Tom Carpenter 20-7-1925 to 1-5-2014.
Worked in a Paperwork's Factory in Birmingham aged 14 years and at the outbreak of the war he became an ARP Messenger Boy.
In early 1940 Tom joined the Local Defence Volunteers,(this was later re-named the "Home Guard"), at the age of 15. He should have been 17,but lied so he could carry out this duty with his peers.
In 1942, he went down to his local Army recruiting office and enlisted into the General Service Corps. He commenced his training with the Kings Liverpool Regiment at Formby..
In late 1942 he was posted to Kitchener Barracks at Chatham in Kent,with 7 Training Battalion Royal Engineers. He too, like Bob Jones, volunteered for parachuting whilst at Chatham. He was posted to Bulford and then to Ringway near Manchester to commence his training. Following his successful parachute course he was sent back to Bulford, joining the 9th Field Company, Royal Engineers. This company were always intended to be a Glider Borne unit.
On the 16th of April 1943 Tom and the 9th Field Company,Royal Engineers Airborne,sailed on the M.S.Bouvaine, from Gourack on the Clyde, landing in North Africa on the 22nd of April.
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The unit spent many weeks training at various locations in early 1944, such as the North Yorkshire Moors and the Derbyshire countryside. Tom remembers being told early on the morning of Tuesday the 6th of June 1944, about the landings at Normandy, whilst in his billet in Lincolnshire. At10am, he together with his comrades were placed on to trucks and driven to Bulford. Again the frustration of planning and training, and the waiting for 16 Operations, on day 3 of the landings. In the end Tom and his unit were never needed in Normandy.
At 1030 hrs on Sunday the 17th of September 1944, Tom and his unit were loaded onto a Horsa Glider, at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, with the rest of the brigade. They formed up over the Bristol Channel, then turned east over Weston-Super-Mare.Just south of Weston at a place called Paulton,was where one of the gliders lost it's tail and crashed killing all 21 sappers. It was thought to have been due to an explosion of ordnance on board.
At exactly 1.15 pm that afternoon, they landed on the Pathfinder prepared LZ at Wolfheze near Arnhem.They met sporadic fire from German ground troops as they landed. Due to the loss of the 21 sappers from 1 Platoon on route, a reinforced section was detached from 2 Platoon 9th Field Company to carry out the tasks which had been set for the ill fated 1 Platoon lads. "This left us with 38 men to take and hold the Railway Bridge south of Oosterbeek.We formed up with Lt Colonel John Frost's column, and followed them". said Tom. It was about 6 pm when Lt Peter Barry was severely wounded when the span of the Railway Bridge was blown up as they were about a third of the way across it.At 9 pm Captain O'Callaghan withdrew from those early positions around the railway bridge, and took up defensive positions in the town.
" At 11pm that evening I remember a massive explosion, where one of the lads with a flame thrower, was using it to clear a pill box on the town side of the bridge,when he ignited the ammunition hut next to it.We then moved moved towards the road bridge with John Frost and took up positions on the West side of the ramp to the bridge. There was really heavy street fighting at this stage",remembered Tom.
Early the next morning, Major Wallace was accidently shot and killed by one of the Bren Gunners. A major fire fight had just been happening when he stumbled through the door of one of the houses we were defending.After no response to a clear challange,the gunner opened up. A sad loss to the formation at that particular time.
"On the 2oth and early on the 21st of September,I was wounded in the legs and back with shrapnel, as the ferocity of the attacks became more and more effective by the Germans".Tom now spent much of his wounded time with 2 PARA in Hofstratt(the Battalion and Brigade HQ) in a slit trench.
"In the early hours of Thursday morning, we tried desperately to break out"
That was the last Tom saw of any of his colleagues. A solitary SS Officer and a soldier shouted out orders to us all(as they had clearly over run the postiion). Tom was cas-evaced to the St Elizabeth Hospital in Arnhem for initial treatment to his wounds.Later he was moved to the German held dressing station at Apeldorn, where he recieved no treatment. He was then together with the other wounded comrades loaded into cattle trucks on the railway line.After a two day journey he was taken to Kassel in Germany as a POW.
There they inspected his wounds, but the journey had not ended for Tom. He was placed on a narrow gauge railway,on another three day journey to Fallingbostel to STALAG 11B. Tom had to suffer the pain of the injuries he recieved at the bridge for a further five months with very little medical assistance, until one day he collapsed. He was taken to a German civillian hospital for an Xray.Then he was returned to the camp, where a British Medical Team held Tom down and performed life saving surgery on him. They removed a large piece of shrapnel from his back with out anaesthetic.Tom passed out from the pain and awoke clutching the shrapnel in his fist. He believes he had an out of body experience and swears that he watched from the ceiling as the doctor's performed the operation.
He was finally liberated on the 16th of April 1945 by the 7th Armoured Division.
RETURN TO ENGLAND
Tom was flown into Blackbush Airfield and was placed into the 97 Rehabilitation Unit at Great Missenden near Windsor.He was de-kitted and sent home on repatriation leave soon afterwards and to recuperate as well.
On return to his unit, he was sent to Hatfield where he was discharged from the service due to the injuries he had recieved on the 1oth of September 1945, nearly one year to the day since the Battle of Arnhem.
Work was hard to find on Tom's return to civvy street, and after four brief jobs he found long term employment with LUCAS Fire & Security Company,where he stayed for a further 40 years.
I interviewed both Bob Jones and Tom Carpenter, Arnhem veterans at the 2 PARA REUNION in Blackpool on the 10th of February 2007. It was an honour to meet two brave and selfless men, who survived the Battle for Arnhem and other battles, and could now find it the right time to speak about their experiences. Bob's story is to follow, when he is well enough.
After 60 years, they had never related any of their respective stories before, and both found this experience quite daunting, so long after the battle. These stories are only the tip of the iceberg!!
I would like to thank them both for their understanding and the stories surrounding the events that occurred in their own words. It was the emotional stories that these two men relayed to me, which must now be immortalised for all to realise the sacrifice they made, during that ill fated 10 days in September 1944, and the suffering and pain they still feel, that made this Regiment what it is today.
I salute you............UTRINQUE PARATUS.
Compiled and written by Gil Boyd B.E.M. Ex 2 PARA