirements, lesser proficient German doctors
attended operation and showed interest in the British doctors skills. We had
adequate medical supplies for a while, the Dutch staff and visiting civilians
managed to procure such luxuries as soap, toothpaste, and English books
mainly fiction.
I found these books most valuable for two reasons, one to make me
mentally tired so I could try to get some sleep, the other to take my mind
off the excruciating pain I was experiencing from that leg, it felt as though
it were in an iron boot and someone kept tightening and loosening a handle
to it.
Someone thought up an idea to apply a gadget called a Kischner
wire extension to my leg, as both bones were broken below the knee. The
theory was to stretch the leg and try to marry the broken bones in the correct position, under an injection of EVipan a steel bar was shot through the
ankle bone, which was to act as an anchor. A steel cable was attached to the
anchor and pulley apparatus below the foot of the bed, then weights were
added each day to steadily stretch the leg, otherwise I would be left with a
two inch shortening, necessitating the use of a club boot at a later date.
I did not care for a club foot/boot, whatever. I was beginning to
wish that I would like to see the back of this confounded, useless lump, of
decaying flesh and bone. My general and local condition regressed considerably, and prior to amputation I was at my lowest ebb, so low that I was put
on the same par as a hopeless case, cases that were so certain of not lasting
being prepared for the worst before the final curtain.
I was amputated on November 19th 1944 by Major P Smith almost
immediately after the operation I made an amazing quick recovery, I was sitting out of bed after a week, the medical orderlies were great and could not
do enough for us, from bathing to fetching bed-pans, carrying patients from
bed to loo, and back again, soothe the dying or reading a book for those too
weak or exhausted to do so for themselves, always on call all hours of the
day and night. I wondered whenever did they manage to eat or sleep. I asked
one on passing with a bottle in hand, he remarked quite cheerfully ‘oh, we
get forty winks now and then! With a snack in between!’ A Polish Para who
dropped at Arnhem was opposite me in a corner of the ward he’d been cut
up a bit and was having a rough passage. A German Military Clergy of the
Catholic order kept calling to say prayers and later to administer the last
rights, as he stood there in his dark Olive green uniform, black jack boots,
belt, and peak-cap under his arm I could not but notice and thought how
Tafelberg • 38
strange, he wore a gun-holster ‘A man of the cloth, with a pistol, in a hospital too, what next!’ I scrutinized his close cropped bull neck, familiar square
It was a good thing that I had recuperated fairly well, the Germans
kept shipping us out as soon as they thought we were fit enough to travel.
So once more into the breach of transportation I found myself flowing, this
time it was by truck to the station at Apeldoorn. We pulled alongside a Red
Cross train, I thought that this was great, on entering the train I noticed that
we were under the complete care of German Doctors and medical staff, no
wonder, the train was full of German wounded, and there happens to be
room for a dozen of us amp cases. I counted my blessings, it was a plush
train with buxom stern looking nurses floundering up and down, German
military medical staff and unarmed guards strutted about with all efficiency
displayed to the utmost with the occasional ‘Heil-Hiltering’ to boost their
lagging moral.
There was a bit of a panic when the R.A.F. decided to pay a visit
and a flak-gun set in position alongside coughed out a dozen or so shells in
very quick succession. I settled on a top bunk of the coach facing the engine,
I received looks of disapproval from most of the Germans accompanied
by ‘Englische Fallschirmjager’ a German orderly handed some erzats coffee
round, it was begrudgingly handed to me in a beeker, it was unsweet and
milkless, well it was a drink, ‘danke’ I said on which the orderly turned
thinking I could speak the whole of his untidy language, spilling out some
cock-an-bull yarn in German till I quickly rebuked him saying politely and
firmly ‘nicht verstehen’ on which he shrugged his shoulders and went.
We pulled out of Apeldoorn when it was dark, and the journey was
smooth and very comfortable, I got into conversation with a couple of German Parachutists. I say conversation, neither party could understand the
other except names of places, its possible they may have been in Africa, they
mentioned names like, Sousse, Tamera, and Bizerta. They showed great
enthusiasm when I spoke of Djebelabiod and Tamera Valley, it was here that
we encountered Major Witzigs German Parachute Engineers. Even in enemy
hands it’s a small world.
Daylight came with a German doing his nut shouting ‘spitfire, achtung, achtung, Spitfire!’ The R.A.F. were on the ball the train quite cheeky
I thought he was having a real close look to make sure that it was a Red
Cross train. I could clearly see the pilot goggles, and off white scarf, I felt
like giving him as wave as he disappeared behind some pine trees.
This was Germany proper now, with snow covered mountains and
country-side with Fir trees and log cabins dotted here and there making it all
39 • Reg Curtis
so picturesque. Nightfall came as we halted at a dismal looking place a small
town I think, unceremoniously we were ushered off the train, that is, our
party of a dozen airborne wounded, a mixed bag of crutches of all lengths
were handed to the leg amputees, mine could have been six inches longer, so
luxury was over, this is where we really started to rough it.
After being handed over to a new guard who had been waiting for
us, the train slid quietly out of the station, the guard beckoned us to follow
him, we hobbled, slouched, and limped along this unwelcome stazione der
Bahnsteig (station platform). We came to a stop at large double doors, the
guard flung open one door, in we went. It was a bare desolate empty room
except for a big bucket, just big enough for six gallons of urine which was
precisely what it was for. The room was lofty, some twenty feet high around
thirty feet square, it was most likely a store or waiting room at one time,
there were two elongated windows, eight feet by four feet at waist height,
but boarded up from the outside with not so much as a goodnight the guards
slammed the door shut! The crash echoing round the room, I gathered we
were here for a while so making a recoy for the most comfortable spot I
came across a draught free and ideal place for a kip. It was a chimney breast
unused but I could just make out where at one time the heat from the fire
had discoloured the painted wall. I bagged the corner of the breast which
afforded some protection from the cold draught coming under those doors.
Spotting some crummy old paper I asked the man to bung up the gap which
he did with pleasure.
We were all a bit under the weather with the added unpleasantness
of an amputation, one lad had an arm and a hand missing, another two
arms off, most like myself had one leg off. One lad was the worse for blisters
on his one and only foot, thank goodness we had wounded medic with us,
he did all he could with the minimal medical supply which included paper
bandages. It was not the best of nights on that cold stone floor but somehow
I slept. Others were not so fortunate, one chap did not even live to see the
rest of the journey! He remained motionless, when we were roused by the
guards early next morning, they were not immediately convinced till we told
them that he was ‘Kaput’ we’d had nothing nourishing to eat since leaving
Holland over thirty hours ago except for erzats coffee, sour tasting dark
brown bread with revolting black pudding or sausage meat. At least I had a
smoke out of the 200 I had on me when I was hit I managed to save a few,
some of the lads either didn’t bring enough or had lost them in action, or to
German guards, so they were supplemented with some from the rest of us.
The guard clomped in and nabbed a chap to give a hand with the
bucket. He motioned our friend toward the edge of the platform making
Tafelberg • 40
signs to empty the contents over the line ‘how charming’ I thought but then
its one way to get rid of it. A train pulled in, creaking and hissing, carrying
mainly civilians with a few military personnel including sailors, so, we must
be near a port. It was 8am as we clambered into a carriage to slump on its
hard seats which were ply timber perforated for ventilation, it brought a
smile to my face, trust the Germans to have perforated seats, they need them
the way they sometimes fart!
The journey was fatiguing because of the hard seats and my medical
condition in general, the awful rocking of the carriage as it went over points,
or in passing another train going in the opposite direction was like being in
a dodgem car at a fair back home after downing eight pints, only on this ride
I had not even smelt the barmaids apron.
On and off all day we were shunted in and out of sidings, then our
carriage with a guard was shunted into a layby and left for over an hour
while the rest of the train went on its allocated route. Eventually a lorry
turned up and beckoned us to climb aboard, snow was quite thick as our
party of four yanks, and six airborne, were pulled up at what looked like a
school in a small town near Munster. Three of the yanks and myself were
told to get out, the lorry carried on its way leaving us standing in the crisp
snow a voice called ‘Welcome Buddy, come in’ he was a big yank named
Marvin Adams from Indiana, US of A. Inside he showed us to a room on
the left ‘grab yersel a palliasse an bed an bed down here!’! He motioned
opening another door, ‘I’ll do yours bud’ he said looking me up and down.
‘Howdi-yer manage that fellar? Put the best foot forward at the wrong time’
I quickly answered ‘ah well this isn’t the Ritz but we have fun’ he remarked.
Wondered what he meant by that!
