Lieutenant Alan D Roberts

06 Jul 1917 - 01 Feb 2005

  • US Silver Star medal

Alan Douglas Roberts  was granted an emergency commission, as a Second Lieutenant,  in the Royal Regiment of Artillery on the 2 July 1943.

He transferred to 18 Pln, C Coy, The Border Regiment on the 22 January 1944, having been recently promoted to War Substantive Lieutenant.

Alan  was recommended for an award of the Military Cross for his actions at Arnhem, but this was not granted, instead he was awarded the US Silver Star, announced in the London Gazette 16 January 1947.

He was promoted to Captain and took part in Operation ‘Doomsday’, the Liberation of Norway in May 1945.

This is his first-hand written account, 1997 - 1998:

I was in charge of a Platoon [18] in ‘C’ Company, 1st Bn, The Border Regt, and we set off by glider at 10.40 hrs, on Sunday, 17th Sept, for the Arnhem operation. It was a nice sunny day and we had a quiet trip across. We made a good landing in a very large stubble field in the Oosterbeek [Wolfheze] area, where large numbers of gliders were landing, and found our rendezvous with the rest of ‘C’ Company under Major Neill. The area was quite large with woods all around.

In the afternoon I was sent out on a patrol up the side of the area to a large building, which was an asylum. There was a lot of firing going o around in the woods. Although we went into the grounds of the house, we were told to withdraw, and spent the night in the woods nearby.

The next morning I, with my Platoon, were sent on a patrol towards Renkum, where we had a Company [B] with which we hadn’t been in touch. We failed to get through because of opposition. We were then told to go through to Heelsum. There was a lot of firing on the way and we suffered several casualties. We met up with other members of the Company and went back along the road towards Oosterbeek. We spent the night in ditches by the road, adjacent to a dead German General and his car.

The third day (Tuesday, 19th) in the [same] area until the afternoon, when I and my Platoon were sent to create a position round some houses about 400 yards from our final position. The local residents were very helpful and friendly, and took in wounded personnel.

Re-supply from the air came in against violent opposition and it was saddening to see several planes shot down.

We stayed under fire all day, Wednesday, 20th, when we were forced to withdraw with heavy casualties after a major attack. The casualties were left in one of the houses – [later] we tried to reach them, but failed.

I was ordered to take my Platoon to the ‘C’ Company area, but we were heavily fired on and there were only about ten of us left in the Platoon. We tried later in the evening crawling through pitch black woods, alive with ‘Huns’, and managed to reach our Company positions.

On Thursday, 21st, there were many attacks on us. We were continually sniped, bombed and shelled. Early in the morning we tried to get wounded men of the Platoon from the position evacuated on the previous day, but only succeeded in getting out a couple of walking wounded.

That evening we were attacked by a self-propelled gun. Later we were burned off position by the Germans [setting] fire to the houses around [us].

On Friday, 22nd, we were mortared off position and forced back about 30 yards into woods. We were stuck without tools and had to dig with our hands – we were heavily shelled and bombed. Later we got back to the roadside position.

Saturday & Sunday, 23rd & 24th, again large numbers of casualties in the Company. We were getting very thin on the ground, with no food or water.

Monday, 25th, went on patrol with some men and managed to bring in a German soldier. He started to run away and was shot. I went back to the position he had come from for his ammunition, was machine-gunned at point blank [range], but managed to drop without being hit and was able to crawl away.

That evening the Company had orders to withdraw at 23.00 hrs. At about 22.00 hrs an attack came in, which we managed to beat off, then all slid off quietly towards the River. How we got to the river bank I don’t know, as we crept through a road full of ‘Huns’ – we had some walking wounded and were very slow. I lost my way and reached the river and found the Company laying flat – boats acme to take us at about 2 a.m. and we were taken about a mile to a camp, and [then] went through to Nijmegen.

Alan Roberts.


A further typed account.

ARNHEM OPERATION. Lt. Alan Roberts ‘C’ Company, 1st Bn, The Border Regiment.

After arrival, we made the rendezvous with our Company Commander Major Neill, then that evening at dusk I was sent on a patrol with 3 or 4 men to a mental home by the landing ground to see who was there, and to try and get some water. En-route I saw a ghostly figure in white by some trees – then one of the blokes clutched my arm and said he’d seen a ghost – at that moment a Para Sergeant [1] came across and told us not to shoot anyone, as the inmates were wandering around the grounds – their place had been badly damaged [by bombing].

