- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Capt. Thomas M Wilson
- Location of story:
- Pegasus Bridge
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 30 May 2004
From: John Wilson, Green Close Farm, Little Broughton, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 0YG, Tel: 01900 825357
My father was a doctor in the Sixth Airborne Division, 12th Battalion The Yorkshire, Dr Thomas M. Wilson. Sadly he died in 1972 but I have kept many of his papers relating to the drop at Pegasus Bridge and to the second Rhine Crossing in which the Sixth Airborne was involved.
I was born on 27th February 1944 and was therefore just a baby, only briefly seen by my father before he departed to prepare for the Normandy drop.
His first letter to my mother (also a doctor) reads:
9 June 1944
'Somewhere in France' goes the song, but alas, this time without you.
I'm well and happy and quite safe. Doctors are not expendable.
My love to F.
n.b. F = "Fatty" i.e. me, chubby on my mother's milk, as opposed to his slimness as a para.
His second letter, dated 11 June 1944, reads:
My Very Dear,
I'm writing this inside my R.A.P., a biggish house, during a quiet spell. I've lost my writing purse, or someone has pinched it, so this will have to do. I know you'll be a little upset about me, but you'll hear from the radio that things are going well. I'm still safe and sound, mostly having a good time.
When we came here, it was only the firing and the French tongues that made me believe we were in France. It seemed incongruous to me, never having been abroad before. I felt somehow I would know that there would be something different about the countryside that would tell me this was France.
My French isn't as good as it was. The simplest words are forgotten, my syntax is pathetic and my parsing is lamentable, but somehow we get along. The people are amazingly cheerful considering what they have come though, and help us quite a lot, although quite naturally they go to ground when things get warm.
As usual I'm sleepy. Think I'll dover over for a few minutes. . . .Decided after all that I'm not sleepy, but anyway sleep is a nice soothing inviting thought.
The boys are in terrific fettle, still cracking jokes. I must hand it to them. I knew they were good, but they have outshone expectations, and done more than they were asked to do. There's a piano here, and unlike my last place, it's in tune: periodically a quiet waltz comes lilting through the hall.
A little speckled terrier has adopted us. At least he keeps me warm. Usually he goes to investigate any strange noises, so when he comes back we know all is quiet again.
Finally, at a later date he was prevailed upon to write for his local newspaper "The Dumfries and Galloway Standard & Advertiser" and wrote as follows:
"Although I had some perturbation in advance, curiously enough, when it came to the time there was no emotion of fear, merely intense curiosity and eagerness to do one's jobs. When we were crossing the French coast and out 'plane was rocking with flak, it never occurred to me that those strange orange streams of fire, curving lazily up to us, might shoot us to bits.
The 'plane was so stuffy and we were so loaded with gear that we couldn't sit down. We enplaned about 2300 hours on 5th June and took off half an hour later. Each man had a kit bag which was stowed forward in order to allow the 'plane to take off. As soon as we were airborne we started passing the kit bags back, each one about 60lbs. weight and strapped them to our legs. Thereafter it was a case of all breathing at the same time, as the crush was pretty terrific. The flight was quite short, about an hour and a half, and we were glad to get out. There was a little difficulty as one of the lads conked out, and the pilot had to run in three times before everyone had jumped. The landing was beautifully soft. I wonder how long I sat looking at the long grass, the anti-paratroop poles, the vicious tongues of light flak, and our 'planes roaring overhead. We must have presented a terrifying sight when we landed, because most of the Jerries in our area ran off in their pajamas.
I was completely lost, as I didn't land quite where I was supposed to. I was not very far off, however, and after tending a few casualties on route, rounding up the stragglers, and dealing with the odd surviving Bosch, I wandered into our village just as dawn was breaking. The welcome was astounding. French people were leaning out of the windows, shouting, laughing, singing, and giving little bunches of flowers to the soldiers.
After that it was grim hard work for days. It was a change on the third day to come to the battalion. Since then this battalion has made history. I think we've been in most of the sticky places on the east flank."
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