The room was not too bad thirty feet by fifteen feet, a door at each
end and five sash windows on one side looking out on to the main street,
there was a grimy wash room and toilet. Going through the door I came into
the room by an outer room or lobby leading to another room past the entrance, this room was the dining come recreation room. As we were all cases
of severe wounding in various degrees, Boche guards were non-existent,
except at night anyway. Being wounded and thick snow outside they were
not worried about a mass escape.
In the room which was to be my home for 2 weeks were thirty
wooden beds with a very mixed bag of occupants. There was Greg Testa
from Massachusetts, USA, a number of Italians who had been on our side
of the fence fighting, then there was Mack, Eddie, Huff, Joe, and Lloyd all
from USA. To my profound pleasure I learnt that two other English Paras
were here Jim Crowe M.M. from my 1st Battn. and Sergt Tucker he was
41 • Reg Curtis
shot in the stomach near the spot where Sergt J.D. Baskerfield was killed in
Oosterbeek. Eventually Sergt Tucker went off to an N.C.Os camp.
Food here was sparse but regular, here were no Red Cross parcels
so, what one had in the way of cigarettes or other luxuries on arrival, one
hung on to. I found medical care generous but facilities were poor, aspirin
was the strongest drug, and paper bandages were in use, the place began to
smell a little high through the lack of proper medical attention. Time was
spent mainly watching the German population go about their daily jobs
or watch the occasional dog fight between the British and German fighter
planes with each national cheering on their respective side. One of the German guards in his fifties a sort of bod along the lines of our English Home
Guard, gave us a tune on his banjo and offered his cigars round. They were
the size of a fat cigarette as strong as an African French Army issue ‘YUK!’
The uncouth would describe it as tasting like camel ‘shit’.
Sergt Tucker and Jim Crowe, and I talked of old times when lost for
a suitable topic through lack of positive happenings of the current situation
we talked of a grueling 100 mile march in F.S.M.Q (Field Service Marching
Order) from Porlock on Exmoor to Bulford taking in on route Withycombe,
Williton, then skirting the Quantock Hills, on to Street, Shepton Mallet,
Westbury, Market Lavington, past Stonehenge and finally Bulford. It was
in July/Aug 1942 and we had been using live ammunition on the Moor. At
Porlock, Tommy Huse and Gdsn Jim Crabtree thought they would see the
effect of a live grenade thrown in the village pond, a prank which did not go
down very well with the commanding officer Jim Crabtree who was killed
in N. Africa whilst serving with ‘T’ Coys ten platoon, Jim Crowe was with
him at the time.
Then the topic came back as to the fate of our 1st Battn, how many
came out of it unscathed, we thought that our adjutant Capt. Nigel Groves
was ok up to the Tuesday apparently on that day during the battle the remains of our 1st Para ‘T’ Coy under Major Perrin Brown and ‘R’ Coy under Major Timothy made a last desperate attempt to shift the enemy by
going in with the bavonet in the area near the Pontoon Bridge at Arnhem
but German infantry were well consolidated by then with tanks blasting at
point blank range at whoever or whatever moved, the 1st Battn. by then
were well below any reasonable fight power, approximately thirty-five were
counted when it was decided to withdraw to the area of the old church in
Oosterbeek where the famous Lonsdale force was formed. It was about this
time that I was shifted to the casualty station in the Tafelberg Hotel, being
General Model’s H.Q. on our landing.
A pass time which was much favoured was the usual card games
Tafelberg • 42
any currency was accepted as stake money but the banker had to be a bit
of an interpreter and currency exchange expert as well as shrewd diplomat, there were twenty-six players of all nationality, Russian, Canadian,
American, Italian, Australian, Yugoslavs from Tito’s partisans, Frenchmen,
a Dutchman in English uniform, even a Chinese in the uniform of a Frenchman all sitting quietly together, chatting and smoking instead of scrapping.
The Italian asked the big yank Marvin ‘Ha delle sigarette American-Inglesi?’
‘Naw matt’ was the firm reply, the Italian was admiring a photo which
he offered everyone to see, ‘Mia Moglie, Mia Moglie’ (‘my wife’) he said
thrusting a battered postcard under my nose ‘oh yeees, very nice’ I said.
Eddie from Massachusetts was talking to a Yugoslav. He could
speak a little English, I edged my way over on my crutches to the two men,
I’d heard a lot of these tough young Partisan fighters, I instinctively put my
hand out and he grasped it with his big strong hand with a grip of steel
‘what great deeds had they performed’ I asked myself he spoke in Italian,
‘Miro amico’ (‘my friend’) ‘Hullo’ I said we were then joined by a second
Slav he came from Kraljevica in Yugoslavia where Marshal Tito’s H.Q. at
a town called Jajce, where they had to contend with the Wolf and Bear, in
the rough mountainous terrain as well as fighting Germans making things a
little more difficult. Soon after Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941 these
very men took to the mountains another of Tito’s men was busying himself
making a meal of Gavrilovic salami (salami) revolting looking stuff, wedged
between two hunks of Hleb or Kruh (bread) which was washed down with
some Crna (black coffee) I felt a little weak and my stump was beginning
to throb, twixt constant shooting pains, I worked my way back to my bed,
on the way, I saw an Italian empty his pockets with care, he’d just returned
from town most likely on lacky duty for the Germans ‘Wharr-you-gawttharr lad?’ Joe Donahue from out town Pennsylvania enquired ‘Pancetta affumicate e due nova’ (‘bacon & eggs’) una bottiglia de buon vino’ (‘bottle of
wine’) ‘You crawl arsin Wop’ joked Marvin Adams. The Italian was bit hurt
at this remark and protested vigorously, Mac and Joe could speak Italian,
apparently he had been on a work party and had barted his cigarettes and
chocolate for eggs, bacon and wine. I swapped cigarettes for bread a few
times it was quite common practice between P.O.W’s and the Boche sometimes men on cookhouse work would return with potatoes which they had
lifted hidden in head gear or the seam of the battle dress blouse, one lado
fixed himself up with a tight fitting ‘jock strap’ with small bag attached and
two potatoes, being frisked one day he jokingly said to the guard ‘mind my
balls’ the guard saw the funny side of the remark and our friend got away
with it! He nicked pounds of potatoes by the way.
43 • Reg Curtis
Excitement rose one morning when two Mosquito Bombers of the
R.A.F. roared over the roof tops on a hit and run raid most likely. This De
Havilland Mosquito fighter Bomber VI, with its two Rolls-Royce Merlin
engines and 1,635 H. Power each, was a gem of a plane, very maneuverable
and a most formidable fighter bomber of its class.
I was getting used to this place when word went round that Jerry was moving some of us maybe for repatriation, having only one pin I
thought that I stood a good chance to be in on this. Three yanks, two Russians and myself were ushered into a truck early one morning, boarding a
passenger train we only traveled a few miles to de-train again, maybe to
get another connection for this unknown place. Our guards let us wander
a bit so we took advantage of it after being cooped up under one roof for a
couple of weeks it was a wonderful feeling of freedom to be able to propel
along quite a number of yards unhindered. Another train pulled in and our
coach was just beyond the slope of the platform with one leg on crutches it
is precarious trying to make it, people in the coach looked at me as it I was
some sort of weird apparition but I made it on my Jack in the end. Shunting
around then hitching up to another train we rolled once more. It was dusk,
cold, and dismal, when someone struck up with Bless them all.
‘Sod ’em all, sod em all
The long and the short and the tall
Sod all the sergeants and W.O ones
Sod all the corporals and their bastard sons
For we’re saying goodbye to them all
As back to their billets they crawl
You’ll get no promotion
This side of the ocean
So, cheer up me lads, Sod ’em all.’
It seemed we had joined some more British soldiers it was one way
of an introduction. I think we all felt a little better after that song, even our
guards showed a little animation at breaking away from the usual boring
routine it broke the ice a bit anyway.
Jogging along for what must have been two hours I then noticed
the surrounding scenery of isolated buildings and the occasional log cabin
change rapidly to a more congested array of tall buildings, factories and large
residential areas, intermingling with quite a spiders web of rail lines, rolling
stock increased tenfold, with the fascinating tingle, crash, bang as wagons
were shunted into various intersections to await their ultimate journey.
Tafelberg • 44
The multifarious shapes silhouetted on the sky-line made an ideal setting for
an artists brush and palette that’s if you were artistically inclined. So, this
was Bremen. We slowly pulled in and as the train came to a stop, I could
hear the familiar sound of doors opening, and hustle and bustle as people
made their way along the platform, the same sound one would hear in London, Manchester or Birmingham, only there was no TOC.H. Y.M.C.A. or
snack bar for a nosh up in this dump.
