The following is Captain Golden’s personal account, written in November 2005:
When I was 19 years old in 1942 I was commissioned in Royal Signals, and I joined 8th Armoured Division. Soon after that my squadron commander, one Major Richard Moberley, who reached the rank of major general eventually, suddenly departed. It was said that he had gone to command the signals of the Airborne Division, although nobody had ever heard of such a formation. No matter, when 8th Armoured Division went abroad at the beginning of the summer, leaving me behind as surplus to establishment, I asked the War Office to post me to the Airborne Division; and it did, much to the surprise of Moberley who greeted me with the words “All my officers are hand-picked, and I haven't picked you”. I had to plead long and hard to stay. (Years later, in the 1980’s, I got in touch with him when I was writing my book Echoes from Arnhem, only to find him helpful, charming and altogether a changed man. We became good friends. My wife and I used to visit him frequently right until the day he died).
In those early times 1st Airborne Division was simply The Airborne Division, with no number, and red berets were only just beginning to be issued. We Signals had no officers' mess, but we were kindly accommodated by the 1st Parachute Battalion as it was then called because the Parachute Regiment had yet to be formed. Tony Deane-Drummond was just “poor Tony is in the bag” because of his February 1941 exploit in the south of Italy, but soon after I arrived he escaped from prison camp and joined us.
At first Richard Moberley would not let me go on a jumping course, and when he eventually gave way he said I could just do the 4 jump course designed to give glider-borne soldiers some idea of parachuting; and I had to resort to insisting in order to achieve a 7 jump course at Hardwick Hall, then Ringway and Tatton Park. Amusingly the records show that I was an officer in the Scots 5th Parachute Battalion which was learning to jump at that time, with a bagpiper always hidden in a copse on the DZ.
Once qualified I joined 1st Parachute Brigade. There the signal section was being formed by Lieutenant Paddy Lyske. (He was a young regular who later reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Eventually he transferred to the American army). This was the summer of 1942. Much to our annoyance, as the autumn approached Captain George Rowland joined us and took over the section, an excessively earnest officer with no sense of humour at all who was consequently to become Brigadier Ted Flavell’s target for merciless ridicule; and Lieutenant John Battye arrived as a reinforcement officer. Thus the section which would usually have had a captain and a subaltern had a captain and three subalterns, all because the brigade was temporarily to leave the division and come under the direct command of 1st Army for the invasion of North Africa that November.
Initially each of our three battalions, and the American battalion which had come under our command in England, did independent drops in North Africa before the brigade reformed to fight as infantry through to April 1943, expanded by collecting various odd units, such as the 2nd Battalion of the 9th Regiment Tirailleurs Algeriens to which I was sent out with a wireless crew to serve as a liaison officer. It was very hard going. In signals we lost John Battye, our section sergeant and quite a few others. The brigade earned the title of ‘The Red Devils’ from the Germans. It was there too that the Parachute Regiment, aping the local Arab morning call to prayer, adopted its battle cry Waho Mahomed.
Next there was Sicily where, a few days after 1st Airlanding Brigade’s ghastly operation, 1st Parachute Brigade dropped. It was the bright moon-lit night of 13 July 1943. What chaos! Having dropped me and my men in the wrong place and at the wrong time our aircraft, an Albermarle which was very difficult to jump from, flew back out to sea only to be shot down by the Royal Navy; whilst those who landed on the right DZ encountered German parachutists who had landed there that very night as reinforcements flown in from Italy. Had it not been so deadly it would have been comic. I personally had a bad time of it, escaping from an enemy ambush by the skin of my teeth.
In September that year, 1943, 1st Airborne Division was getting ready to go home from North Africa for D-Day when an opportunity arose for it to invade Italy at Tarranto, and this it did; but before this change of plan became known my artillery commanding officer (for I had by then joined 1st Airlanding Light Regiment RA as its signals officer) had arranged for the regiment to go independently to Italy so as to gain battle experience. This it did, joining 1st Canadian Division and then 2nd New Zealand Division in a very exciting, fast moving advance up the spine of Italy before rejoining 1st Airborne Division, back in England by then, at the end of the year.
Then in September 1944, after 15 operations planned but then cancelled, there was Arnhem. As adjutant of the divisional signals I went in by glider, sitting next to the G1. Getting back was not so comfortable: I and several others had to swim for it across the river Neder Rijn.
By the end of the war in Europe, May 1945, I was in 1st Airlanding Brigade. 1st Parachute Brigade went to Denmark, but the rest of the division, which was mainly 1st Airlanding Brigade and the gunners, flew in to Norway to deal with the German surrender. The reception we received and our stay until September was the most demanding experience we ever had to face.
In November that year I found myself in India where I served as adjutant, then second-in-command, of the signals of the 2nd (Indian) Airborne Division until demobilisation towards the end of 1946.
Source: Lewis GoldenRead More