Corporal Leo Cairns

Leo Cairns was born in 1915 and originally enlisted in the Border Regiment, on the 18th April 1940, he was therefore with the unit when the 31st Independent Reconnaissance Company was created and one of those that volunteered to stay with it when it was converted to the Airborne role.

He was initially assigned to ‘B’ Troop and became a Lance Corporal. He sailed with the unit to North Africa in May 1943, but it is not known if he served with the Squadron in Italy. In December 1943 he returned with the Squadron to the UK.

With the heavy casualties that ‘B’ Troop had suffered in Italy it was disbanded and the men were re-assigned within the Squadron. By now a Corporal, Leo Cairns was made a Section Commander of the Mortar Section, with Support Troop.

He is mentioned in The Recce Journal which appeared in the summer of 1944 and was reproduced in the 1st Airborne Recce Squadron Newsletter No 35, February 1992.

He flew to LZ ‘Z’ in Holland in a Horsa glider from RAF Tarrant Rushton on Sunday, 17 September 1944, as part of ‘Operation Market Garden’. Having landed successfully he joined up with the rest of the Squadron at the rendezvous and proceeded towards Wolfheze.

Leo took part in the battle which followed, which lasted for over a week and was amongst those then ordered to withdraw back across the Lower Rhine on the 25 September 1944.

He managed to get into a boat going back across the river, but an artillery or mortar shell capsized it and he was drowned. His body was recovered from the river on the 17 October 1944, and buried in the Rhenen General Cemetery (Achterbergsestraatweg), plot 27. C. 13.

He is mentioned on page 195 of Remember Arnhem by John Fairley.

1st Airborne Recce Squadron Newsletter, No 10, November 1983.

3602783. Corporal. Leo Cairns. Support Troop.

As probably all Recce Arnhem Veterans know, on the night of the break-out from Oosterbeek, whilst crossing the river, the boat Leo was in took a [direct] hit and overturned and Leo was drowned. His body as far as anyone knew was carried down river and was never found – we didn’t know if or where he was buried.

After 40 years a Dutch friend who investigates lost personnel has located his grave. Leo is buried in a Military Cemetery about 40 [15] miles from Arnhem (Ed stands to be corrected with the distance) in ALGEMENE Cemetery, BEGSAAF PLAATS TE RHENEN.

Members of the Committee who attended the Pilgrimage this year paid their respects at Leo’s graveside.

His profile photo was taken with fellow members of B Trp, 1st AL Recce Sqn at Saunton Sands, England in 1942.

Created with information and images kindly supplied by R Hilton

Read More
OS Cpl.L.Cairns. B-Tp, 1 A-L Recce Sqn. Saunton Sands, England. 1942


Latest Comments

There are currently no comments for this content.

Add your comment