It was more like a cascade instead of orderly de-training by our
party, in no time we were huddled together, and ushered along what looked
like a long wide underground passage-way, a bit like the covered forecourt
at Kings Cross Station only not so lofty. German bodies were intermingled
to make a silent glum looking loft bent only on getting to their destination
on time. For the younger more virile to snatch a few moments bliss! Then
back to the Reich machine. The scene before me was all too blunt and artificial, railway officials and porters looked more like visiting high ranking
officers instead of servants of the people, they were so curt, and outwardly
authoritive. Soldiers and sailors, making for their unknown place of destiny,
civilians brushing by were oblivious as to who we were, or our nationality
we must have looked a sight but no one noticed, it was as if they were robots
with no thought or feelings their faces were blank.
Then, it happened, the air raid warning whined out, Civilians as
well as military personnel went scurrying along, the military I noticed did
not hesitate to shove anyone out of the way in an attempt to reach a place of
safety from the on-coming Blitzkrieg they knew only too well the effect of.
The air was humming with aircraft they were American Boeing B17 G Flying Fortress’s there were Four Wright R-1820 Cyclone radial engines each
1,200 horse power. Its armament was 13.5 inch Browning machine guns
and up to 17,600 lbs of bombs. Its speed was 300 mph at 30,000 feet with a
range of 1,850 miles, it was a big bird with a wing span of 103 feet 9.5 inch
length 74 feet 4inche, height 19 feet with a crew of ten.
One guard quickened his step way ahead of us, periodically turning
to beckon us to hurry it up, I entered a small shelter big enough for a hundred people, after a lot of shoving and pushing we settled down amid glares
and remarks thrown our way. I let it happen but somehow I was pushed
and guided into a corner of the shelter away from the door. If a bomb lands
too near let the Germans take the blast and cushion any effect on us, I saw
a wooden bench was fixed to the wall and just dropped onto it exhausted.
Our three guards spread out between us and the main bulk of civilians. The
bombing started in earnest and the shelter shook, I could have sworn one
landed outside because I felt the draught, a similar experience to the draught
45 • Reg Curtis
from a shell in N. Africa when I was blown off my feet, that time it was fifty
feet away. Everyone was silent, the whine of bombs, droning aircraft and
crashing of bombs went on with ever increasing ferocity for a good hour,
then it died down to a steady drumming with an occasional distant bomb
explosion. People began to chatter, inner fear dispersed and external bravado took over, there was a lot of teeth gnashing.
Glances would accompany finger pointing in our direction. The
crowd were getting restless then a man started pouring words of abuse I’d
say a big Frau about forty years old worked her way nearer to us, she was
but a couple of feet away, ranting and doing her nut. I felt the moisture of
her spittle as she argued with the guards as to the privilege we should have
in being allowed to be in the same shelter as the rest of the German people!
I gathered that was the crux of the matter. On which a heavy booted foot
came out and started propelling my way! I pared firmly with my right hand,
the boot brushed ball’s coming to a harmless glancing blow on my left thigh,
the guard stood firm restraining the woman and trying to calm everyone
It was then I noticed a familiar sound in French ‘Anglais Prisonners, La Guerre’. It was the voice of our guards, they were French men conscripted into the German Army, Well, you don’t know who your friends are.
Anyway they saved my nuts being cracked. The rest of the night was spent
in the shelter. We ventured out when the all clear sounded.
After being feasted with the usual coffee, bread and black pudding,
we were herded yet again to the end of the platform, where we must have
waited an hour before the train came in. I couldn’t see much evidence of the
previous nights bombings, buildings long past bombed could be seen but
deserted maybe they had been after the harbor or factory area. The same
type passenger train with hard seats jerked in to a halt. In I piled wondering
where to next, the train must’ve been one of those take it easy, stop at every
station efforts.
On the way I did notice some very big craters each side of the railway lines, I counted twenty and they looked fresh, each crater was approximately one hundred yards from the railway, not one was a direct hit on
the lines maybe it was the very high altitude bombing coupled with intense
‘ack-ack’ which put them off.
By 3pm we arrived at our new home, the guards assured us that
we would be well looked after now, with a good bed and ‘Red Cross Parcels’ that made me feel better, as by now we were all very much under the
weather, weak through lack of correct food or medical attention. It must
have been another hour, eventually an old army type lorry turned up, it had
Tafelberg • 46
solid tyres. I could not have careless at this stage as long as I didn’t have to
walk or rather hobble on crutches, it was not a very long way off.
Then I saw it, a large P.O.W. camp blotting the landscape. With
its eight foot high wire fencing guards platforms sticking up like a sore
thumb some twenty feet high, dingy looking huts dotted the interior. The
lorry slowed at the gate the senior guard jumped down to go through the
preliminary handing over ceremony the lorry jerked into the compound as
the big wood and wire gates creaked open. Out we all tumbled, literally I
felt absolutely shagged, I was sweating as if I had just come out of a Turkish
bath, and my stump was throbbing like mad. I stayed laying on the ground,
where I landed. I managed somehow to support myself on one elbow. The
rest of the party sat, knelt or some managed to stay on both feet or on one
foot with the aid of crutches. I didn’t want a welcoming committee, but I
wished that someone would show us where to go, it was ages before one
of the guards who was having a chat and laugh with his mate decided to
give us the go ahead to move off. ‘In jenner strasse links, rechts’ he shouted
pointing with closed hand in the directions we were to go.
Our party moved off slowly, wearily. I found myself left behind
tried to get up but could not muster enough to make it. So I started crawling, dragging the crutches behind. I went five or six yards it felt like bloody
miles, when I heard voices saw two pairs of gatered boots ‘come on me ole
mate’ a voice said‘we’ll give you a lift’ on which they lifted me with ease,
carried me I don’t know how far I didn’t even get a glimpse of their faces to
say thanks.
Sinking down on a straw mattress I could not remember much for
the next couple of days, they told me I just slept and slept and slept. It
was then I learned I was in Stalag XI B. where a large number of Airborne
men were. I can only remember one meeting, and how could I forget, it
was with R.S.M. Lord of our 3rd Para Battn. his parent regiment being the
same as mine, The Grenadier Guards. He was the camp disciplinarian; the
Germans did not like him because of his mannerism and first class military
bearing, our own men thought twice before offering any back chat! Even
as P.O.W. a service man comes under the jurisdiction of military protocol,
and is answerable for any breach of military misbehavior he may commit.
Some of the more cocky types did not realise this, they had a big shock acoming with R.S.M. Lord. No matter whether he was correcting a private,
addressing a General, or acting with cordial respect to enemy officers, it was
those dark piercing eyes that seemed to penetrate to your very inner private
thoughts. He certainly put the Germans to shame with the slovenly way they
paraded round the camp.
47 • Reg Curtis
It was not long before I contracted a number of other complaints
to add to the already unpleasant conditions in my hut. Lice and bugs were
in abundance, nights were worst, the iron stove used to be stoked right up
at night, the heat was awful with all doors and windows shut tight. Urine
buckets would fill to the brim in no time, making the stench nauseous. A
Geordie the far end of the hut made banal remark that the place was worse
that the worst home service station, could ever be ‘You must be joking, mite’
a Swede basher, quickly cut in, because of the poor state of my health and
appalling hut conditions making it more like a Barracoon. I can’t remember
too well the events at Stalag XI B. But in the hospital bay I heard a voice call
‘Reg Curtis me ole cock, what have you been up to?’ Looking up I couldn’t
make out who it was, everything was a blur. Anyway, someone knew me
here. I went down with dysentery, pleurisy and scarlet-fever together with
the amputation which had already caused regression in general health. I did
not feel all that good, if I had wanted to die I think I would have, but it did
not enter my head.
Rumours went round the camp that the Allies were not far off, then
I was told that I was going to be repatriated within a few days I was on my
way again, ‘Be-Jesus’ I was glad to be away from this Hell Hole.
Boarding the familiar old train again, I was just getting acclimatized
to the surroundings when there was a terrific ‘W H O O O O O S H’, the
train stopped in the middle of nowhere. I could hear the guttural twang of
German civilians as they ran hell for leather each side of the train to take
cover from what must be our own aircraft somewhere a German shouted
‘Wie geht es Inhen’ looking around the coach I saw that the German guards
had vamoosed, rotton bastards left us to it. Looking down the track I saw
that it was miles too high for me to jump down with one leg some of our
party of eight jumped and took cover some place I secreted my pants I don’t
know whether it was fright or the Dysentery which was still in me I thought
I best to stay put and shouted to the rest to take cover ‘Hit the deck lads’ no
sooner said than done and our friends returned. They were two rocket firing
typoons of the R.A.F. I recognized the sound as they got nearer, when with
another hair raising ‘W H O O O S H’ instantaneously another ‘W H O O
O O S H’ followed by a earslitting explosion the carriage shook so violently
I thought we were going to topple over. As always in these attacks it was
over in no time, and all peaceful once more.
