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A single roadside grave, it was Spank

by CSV Actiondesk at BBC Oxford

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
CSV Actiondesk at BBC Oxford
People in story: 
Fred Townsend
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Contributed on: 
23 June 2005

As a voluntary BBC story gatherer, this has to be the most memorable story relayed to me by Fred Townsend in Oxfordshire who was in the Royal Artillery on the L.A.A. Guns.
His division was placed as air cover to four field guns, although there were other troops there too. He remembers one fellow — known as Spank. Spank had a fixed idea that he would not survive the war and refused to sleep with the others guys in the troop all the way through France, his thoughts were, if he was going to get hit he would sleep separate from the guys as he didn’t want them to suffer. He would sleep out in the field while the others slept in homemade slit trenches to protect themselves. He visited Fred’s site, just before the start of Market Garden, and showed them all a photo of his little four-year-old son, proudly pulling it out of his pocket he said, “Poor lad, he will never know his Dad!”
Market Garden started and they were moved out the next day to near Eindhoven, Holland. During the night the field guns opened up and they suffered the worst shelling from the Germans they had ever experienced. Luckily there were no causalities on that particular night in Fred’s troop however, on the move out the next morning they saw a fresh single grave on the roadside — Spank had caught a direct hit.
“We heard later it was in fact our own guns that had been firing on us. Now when I hear of “friendly fire” I think of that lonely grave on the roadside to Eindoven. How he knew he was never going home we do not know, but sadly he didn’t”.

Fred has been to visit the Arnem war graves forty years after the event, three times now. But the most memorable grave he saw was Harry Turner's grave - his friend Spank.

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