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Arnhem 75: It's two journeys of discovery for Angela




The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem has sparked two journeys of discovery for Angela Porter.

First Angela is making the short journey overseas to The Netherlands where, in September 1944, her father Basil Dash was one of 10,000 paratroopers in the Allied landings codenamed Operation Market Garden.

The Netherlands will stage major commemorations in tribute to the Paras involved in the world's largest ever airborne military operation.

The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem will see Angela take part in commemorations in The Netherlands
The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem will see Angela take part in commemorations in The Netherlands

Immortalised in the Richard Attenborough film, A Bridge Too Far, the landings saw 1,400 Paras killed in fierce fighting and 6,000 captured.

Seventy-five years on it's a mystery how Basil Dash evaded capture and made it home to Blighty, marrying his sweetheart, Eileen Webster, in Spalding on December 4, 1944.

Because of the horrors he witnessed, Basil rarely spoke about the war and his personal story was lost to the family when he passed away aged 76 in 1996.

Basil Dash as he was in later life (15921409)
Basil Dash as he was in later life (15921409)

So Angela's second journey of discovery involves seeking information from military records and, already, she has discovered that her father was entitled to additional medals.

Basil already had the 1939-45 Star, the France and Germany Star, the Defence Medal and the War Medal 1939-45.

But medals he was entitled to - and missing from his collection - were the Italy Star and the Africa Star and Clasp.

Angela proudly wore Basil's medals in Normandy this year for the commemorations surrounding the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Angela Porter wearing four of the medals awarded to her father, Basil Dash, but she has discovered some are missing ...
Angela Porter wearing four of the medals awarded to her father, Basil Dash, but she has discovered some are missing ...

When she goes to Arnhem, Angela will again wear her father's medals - but this time, and for the first time, the collection will be complete and a true reflection of the service given to his country by an all too modest war hero.

Angela, who will travel to Arnhem with her husband, Alan, said: "I have always wanted to go but I was working and with family commitments as well it's just never been possible.

"It's got to the stage where if I don't do it this year I will never do it."

Arnhem veteran Basil Dash
Arnhem veteran Basil Dash

So far Angela's research has revealed that her father lied about his age and he was really only 16 - not 18 - when he joined the Army as a regular in 1936.

Basil signed up in his native Cornwall.

His medals reveal a little about the theatres of war in which he served but not the full story.

Two of Basil's souvenirs from his wartime exploits were a German knife and a German dessert spoon dubbed the 'Jerry' spoon - Jerry was the nickname our soldiers gave to the Germans.

Hand to hand fighting was a feature of Arnhem and in other WWII battles so it's not clear where the knife or the spoon came from.

Angela's mum always said Basil had "killed a German" with the knife.

The Jerry spoon was pressed into daily service in Basil and Eileen's home and it became an indispensable item in the kitchen.

"Mum used it for cooking every day," said Angela.

Basil was one of the thousands of soldiers who came to this part of Lincolnshire in the lead-up to the Battle of Arnhem, and his first home was a Nissen hut on Spalding Grammar School's field.

After the war, he worked at Elsoms Seeds, in Pinchbeck Road, Spalding and then spent many years with vehicle radiator firm Serck in Laws Yard, Spalding, and was widely respected by his many contacts in the motor trade.

Although Basil rarely spoke about the war to son Maurice or to Angela, he was happy to attend reunions of the Arnhem veterans.

Basil Dash is pictured front, right
Basil Dash is pictured front, right

Angela recalls they were men-only dinners - although women were admitted for a post-meal coffee - but she became the first woman ever to attend a reunion dinner in her role as chairman of South Holland District Council in 1993/5.

Angela has been a Spalding councillor for 47 years - and is still known in this role by her former surname of Newton.

Basil Dash is pictured left at a reunion
Basil Dash is pictured left at a reunion

She has an easy rapport with people, something that made Basil particularly pleased as Angela mixed with the veterans at the reunion and made a point of chatting to all of them.

"He was so proud," said Angela. "I got up and said a few words but afterwards, when we got home, he said to me 'in other years the council chairman hasn't always gone round like you did tonight and spoken to people'."

Angela says her father was never one for the limelight and would not have sought the spotlight for himself as an Arnhem veteran.

But she believes it is important that his story, and the story of thousands like him, lives on, not least in this part of Lincolnshire where so many were stationed in the run up to the battle.

Some lost their lives on the battlefields, some were later to return to homes across the UK - and some, like Basil, found happiness in South Holland and made new lives for themselves here.

* This supplement has been prepared as a tribute to the Arnhem veterans - and the sacrifices they made - and it is sponsored by Angela and her brother Maurice as well as our advertisers.



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