People and guards began to trickle back, the front coach and engine
had been hit they told us. We had to wait a couple of hours before some
German troops came and shifted the damaged train engine, they must have
used some sort of heavy lifting gear, as coach and engine lay neatly by the
Tafelberg • 48
side of the track as we rolled by. It was dark when we came upon our last
stop, I couldn’t see much, except that it was a small station indicating a
small town or village our guards did help us a bit on this occasion by offering a shoulder to lean on in getting out of the carriage which I promptly accepted ‘Der Ausgang der Bahnsteig’ he motioned up the platform, Der Arzt,
come this time things were a little more organized it seemed I heard English
speaking voices then, a German an English medic with two American medics loomed nearer, I thought the Allies must be here. ‘Hiya all’ the Americans
called and immediately handed some cigarettes round. The cigarettes were
‘Chesterfields’, I enjoyed that first couple of puffs, the English cigs I did had
were all gone, back in Stalag XI. B, someone noticed that I had them whilst
I slept. They did not pinch any but reminded me of them when I woke and
to the fact that no Red Cross parcels had arrived apparently the Germans
were appropriating parcels for their own use empty boxes were clearly seen
in the refuse area of the camp.
This was a snug little Village called Meisburg 200 miles from St
Vith, just the other side of the Belgium border. Sympathetically, these new
friends helped us onto a lorry which actually had blanket covered wood
seats for added comfort, there were haversacks hanging on the sides, most
likely with medical gear as they bore the Red Cross on a white circle, there
was even a couple of folded English Army style stretchers these chaps certainly had things running smoothly here. They were very clean in dress and
person. I could sense that our new abode was going to be fine. We did not
travel far except for the checking in office which was run by a small party
of Germans of the Pionner Regt, with a ‘Rottenfurhrer’ in charge of four
Schutze I did not see any guards. This was the village Hall being used to
house wounded P.O.Ws there were out-houses turned into a cookhouse, a
shower with another for general medical stores, the biggest luxury being a
flush toilet.
There were approximately 40 wounded here, a mixed bag of English, French and American with four American and two English orderlies,
one walking wounded acted as cook with others able, doing the menial
tasks of fetching carrying and general dogs body they did not mind though.
I heard a rumbling in the distance ‘Pattons Armoured Division’ I was informed by a yank from Ohio ‘They bin-a roamin over the hills, the last few
It was early evening the first job was to be cleaned up, we were
taken in pairs to the shower, I was asked to remove al personal items from
my pockets as they wished to clean and fumigate all clothing ‘don’t worry
you’ll get them all back, good as new’ A stocky English medic quipped,
49 • Reg Curtis
‘Here put this on’, it was a sort of cotton smock which was tied at the back,
in my case just long enough to cover the knee, he came in a great big American in the same garb, with forearms like tree branches, he lifted me bodily
with the ease of Samson himself, mind you I was down from 14 stone to
just over eight! a loss of six stone since September 17th 1944. On reaching
the shower, his mate Hercules steadied me on my one pin, that was sheer
bloody heaven, after being rubbed down and smock donned, Hercules this
time carried me back to a most luxuries bed with white sheets. God knows
where they scrounged the sheets from, but trust the yanks.
Pleasant surprises were not yet over, after English bully beef,
poached eggs, German bread, and butter made from coal the butter was
pale and saltless, not too bad to the pallet, this was followed by tin pears
and cream, to top it all some red cross parcels found their way here before
we arrived, so we benefited with what was a generous share of the distribution. There was Chocolate, Cigarettes, Toothpaste, the bulk of parcels consisted of tins of sausages, condensed milk, roast beef tin of steak and kidney
pudding which was one of the favourites. Dried fruit box of cheese, a packet
of Army type biscuits, these were much the same as they were at the beginning of the war, except that they are now six ounce packets instead of four
ounces. This commodity of food was put into a pool to make up a respectable dish for everyone taste. ‘Boyo Boy!’ what a feast Cigarettes were much
sort after as well as Americans there were English brands, Players, Capstan,
used to come in tins of fifty or one ounce of tobacco for the pipe smoker,
in civy street a packet of twenty players or Capstan would cost 101/2 old
pence, a special duty free forces pack of 124 for 3 shilling and nine pence,
but not many of those found their way out here.
I spend the next week in comparative luxury after Stalag XI B. Then
things began to liven up outside the rumbling in the distance was much
nearer now and groups of bedraggled weary looking Germans plodded
through the village, the wounded being born by horse and cart. Field-guns
were manhandled the luxury of any such motorized transport was afforded
to senior officers only who’s only wish was to withdraw in as dignified a
manner as possible, leaving the Unteroffitseer to do all the donkey work
along with the Schutze to suffer all the humiliation of being seen by his own
countrymen. It was a pathetic sight, like a cutting out of the first world war
film archives. These must be the ordinary German solider not of the same
type like the ‘Waffen S.S.’ who were responsible for the complete destruction of the French village of Ordaour Sur Glane in June 1944 after forcing
the inhabitants of 750 into a church then machine-gunning them to death.
The Germans said that it was a reprisal for the activities of local Partisans.
Tafelberg • 50
Although Allies were becoming very wary of seeing a white flag in
a window of a building or a red cross painted on a roof top I am glad that
they were not trigger happy, or even the local German armed forces because
as dawn approached the throb of motorized transport and tanks, could be
heard very near, the squeak of the tanks wheels rubbing the caterpillar track,
thirsty for some sort of lubrication edging and shunting into position or
the pending advance on the village. The American orderlies were jubilant,
‘they’re da-gone here limey’ ‘The Yanks are here, YIPPEE’ exploded Hank,
anyone who could get up and walk, hop, or propel themselves in some way,
forgot momentary their wounds and discomfort they peered through cracks
in doors through windows, I could not see anything from my window, only
the Nazi flag of the local garrison, hanging list less, like the Bosche themselves.
Bill, one of the English medics came dashing in not knowing which
way to turn in his excitement. ‘there’s hundreds of tanks out there, bloody
hell hundreds of ‘em, Pattons lot they are, righto blighty it won’t be long
Tanks of General Pattons Division had encircled the village in the
early hours of the morning, they were in a very advantageous position, we
were in the valley they on the high ground. Every tank gun had its own selective target with orders to open fire if fired upon. While the tanks played the
waiting game with, thank goodness, a non-existing enemy, because the birds
had flown, but the Americans did not know this. Meanwhile an American
scout car ventured cautiously toward the village. Unmolested it came to the
outskirts, scanning the buildings where white flags were protruding no sign
of the enemy so the scout car still in view of the tanks on the hill, became
bolder and cruised gently into the village. Our make shift hospital with
painted Red Cross on the roof must have been in view of the scout car now.
All this going on was being shouted by one of the medics out in the passage way for the benefit of those like myself who could not get up to see the
show for themselves. The scout car came to an abrupt stop, its occupants
clutching their automatics at the ready. They must have spotted someone
step carefully into view that person, a medic with red cross arm band was
Hank, the American orderly from Ohio he was about 100 yards from the
scout car, they stealthy approached each other, Hank not wishing to be mistaken for a German ruse and the recoy scout car did not want to fall for any
old trick! As they drew nearer, chatter became more recognizable, mannerisms more in keeping, till both parties accepted each other as brothers upon
which, a wireless call was sent to the tanks on the skyline that everything
was ok in no time the village was alive to the rumble of Sherman tanks as
51 • Reg Curtis
they thundered on through, leaving an acrid smell of oil and exhaust fumes,
one or two buildings were clobbered by the leading tanks, when access was
not quite wide enough, unfortunately the buildings collapsed like a pack of
Thanks to the smooth running efficiency of the American Army
Air force I was soon whisked in an ambulance to an air strip somewhere
in Germany then enplaned in the type of aircraft I came out in, a Dakota!
Only this time I was laying down not sitting. Passing over Belgium we hit a
rough storm but landed OK in the south of England to finish up in Basingstoke Hospital. I would soon be a civilian now, never to know the fate of my
friends maybe I might meet up with some in years to come.
The causalities in the Arnhem area alone were 800 Airborne killed
wounded and missing including Poles, plus 300 Royal Air Force Pilots and
crew. 750 Dutch Civilians and underground fighters 3,500 Germans and in
the winter of 1944/5 200,000 Dutch died of starvation. A staggering loss of
life and appalling human suffering, but to this day in 1979 nobody has come
up with a full account of what really happened or went wrong at Arnhem.
Not even after a £15 million film entitled ‘A Bridge Too Far’.
Bill Fulton 2nd Para was the first man on the Bridge at Arnhem he
was there for less thank a minute before he was shot in the leg and had to
be dragged off to safety.
Cpl Neville Ashley M.M. was at the Bridge until ammunition ran
out. His medal was for action in Sicily in 1943.