The next morning, Monday, 18th, I was sent out with my Platoon towards Renkum, because one of our Companies [B] hadn’t been traced since the previous day. We were at first overwhelmed by people trying to give us tea, cakes, etc, from all the cottages we passed on the road to Heelsum. A vehicle passed with some paratroopers on board, then ahead of us we heard a lot of shooting and we came across several bodies of soldiers by the road. [2]

We learnt later that [the] second-lift was due in at around 10 a.m. in the area. We made little progress, as we had to keep getting into the ditches. The second-lift came in about 16.00 hrs. We were on the perimeter of the landing ground – there was a lot of shooting, some gliders came down in flames.

Then, I think, we were joined by the rest of ‘C’ Company and went through to Heelsum, where we took up positions to let one of our Companies come through (I believe from Renkum). That evening we went back on the fairly long trip towards Oosterbeek. It got completely dark, we were told to dig-in by the road. In the morning we found that were about 20 yards from a German Staff car and dead General, and three others – we just had a look in and passed on (I have a photograph).

On the third day, Tuesday, 19th, we stayed in the same position until the evening, then I, with my Platoon were taken to a position round some houses in a thickly wooded area. We dug our positions in the gardens – the people living there were really friendly and helpful. We watched the re-supply coming in and were sad to see so many planes shot down.

We stayed in the same place all the next day, Wednesday, 20th, and had a lot of mortar and other fire that got very intense. Our casualties were very heavy, we got them to a house. Several bombs fell in our trenches and we were forced to withdraw at about 17.00 hrs. The intense mortar  fire came from the other side of the houses – we tried to find the source, but had further casualties. After an hour or so, everything went quiet for a while, so I crept back to the main house, which was in a bit of a mess – I had a word or two with a couple of our injured. The Germans had gone – I went round our bashed up positions, and decided to retake the ground. I lined the blokes up on the side of the road and told them not to move until I ordered. Very luckily I said “Wait”, immediately there was machine-gun fire from down the lane – we all dashed into the woods without injury.

We got lost, and eventually came out by ‘D’ Company – I think near Oosterbeek. They managed to radio ‘C’ Company and we were told to return – the trip through the woods was horrific, we lost several men, but managed to get to ‘C’ Company, via a ditch.

On Thursday, 21st, we had very many heavy attacks, but managed to get in the injured from the trip from Oosterbeek. Later that day we were attacked by a self-propelled gun – the houses all around us were ablaze.

Early next morning, Friday, 22nd, a good few of us were forced off our position by mortar attacks, we were stuck in the woods trying to dig into the ground with our hands, as we had no tools. We were often machine-gunned at first light, but had not been successful in stopping it.

We were under intense fire on Saturday, 23rd and Sunday, 24th.

Prior to dawn on 25th (day 8), I crept out into the woods from about where the shots had been coming. After a while, a soldier came along and started to climb a tree, pointing his machine-gun at our Company position. I jumped at him and took him in. I then went back to get his gun and ammunition, and at that moment a German soldier appeared in the gloom about five yards away – both he and I dropped to the ground on either side of the high convex path – I tried to reach for my pistol, but couldn’t reach it, suddenly he jumped up and ran away. I went back to the Company, [where] Major Neill was questioning the man who was an Austrian, suddenly he broke away, but was shot.

That evening, 25th September, we had orders to withdraw at about 23.00 hrs. At about 22.45 an attack came in, which we had to beat off. I was told that walking wounded were to be left and that I was to be at the rear. (I am a bit soft and 3 or 4 men pleaded with me to let them go with us). Fortunately, it was pelting with rain, which made a lot of noise – the woods were full of the enemy. Through having the walking wounded with me, I lost the rest of the Company, but luckily came out on abroad piece of the road just above the gas-works at Oosterbeek. We climbed over a low wall by the building, and fell into a filthy stream, then made our way to the river bank. I wasn’t certain which way to go, so turned right. After a moment or two, we were fired on, so hurriedly went the other way. After a few minutes, a small boat came in and took off two of the blokes. We then crept on down the river and eventually came across a group of soldiers including ‘Jock’ Neill, and the remainder of ‘C’ Company. I crossed the river at about 2 a.m. and eventually got through to Nijmegen.

Alan Roberts.



[1] This is possibly 869950. Sgt. S.K. Smith, the Platoon Sergeant of the Divisional HQ Defence Platoon – who was ex 1st Parachute Battalion.

[2] This is the ambush of the bus commandeered by No 1 Parachute Platoon, 250 (Airborne) Light Composite Company, R.A.S.C.

Created with information kindly supplied by R Hilton

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  • Lt AD Roberts 1 Bn Borders Silver Star Citation

    Lt AD Roberts 1 Bn Borders Silver Star Citation

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