Corporal Leonard (Len) Victor Raggett Royal Engineer was born on 18th of December 1912 near to Brixton Prison where his father was a prison officer.
In 1932, aged 20, Len enlisted in the Royal Engineers but left to join the Prison Service working in Wakefield and then London.
At the outbreak of the second World War he re-joined the Royal Engineers volunteering for the 9th Airborne Field Company Royal Engineers ‘The Shiny 9th’, part of landing Brigade 1st Airborne Division. He saw action in Sicily, Italy, North Africa, and Arnhem.
As part of Operation Husky in July 1943 the 9th company was initially based in Tunisia where Len worked assembling the American “Waco” gliders to be used for the invasion of Sicily.
On 9 July 1943 at 1830 127 American Waco and British Horsa gliders took off from six different airfields carrying the men of 1st Airlanding Brigade on the 3½ hour flight to Sicily.
The objective was to secure the Ponte Grande Bridge near Syracuse and hold it until the arrival of the 8th Army invasion force from the sea but sparse information on the landing sites and high winds resulted in a number of the tug aircraft pilots becoming lost and the airborne troops landing far from the objective.
Len’s American tug aircraft released it’s glider some 30 miles from the Pont Grande Bridge – Len’s group made their way to Syracuse, travelling by night and holing up during the day, but by the time they arrived the operation was over.
In September 1943 as part of Operation Slapstick, the seaborne invasion of Italy, Len sailed from Bizerta, Tunisia aboard USS Boise departing on 8 September 1943 arriving the next day by which time Italy had capitulated.
At around 2300 on 10 September 1943 while entering Taranto harbour the minelayer HMS Abdiel with troops of the 6th (Royal Welsh) Parachute Battalion on board struck a mine and sank quickly with the loss of over 160 crew and embarked troops. Len, in command of troops from 3 platoon was responsible for operating the docks and so tasked with recovering the bodies of those aboard HMS Abdiel killed in the explosion.
Towards the end of September 1943 the 9th began clearing mines and roadblocks, and repairing roads in the Salerno area. They moved up to Molota and Bari districts then to the River Ofanto area. On 27 September 1943 they moved inland to Canosa Di Puglia near Del Monte Kastel, where they constructed two crossing points on the Ofanto River.
In early October 1943 they moved to Noci area and later that month the company repaired the Apulian Aqueduct near Monte Vulture.
On 18 November 1943 the 9th returned to Bizerta, North Africa aboard an American Tank landing Ship – a journey of four days in rough seas and on 22 November returned to England and Lincolnshire where the 1st Airlanding Brigade was concentrated in Woodhall Spa area.
In September 1944 Len now in command of 11 Section No 3 platoon was part of Operation Market Garden.
At 1020 hours on Sunday 17 September 1944, the 9th (Airborne) Field Company took off from RAF Keevil in 16 gliders pulled by Short Stirlings from 299 Squadron 38 Group RAF, their role: to hold the landing zone for the drop the next day.
On the morning of 21 September in Oosterbeek, Len sustained a serious leg injury from a stick grenade, and was taken to the Elizabeth Hospital for treatment. On 26 he was captured on Pietersbergseweg and taken to Appeldoorn.
Some days after Len and other prisoners of war were put in cattle wagons and transported by train to Efert in Germany.
Len and other wounded prisoners were treated at Obermasfeld hospital before being sent to Stalag 9c near Bad Sulza. The senior British officer was an Australian Officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps and he performed a skin graft operation on his leg. Len remained in Stalag 9c until the Americans liberated the camp in April 1945.
After the war Len returned to the Prison Service and rose to Deputy Governor serving at Canterbury, Isle of Wight, Durham, and Gloucester prisons.
He married Violet Ivy Reed in November 1962 and after he retired from the Prison Service they moved to Littlebourne near Canterbury.
Len was a keen wood carver and swam weekly.
An active member of The Arnhem Veterans Club regularly returning to Holland for the annual commemorations staying with host families. He died on 6th November 1999 in Canterbury Hospital after a stroke.
21/9/1944 he was reported wounded and missing believed to be a POW (Casualty list 1578).
22/12/1944 he was reported as POW in German hands (Casualty List 1636).
28/4/1945 he was on casualty list 1743 and no longer a POW.
Created with information and images kindly supplied by Diane Sant Angelo.Read More