‘There has been no single performance, by any unit that has more
greatly impressed me or more highly excited admiration’. General Eisenhower 1944 to General Roy Urquhart 1st Airborne Division Commander.
It takes impeccable individuality and devotion to ones duty, irrespective of danger, no matter how great, to be awarded the Victoria Cross,
no fewer than five V.C.’s were awarded at Arnhem. They were:1. Flight Lieutenant D.S.A. Lord D.F.C Posthumous V.C. of the R.A.F. who
flew in supplies to Arnhem, disregarding his own safety.
2. Major Robert Cain, V.C. Glider-borne South Staffords,
3. Lieutenant J.H. Grayburn Posthumous 2nd Parachute Battalion
4. Sergeant J.D. Baskerfield Posthumous V.C. South Staffords, Anti-Tank,
5. Captain L.E. Queripel Posthumous V.C. 10th Parachute Battalion.
Tafelberg • 52
Everyone irrespective of rank has exercised their lungs to this song,
so here goes for the last time.
No More Solidering For Me
‘When this bleeding war is over,
Oh, how happy I shall be,
When I get my civvy clothes on,
No more solidering for me,
No more church parades on Sundays,
No more calling of the roll,
Not more blancoing equipment,
No more saluting for the dole,
No more asking for a pass,
We can tell Sergant Major,
To stick his passes, up his arse!’
53 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 54
Chapter Six
The Best Kept Secret of World War II
Before I finish my story I would like to relate how I called to see the
place of thinking, of that great man and founder of the Commandos and
Parachutes Regiment; Mr Winston Churchill.
The place is exactly as it was left in those far off days after the
1939 war everything from furniture to paper clips are the original, nothing
is duplicated the utmost care is taken in the daily cleaning to ensure that
authenticity of contents prevails. So a few years ago I just had to visit the
Churchill War Rooms, situated far below ground at the Treasury Chambers,
Westminster throughout the war.
Mr Christiaan Truter who comes from South Africa, made the guided tour sound so intriguing of what went on in those days. All the rooms I
visited had 8”/8” timber pillars of oak, supporting the low ceiling in case of
bomb damage. Guards escorted everyone everywhere in those days. Even to
the toilet with no exception. No-one knew of the others job or whereabouts.
No-one ever asked a question if they did, they found themselves posted to
a far off way-out place, sometimes out of the country. You just did your
particular maybe laborious job and asked no questions. Such was the state
of the best kept secret in the 1939 war days.
It started off though three years or more before the war started. After looking in rooms which once housed typists, and a kitchen I paused at a
door inscribed 69B (six/nine B) plus the name. The door had a peep hole five
inch square, glass covered and reinforced with half inch wire mesh. Behind
the door a sentry was posted, it was only he would allowed anyone in or
out with the co-operation of the guard outside in the passages way. Inside
this room I sat in a chair, a mahogany grand-father chair, ‘most comfortable’
The table was U-Shape with the ends of the U returning inwards, allowing
enough access for the Chiefs of Staff who sat directly opposite me.
David Burwash M.C. Ex 1st and 3rd Para Battns, who volunteered
for the Paras in 1940, sat to my opposite left, in the chair of the Army Chief
of Staff. The table was covered with a complete piece of Navy-Blue material
intended for the Metropolitan Police Uniforms of that day, reason being
that as the country was in a state of war, that particular material would be
hard to come by it would be a shame to cut it up. At each Minister’s place
was blotting pad in leather cornered containers, brown utility pencil, glass
inkwells, paper clips and ashtrays. In front of me was a 9”/2”/1” deep glass
pen tray, with pens and well used ink-stained nibs, an automatic pincer clipper, a well worn paper knife protruding from its sheath, and a set of three
55 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 56
white _” diameter press buttons, on a 3”/4” block of polished wood these
buttons were used to summon my private Secretary wherever he might be.
Beyond this but directly in front of my chair, the ‘Red Dispatch
Box’ to my right rear in a corner, stood a small table with a black telephone
for use by me, attached to the phone was a 6”/6”/6”. Brown bakerlite box,
used to scramble all messages, any would-be eaves-dropper would only hear
‘Mumbo-Jumbo’ thus created. To my right on the left of the door that I
came in was a clock on the wall, on my left was another on the wall giving
the time in America. In each left hand corner of the room was a small table
which seated clerks, taking down every word spoken in long hand. The
walls were of brick painted over with many coats of pre-war paint, likewise
the low ceiling t’was dull and uninteresting lighting was sparse, but bearable. It was very warm with an odd odour the ventilation was not exactly
up to present day standards of endurance but, as it was in the war days.
Large maps of the world adorned the walls, with one of Italy facing
me large areas of the maps were coloured pink giving one the impression
that they might be Communist controlled countries, till you notice Australia
and New Zealand are in the pink, you realize then that pink represented
Commonwealth Countries.
The room is but 25 feet by 25 feet rather cramped and very close
little wonder, when it was below sewer level in the basement of a large building in central London. To give a hint where I am, in front of me is a saying
printed in black on a card 10”/5” the phrase refers to the words spoken by
H.M. Queen Victoria. ‘In this house we never speak of defeat’.
Yes! I am in the war-time Cabinet Room of Mr Winston Churchill
the Prime Minister of the day. I am sitting in his chair, other visitors with
me are sitting at the seats of various Cabinet Ministers A very queer phenomenon engulfs me in the wonderment of what things had been planned
or discussed in this room a mere handful of men with great thought and
wisdom had guided our country and many others to a 100% victory over
the common enemy.
I also sat at the table in Room 65 A.B. (six/five A.B.) Mr Churchill’s
Broadcasting room, map room, come rest-room, the single bed and Army
issue blankets he did not approve of, still occupy the room by the door.
For security the maps on the wall were always curtained in case of wrong
interpretation. Mr Churchill always took a rest at 3pm to wake refreshed
by 6pm. The Maps room in 63/B 5. (six/three B5) housed people receiving
incoming calls on eight phones, two black, two cream, two red and two
green for security each message passed right along the line of phones, to be
finally dealt with by an Army Colonel at the head or the table, in the process
the message was scrambled. The room was a mass of military and national
information on air-raids troops, raids, naval engagements convoys, small
and large operations.
I noticed some index-tags in a crude rack, some related to 1st Airborne Division S.A.S. Units and the DIEP raid, this room was approx. 14
feet by 24 feet in an adjoining room 9 feet by 20 feet was the photographic
section of air-raids carried out by the R.A.F. plus reconnaissance. On one
wall, the flying bomb and rockets were plotted for security this room was
sealed off from the map room in 63/B5. Agents came and went by another
guarded door to the photo room, the hob-nail impression from Army personnel boots can be seen imbedded in the concrete floor of the photo room.
One of the most secret and smallest rooms was Mr Churchill’s own toilet, in
room 63/B. (six/three B.) off of the passage and approx. fifty feet from the
Cabinet room I walked in to like a box room it was once a broom cupboard
much to the disapproval of a Ministry of Works Cleaner, George Rance, his
brooms were installed in a metal locker in the passage his locker is still here
and bears his name he was a rather zealous man with anything to do with
security so much so that the Treasury Chambers became known as Rance
Back to the toilet at 63/B, it was 5 feet by 5 feet with a deep shelf
at waist height on the right, two higher but more shallow shelves with note
paper, pencil, ash tray and one red telephone on the lower shelf. On the wall
above the door was a clock 6” diameter by 4” deep made of brass opening
the two mahogany panelled doors to my left was a second walk-in cupboard
5 feet by 4 feet which furnished a small table, and a soft fabric upholstered
grandfather chain, a space where an Elsan Toilet once stood. The phone
was a direct line to President Roosevelt in Washington, USA. Mr Churchill
could wait in comfort for his phone call under a complete veil of security in
a camouflaged toilet. To this day you need a special pass to get anywhere
near the place.
My very last room before leaving was where visiting Ministers
spent time while waiting to tend to their business, the furniture was of Rose
Wood or Mahogany on a curved table was up to date of interest appertaining to the last war, opening a book entitled ‘World War Two’ on the Sicily
landings, I was pleased to point out to Mr Truter a 6”/5” photo of a training shot of members of my 11th S.A.S. Battn. In the line up to the force
was, Harry Bance, Cpl Hutson, Jimmy Metcafe and myself. Mr Churchill
certainly carried out his job extremely well. I would like to think that, I did
my best alongside other Leopards, Lions and Tigers of the First Parachute
57 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 58
No. 2 Commando 11th S.A.S. 1st Parachute Battalion 1940 - 5.
59 • Reg Curtis
Arnheim 1944 Veterans Club.
Tafelberg • 60
The Pioneer Years.
61 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 62
The staircase at De Tafelberg, looking down. 1994
63 • Reg Curtis
A plaque now in the grounds reads: The Tafelberg, formerly a the hotel, was
converted into a field hospital where a number of wounded were aided by doctors,
priests and civilians.
