Return of some of the few

Some of the men who returned from Arnhem.
Some of the men who returned from Arnhem.

“They have come back, but the majority who went from here have not.”

They are the words used in an article in the Lincolnshire, Boston and Spalding Free Press of October 2, 1944, entitled “Men of Arnhem – return of some of the few”.

The journalist wrote: “Those majority are among the killed, the missing, the wounded, and the prisoners.

“Residents here literally lived through the Battle of Arnhem with these officers and men who had become part of the town. Many of them share the sorrows and the glory of this epic, for local girls had become the wives of a large number of the men, and others were engaged.”

Newspapers in the weeks following the conflict were filled with the names of those who had bravely gone off to fight the enemy, but were either missing or dead.

The writer talked about the “gallant warriors” who had arrived back in Spalding a fortnight after leaving for their “glorious and epic battle” in Holland.

Many of those veterans are no longer with us, but their stories have been retained thanks to Bill Morter, a member of the Spalding branch of the Parachute Regimental Association, who has written biographical notes about many of them.

For instance, he records that Gordon Harding, or Curly, lied about his age when war broke out and was only 16 when sent to France. When his age was discovered, Curly was sent back to England and joined reservists in the Royal Artillery. Curly was eventually selected to join the newly formed Airborne Forces. He was sent for Infantry Training and joined the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment soon after gaining his “parachute wings”.

He saw action in North Africa and Italy before being sent to Spalding and then to Arnhem.