Tafelberg • 64
The De Tafelberg painting now hangs in Schoonord restaurant, a field dressing
centre for the Airborne Medics in Oosterbeek 1944.
65 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 66
The presentation of new colours to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd parachute BNS of the
Parachute Regiment - 1988. Top picture: the author with H.R.H. Prince Charles.
The author with Tex Banwell, Standard Bearer (photograph by Ian Kirkness).
Below: with Brigadier James Ledger Hill.
67 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 68
Church Service at Bridge After Silent. March 2004.
69 • Reg Curtis
A close encounter with H.R.H. Prince Charles and bodyguards. 1998 Aldershot.
Tafelberg • 70
The Schoonord housed wounded and Airborne Medics for the battle duration.
71 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 72
Military currency 2nd World War.
73 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 74
The De Tafleberg after building contractors moved in. 2004.
75 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 76
The author with Anje Van Maanen, De Tafelberg Angel.
De Bilderberg Hotel 2004.
Anje van Maanen as she was in 1945.
Eric Simpson, McAnelly, Dick Bingley, Frank Youny, Reg Curtis. Oosterbeek 1978.
77 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 78
The author on the left, with Mr Ruders at 92, Klinglesbeeks Weg, who took in
many Airborne wounded in 1944. (photo 1994).
79 • Reg Curtis
The author with Ray Sheriff 3rd Para. on left, with other Arnhem veterans,
Tafelberg • 80
Bob Laing 1st Para. with Ann Pelster Caspers and nurse, Arnhem 1985.
81 • Reg Curtis
Macanally 1st Para. 3 Mortars Airborne battle guide after Arnhem on left,
at his home in Oosterbeek in 1984.
Tafelberg • 82
An early Airborne picture.
83 • Reg Curtis
Map taken into Arnhem by 1st Para Battalion.
Tafelberg • 84
3” Mortar Team, H.Q. Company. 1st Parachute Battalion, Italy 1943.
85 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 86
The author’s painting. Remembered from the days of September 1944.
Photograph by J. Leusden, Zwolle, The Leeren Doedel, S.S. H.Q. where ‘R Coy’
made first major contact with enemy after landing at Wolfheze 1944.
Key to painting.
Photograph by J. Leusden, Zwolle. Damaged villas west side of stationweg near
the Oosterbeek crossroads. One villa now called the Strijland Hotel.
87 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 88
Photograph by D. Renes. The Aalberg boarding house, Oosterbeek Hoog station
is to the left. Note road sign pointing to De Leerne Doedel.
89 • Reg Curtis
Photograph by H.J. Willink, Railway viaduct at Oosterbeek Laag Rail Station,
where 1st Para. Btn. passed under toward the town of Arnhem on 18th Sept. 1944.
Tafelberg • 90
The grave of Prof. Lipman Kessel who was laid to rest in Oosterbeek in 1986.
91 • Reg Curtis
The Prof. was one time Captain Lipmann Kessel with the 16th Para. Field.
Tafelberg • 92
Presentation of the Battle of Arnhem roll of honour to General Sir John Hackett.
In the middle Captain Richard Bingley 1st Para.
Who else but you know who?
Captain Lipmann Kessel and wife, 1984. The Captain was with the Field Ambulance at Arnhem in 1944.
93 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 94
Arnhem Breidge held by 2 Para. under Col. John Frost.
Drawing by kind permission of the artist.
Sgt. Jo Dimmock, 1st Para.
Third man from front is Sgt. Frank Manser, 1st Para.
95 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 96
Sgt. Jo Dimmock, 1st Para.
97 • Reg Curtis
Regimental Sergeant-Major John C. Lord (right).
Tafelberg • 98
M. Stammlager IV B.
List of Englishmen who died in Stalag XI 1943 / 45.
De Tafelberg Kitchen, 1980.
99 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 100
Ann Pelster Caspers at the Tafelberg, with her memories. 2002.
101 • Reg Curtis
The author’s painting of the Tafelberg as it was on 19th September 1944.
Tafelberg • 102
Ann Pelster Caspers. Nurse at De Tafelberg. 1946.
103 • Reg Curtis
Men of the 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment.
Tafelberg • 104
William of Orange, ‘V.C.’, the pigeon who delivered an urgent message from the
Airborne Division at Arnhem to Wing House, London. The Dicken Medal is the
pigeons’ equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
Bit of a tight fit from the 1944 era! Arnehm 2004.
H.R.H. Prince Charles with Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands, Oosterbeek Cemetery 2004.
105 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 106
Major General A.J. Deane-Drummond CB DSO MC.
Photographs by two German official photographers, Wenzel and Jacobson.
Major General A.J. Deane-Drummond with Her MAjesty the Queen of the Netherlands and H.R.H Prince Charles, in the middle, Oosterbeek Cemetery 2004.
A stug 3 from Lower Road near Utreche-Weg.
107 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 108
The final salute from an Airborne soldier in defeat.
Letter to the author from Mr Donald Brooks.
With Norman Deller 2 Para. on Arnhem Bridge. The building was enemy ammunition storage blown up by men of 2 Para. in 1944. In the distance is the southern
end of the bridge held by the enemy in 1944. Photo: Father Brockhoff, 1965.
109 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 110
Major Guy Rigby-Jones of the 181 Field Surgical Ambulance in de Tafelberg field
hospital in Oosterbeek, being presented with the author’s book ‘Churchill’s Volunteer’ in 1997. The surgeon was the chief Airborne doctor in charge at De Tafelberg in September 1944 in collaboration with Dutch doctor Gerritt van Maanen
who was the original owner of De Tafelberg as a hospital unit.
111 • Reg Curtis
St. Elizabeth Hospital, 1986. Second from left, a Dutchman, Tanno J. Pieters who
was a stretcher bearer in Arnhem 1944. Author second from right.
Letter to the author from Prof. Lipmann Kessel.
Tafelberg • 112
Reg Curtis’s Field Mediacl Card showing details of wound sustained followed by
subsequent treatment for Gas Gangrene.
113 • Reg Curtis
A man for all seasons.
Tafelberg • 114
Nazi Flag in the Airborne Museum, Oosterbeek.
Home-made dolls being presented to the Administrator of a children’s home, 2001.
Left to right: Captain Robert Stark, Lt. Braylet and Major Ashford of 2nd Para
near Beja, N. Africa. Captain Stark went to 1st Para. as Coy. Commander, ‘S.’ Coy.
115 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 116
German parachute troops of the type encountered in Africa, Sicily, Italy and Arnhem, Holland.
Left to right: Floris, his mother Myriam, his brother Ewolit and his father who was
in the Juliana hospital Apeldoorn the same time that the author was there on 19th
Novemeber 1944.
With Floris in the Bilderberg Restaurant 2004.
September 1944. Oosterbeek.
117 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 118
Letter to the author from Floris.
119 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 120
Men of th 1st Parachute Battalion missing on Arnhem operation.
The operating room where I was amputated below the right knee on November
19th 1944 at the Juliana Hospital in Apeldoorn. Photo. by A.R. Kreling.
A pre-war photograph of the Juliana Hospital by A.R, Kreling of Apeldoorn.
121 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 122
My original mediacl record which was made out by the German medical admin. is
now housed in the Airborne Museum at the Hartenstein in Oosterbeek.
A German General inspects at the Elizabeth Hospital after the battle. 2nd Airborne
men on right, Capt. D. Rider the anaethetist and Graeme Warrack 1st Div. ADMS.
St. Elizabeth Hospital before the battle.
The Hartenstein Hotel 1st Airborne Div. Headquarters.
123 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 124
Statement by Sgt. Dick Whittingham, mortar Sgt.
Left to right: ‘Dick’ Whittingham, Nobby Clarke and Franl McCormic. Veterans
of Africa, Sicily, Italy and Arnhem with 1st Para Btn.
125 • Reg Curtis
Photo by D.Renes. Stug 111 knocked out by L/Sgt. John Daniel Baskeyfield V.C.
of the South Staffordshire Regiment, N.C.O. in charge of a six-pounder anti-tank
gun positioned at Acacialaan, close to Sgt. Dick Whittingham’s 3” Mortar.
The Stug photographed from the West by A.M. de Kruiff.
Tafelberg • 126
The Angel of Arnhem dies in car acciident.
Arnhem letter and below the Airborne Cemetery, Sunday 19 September 1994.
From left to right; General Sir John Hackett, Queen Beatrix, Prince Charles, drs
J.W.A.M. Verlinden, Burgomaster of Renkum municipality. Photo: Berry de Reus.
Opening of Airborne Museum Oosterbeek.
127 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 128
Photograh by H.J. Willink. Bridge over railway at Oosterbeek Hoog station.
A bailey bridge was put in place in 1945, followed by the present bridge in 1949.
Before the Airborne landing in 1944, Room 11 at the De Tafelberg was taken
over by the German General in the name of Walter Model. Above the author
with Norman Deller 2nd Para. in 1985.
The Jeep No. TK-4676. Veterans with Mrs Kate Ter Horst.
War correspondent, typing his story. Aftermath of 3rd Para. Battlion ambush.
129 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 130
Was a tree lined track in September 1944, near where 1st Para. Battn. laggered at X
131 • Reg Curtis
Approx. 500 yards from ‘R Coy’ position at De Leerens Doubel. German tanks
were in position in woods off the Ede Amsterdam main road at X.
Tafelberg • 132
House still standing and with same owner as in September 1944 which is approzimately 100 yards from the S.S.H.Q.
133 • Reg Curtis
Road bridge at Oosterbeek Hoog Station, was wooden bridge in September 1944.
Tafelberg • 134
Operation ‘Market Garden’.
135 • Reg Curtis
The 6th Platoon, 5 company, 1st. Para. September 1944.
Tafelberg • 136
Captain Richard Bingley.
137 • Reg Curtis
Aerial photograph of the surroundings of the Rijhotel near Arnhem on
September 19th 1944.
Tafelberg • 138
Aerial photograph from 20,000 feet showing Arnhem on September 19th 1944 at
the height of the battle. Smoke drifts from burning houses near bridge and arounf
St.Elizabeth hospital and Museum. The demolished rail bridge can be seen.
139 • Reg Curtis
A letter from Charles King who flew sorties over Arnhem in 1944.
Tafelberg • 140
V.E. Day, the author with Sgt. Eric Simpson.
Opening Airborne Museum Oosterbeek.
From left to right: Eric Witherford of 1st Para., Monique, the owner of the
Schoonord restaurant and the author in 2004.
141 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 142
Lt. Col, D. Dobie wounded and taken prisoner on Tuesday 19th September 1944.
Makeover of the Tafelberg foyer in 1948.
Bob Laing 1st Para. on left with Mrs Bertha Bremen, Sgt. ‘Dick; Whittingham
on right and veterans.
143 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 144
Hotel De Tafelberg, plans of rroms and floors.
145 • Reg Curtis
Col. Graeme Warrack, Airborne Mediacl Supplies, at Arnhme with his wife
in 1980.
Tafelberg • 146
Jimmy Edwards R.A.F. who towed gliders to Arnhem in 1944. Photo. 1980.
The author with serving members of the Parachute Regiment at Aitborne Cemetary in Oosterbeek. Photo. by T.A.V. Brockhoff.
Eric Simpson, Royal Artillery, Frnak Young, General John Frost and the author
at the Airborne Museum in 1983. Photo. by T.A.V. Brockhoff.
147 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 148
M. Stammlager IV B.
149 • Reg Curtis
‘B. Coy H.Q.”
Tafelberg • 150
From left to right: Ann’s husband, the author and Ann Pelster Caspers. 1994.
Dorwerth Castle, first location for Airborne Museum in 1947.
Anje van Maanen at eh Cenotaph in 1946.
151 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 152
‘Lucky’ author’s hostess who lived in the house near Arnheim Museum in 1947.
Photo taken on visit to an island where Dutch cheese is made. The children and
adults favour wearing the Dutch National Costime.
153 • Reg Curtis
Veterans silent March to Bridge Church service with wreath laying. 1994.
Tafelberg • 154
H.R.H. Prince Charles talking to the author. Airborne Cemetary, Oosterbeek 1984.
155 • Reg Curtis
A special invitation.
Tafelberg • 156
On guard with a 303c rifle near landing zone with Para. T.A. from Scotland
demonstrating the T.A. skills (2004).
157 • Reg Curtis
A 3” Mortar gun pit with range rod on the left.
Soft sand made easy digging.
Tafelberg • 158
Nazi flag collected from Belgiium when in the care of American Medics in German
hands. The author handed the flag into the Airborne Museum for safe keeping.
Housed in the German war display of enemy uniforms of the 1944 era.
159 • Reg Curtis
An airmail leter sent to the author from England in 1945 which he did not recieve
until after he was liberated and returned to Enland in May 1945. The letter had
been on a circular tour of Europe.
Tafelberg • 160
The fieldgraves of Private C. F. Best and the Reverend B. J. Benson.
161 • Reg Curtis
Field-Marshal Model and officers.
Tafelberg • 162
Brigadier Gerald Lathbury.
163 • Reg Curtis
Henk (above right). Henk is from the Hackenberg family.
Tafelberg • 164
Geert Beermink and wife Agness from the Hackenberg family.
165 • Reg Curtis
A coridor in the basement of the Elizabeth Hospital facing to the West. A lot of
wounded were in the corridor. At the South of the corridor you could see the main
Utrechtseweg and to the South-East the Rhine bridge.
Tafelberg • 166
The front door in the basement. In this hall there were fights between Airborne
and German soldiers. Hand grenades came in resulting in more wounded added
to the overcrowded Elizabeth Hospital.
The room where General Sir John Hackett was placed after being wounded
posing as a L/Cpl.
In the hall hangs this painting which depicting the stiff fight.
167 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 168
The old operation room of the E. Hospital. During operations bullets often came
into the room.
169 • Reg Curtis
This was a wardrobe with a special use in Sept. 1944. It housed men in a secret
room while waiting to escape.
Tafelberg • 170
Letter to the author from Anje.
171 • Reg Curtis
De Tafelberg invitation.
Tafelberg • 172
Pre-war map of Oosterbeek.
The author getting ready to go over the Arnhem Bridge. His nephew, Geoffrey
Holland, standing on the left..
The ‘Doctor’s House’.
173 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 174
The author goig over Arnhem Bridge to a sports complex to be greeted by 10,000
school children and entertainment (16th September 2004).
Major Tony Hibbert.
General John Frost and Lady with the Bergemeester of Renkum, jhr.mr H.G. tot
Echten and his Lady. September 1983, Oosterbeek.
175 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 176
No2 Commando 11th S.A.S.
177 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 178
With relics of the Battle of Wolferzen in 1982.
The door that served as a crib for Major Lonsdale, which is now in the Airborne
Museum Hatenstein in Oosterbeek.
Photo by German Budesarchiv. Spoils of war near the old church.
179 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 180
Photo by D.J. Jansen. A 17 pounder anti-tank gun positioned in the old church in
Oostereek. Facing East.
181 • Reg Curtis
The same gun photograpned from the East.
Tafelberg • 182
183 • Reg Curtis
Collected from L.Z. at Wolfehexe in 1978. Possibly a serial number from a piece
of wireless equipment or from the interior of a glider. Any ideas?
Tafelberg • 184
Training at RAF Ringway.
Description of men awarded the Victoria Cross and other awards can be read on
page 207 of this book.
The Tragino Aqueduct.
185 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 186
The barracks at Apeldoorn whcih was taken over by the German S.S. from the
Dutch Military in October 1944.
Veterans at Apeldoorn Police Barracks 2001.
Veterans of the Polish Parachute Brigade in Airborne Cemetary 2001.
With Tex Banwell. Sky Diver, Aldershot 1998.
187 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 188
Left to right: Sherif 2rd Para., Capt. Richard Bingley 1at Para., Sgt. Panzer Manser
1ae Para., Wally Boldcock 1st Para. with the author.
Airborne Museum Hartenstein.
50th Anniversary Special Air Service.
The Burgomaster of Rencum and his Lady with Dame Vera Lyn.
189 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 190
Airborne Cemetary in its early days of construction in 1948.
Arrow shows where the author came under sniper fire on the 2nd day.
The Burgomaster of Renkum with Generals Urquhart and Hackett with their wives
at the Hartenstein Museum in 1984.
191 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 192
From King’s Guard, above, 1937 - 1940 ..
.. to Mr Churchill’s Volunteer for Special Services 1940.
Many volunteers from all branches of the British Army and Commonwealth came
forward with thier wealth of expertise.
193 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 194
Mr Churchill.
195 • Reg Curtis
The Crossroads, Oosterbeek September 1944. Reproduced by kind
permission of the artist.
Tafelberg • 196
Mr Bourman, the Administrator of St. Elizabeth Hospital Arnhem (2001).
Field Hospital.
At 14, Mr Boorman sheltered in the cellar of the Tafelberg during the battle. His
father was caretaker at the time.
With the Chelsea Pensioners at the Sports Complex being greeted by 10,000 school
children. Arnhem 2004.
197 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 198
Friends of the Airborne Museum.
The Airborne Museum.
The third man from front is Sgt. Frank Manser 1st Para.
199 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 200
The Tafelberg from the front and side in 2004. From Wim and Dorry
Elands van den Berg.
201 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 202
Letter from Wim and Dorry Elands van den Berg.
203 • Reg Curtis
A German medical report.
Tafelberg • 204
Letter sent to Major Sepp Krafft S.S. after the battle at Arnhem.
205 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 206
Quoted by Prominent Personalities
Of These Men
When the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Parachute Battalions were presented
with their Colours, it was history in so far as is known, there is no record of
three battalions of the same regiment in the British Army receiving their first
Colours on the same day from the same hands. After presenting the Colours
King George VI spoke a few words ‘I am glad to be here today to present
you with your first Colours. I have watched the growth of your Regiment
from its earliest days, only a short time has separated your first raid on the
Tragino Aqueduct in Italy up to the end of the European War. I am fully
confident that you will maintain the high standard which you have already
established and that these Colours will always be safe in your hands.’ Aldershot 1950.
North Africa 1943. ‘Now that it is possible to relieve the Parachute
Brigade who have for so long a time played a most valuable role in the
North, I would like to express my thanks to and admiration for every officer
N.C.O. and man for the conspicuously successful part they have taken in
recent fighting. They have proved their mastery over the enemy, who have a
wholesome respect for this famous Brigade which is best described in their
own words for the quote. Red-Devil Unquote.’ From 18th Army Group,
General Alexander to 1st Parachute Brigade.
‘My country can never again afford the luxury of another Gen.
Montgomery success.’ Bernhard, The Prince of the Netherlands to Cornelius Ryan author of the Longest Day
‘What manner of men are these who wear the maroon red beret?
They have shown themselves to be as tenacious and determined in defence
as they are courage in attack. They are in fact, men apart every man an Emperor. I have a great affection for these men. And on those occasions when
I myself wear the maroon beret I regard it as an outward sign of respect to
grand fighters and good comrades.’ 1945 Montgomery of Alamein. Field
Marshal Colonel Commandant The Parachute Regiment.
‘In attack most daring, in defence most cunning, in endurance most
steadfast, they performed a feat of arms which will be remembered and recounted as long as the virtues of courage and resolution have power to move
the hearts of men.’ Winston Churchill 28th September 1944.
207 • Reg Curtis
Men Who Fell in N. Africa and Sicily
from 1st Parachute Battalion
Albert W
S (MC)
H N (MM)
Died 17-11-42
Grave Location
Medjez-El-Bab 12-B-2
Medjez-El-Bab 4-D-12
Medjez-El-Bab 4-D-14
Medjez-El-Bab 4-B-17
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Medjez-El-Bab 4-B-19
Medjez-El-Bab 4-D-11
Medjez-El-Bab 5-E-18
Beja 1-J-5
Beja 1-J-6
Beja 1-J-4
Beja 1-K-2
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Catania (Sicily) II-D-41
No Known Grave
No Known GraveA
No Known Grave
Medjez-El-Bab 4-D-19
Dely Ibrahim (Algiers) 3-J-17
Tabarka 4-E-1
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Tafelberg • 208
1st Parachute Battalion
209 • Reg Curtis
P E M (MC)
Grave Location
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Medjez-El-Bab 6-A-3/5
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Medjez-El-Bab 10-F-20
No Known Grave
Medjez-El-Bab 10-H-2
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Medjez-El-Bab 10-H-1
Massicault 1 D-2
Medjez-El-Bab 6-A-1
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Medjez-El-Bab 7-C-3
1st Parachute Battalion
Twaddle Weaving
Raymond D
J (MM)
Frank R
William E
Victor 1
Frank E
Robert I
Robert A
John H V (MC)
Grave Location
Medjez-El-Bab 9-D-12
Massicault III-E-18
Massicault III-L-14
No Known Grave
Medjez-El-Bab 2-H-11
Medjez-El-Bab 10-H-13
Massicault III-N-7
Tabarka 4-B-14
Medjez-El-Bab 4-A-6
No Known Grave
Tabarka 4-B-1
Medjez-El-Bab 4-A-7
Medjez-El-Bab 4-C-16
Tabarka 4-B-3
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Tabarka 1-C-16
Tabarka 1-E-16
Tabarka 1-C-15
No Known Grave
Tabarka 1-E-24
No Known Grave
Tabarka 1-C-18
Medjez-El-Bab 4-E-6
No Known Grave
Tabarka 4-E-6
Tabarka 1-A-16
Tabarka 3-C-9
Tabarka 2-C-3
Medjez-El-Bab 4-A-12
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Tabarka 3-C-8
Tabarka 2-C-4
Tabarka 2-C-6
Tabarka 4-B-9
Tabarka 4-B-8
Tafelberg • 210
1st Parachute Battalion
Eric J
Sidney R
Harold P
George J
Cecil (RAMC)
Charles B
Peter J
L/CPL Fletcher
211 • Reg Curtis
Grave Location
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Tabarka 3-B-5
Tabarka 4-A-7
Bone III-D-17
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Beja 2-B-1
Beja 2-H-9
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Beja 2-H-8
Beja 2-A-1
Beja Joint 2-H-10/11
Beja Grave 2-H-10/11
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
29-3-43Tabarka 3-B-17
No Known Grave
No Known Grave
Tabarka 1-B-22
Tabarka 1-B-24
Tabarka 1-D-1
Bone III-B-3
La Reunion (Bejaia) E-E-32
Formerly Bougie
La Reunion (Bejaia) E-E-31
Formerly Bougie
Dely Ibrahim (Algiers) 4-H-3
1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment who were Killed
or who Died of their wounds at Arnhem in 1944
SurnameFirst Name
John C.
Robert A.
Walter G.
William G.
Leslie A.
Cyril C.
Walter T.H.
Philip J.
Albert E.
Alfred H.A.
John T.
Reginald H.
Raymond L.A.
Leslie W.
James R.
Edward J.
John B.
Geoffrey W.
Proud Bertie
Cyril E.
Harry E.
Ernest W.
Number Age
Major 97114
Private 4208293
Private 6985006
Private 4690230
Private 1439197
L.Corp 1717127
Private 2767152
Corp 85503332
Private 5628491
Private 7046990
Private 4923272
Private 14002634
Private 14438530
Private 11408969
Private 14553603
Corp 3065436
Private 4344241
Private 4987084
Private 2933459
Private 6345451
Private 14368994
Private 14650322
Private 6974976
Private 926019
Private 4973713
Corp 3383864
Private 4920618
Private 4032660
Private 5729130
Private 3975654
Private 5113830
Private 5832804
Private 986614
Private 5676662
Tafelberg • 212
SurnameFirst Name
De Leur
Brown Dacey
213 • Reg Curtis
Number Age
Corp 4923611
Sergt 7012746
Alfred R.
Private 4914228
Stephen W.
Richard A.
Private 5682760
Christopher G. Private 7360073
Frank P.
Private 1143320
L.Corp 4803762
Michael G.
Lieut 217467
Sergt 2692018
George A.
Private 5115336
George M.
Jack R.
L.Corp 6849967
Private 3457005
2Lieut M.M.323542
William J.P.
Private 2931426
Sergt 2614295
Private 4467565
Private 1694398
Private 4122605
John B.
Sergt 3185810
Private 3451005
Raymond D. Private 14411234
Private 6139388
Albert V.
L.Corp 6146440
Gordon S.
L.Corp 1430259
Corp 6461257
Bertie G.
Private 14605880
Alastair D.
Lieut 251970
Robert D.
Private 1475585
David P.
L.Corp 3314916
Anthony L.
Corp 1806655
John G.
Private 14435996
William A.
Private 14349303
Private 1463210
L.Corp 5782419
Private 1518881
SurnameFirst Name
Strachan Warburton
Best Colewell Whiting
George E.
Herbert G.D.
Fredrick A.
Henry Anthony B.
Charles F
Thomas W.
Frederick J.
Alfred V.
Geoffrey W.
Ronald A.G.
Gwilym G.
Number Age
Corp 818315
Sergt 4192009
Private 7903398
Private 3445991
Corp M.M.4209536
Private 4343722
Private 985999
Corp 6205869
Private 14344213
Private 14656170
L.Corp 5124422
Private 14560268
Corp M.M.7265224
Private 5511980
Private 4208436
We Will Remember Them
Tafelberg • 214
Lest We Forget
Julian Brazier TD MP
Epilogue text - 750 words?
214 • Reg Curtis
Tafelberg • 215
Reg Curtis
The Hotel Tafelberg
and the Battle of Arnhem
DVD Video of the Tafelberg
Pilot David Samuel Lord was dropping supplies at Arnhem on
Sept. 19 1944 when his aircraft was hit and set alight by enemy
fire just minutes from the drop zone. He continued his
mission to resupply ground forces and ignored his own safety,
having ordered his crew to bale out.