Lieutenant Rudolph J Falck

{ Rudi }

29 Apr 1920 - 26 Sep 1944

Rudolf Julius Falck was born on the 29th April 1920 in Cologne, Germany, the son of Georg Falck, a distinguished Jewish architect, and his wife, Elisabeth.

The family left Germany when the Nazis came to power and settled in Amsterdam, from where, in 1937 young Rudi, as he was known, was sent to England to learn English and then to study law at Balliol College, Oxford. He was able to go home to Amsterdam on visits until the outbreak of war, but after September 1939 he was never to see his parents and twin sisters again. Thanks to the Red Cross messaging service they were able to keep in touch, but with only three lines permitted per message and delivery inevitably sporadic, contact was minimal. At some point Rudi changed his names to the English spelling for obvious reasons, so Rudolf Julius became Rudolph Julian.

He married Pauline Mary Davies from London and they had one daughter, Christa Elisabeth Mary, born in December 1944, three months after Rudi’s death.

After graduating in 1940, he spent a brief period, together with many other foreign nationals, in detention on the Isle of Man as an “enemy alien,” but on release he enlisted in the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps on the 8th October 1940, serving with various Pioneer Units from then until July 1942, when he had risen to the rank of Corporal.

He was officially discharged on the 5th July 1942, as the following day he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Pioneer Corps. [1] He was promoted to War Substantive Lieutenant on the 6th January 1943.

He again served with various Pioneer Corps Units until July 1943, when he was sent to North Africa with the 337th Alien Company Pioneer Corps. He was only there for about a month, as in August 1943 he was posted to the 144th Company, Pioneer Corps, which at that time was preparing for the invasion of Europe. In October 1943 he went through two more postings, before he volunteered for Airborne Forces, and was commissioned into the Parachute Regiment, Army Air Corps, on the 1st January 1944. [2]

He was then sent to the Depot and School Airborne Forces at Hardwick Hall near Chesterfield, to undertake the parachute course selection process on the 19th January 1944.

He successfully completed this selection process and was then sent to R.A.F. Ringway, near Manchester, to go on parachute course No 101, which ran from 31st January to the 13th February 1944. His Parachute Instructor comments: “Has been a good example, jumped very well”. [3]

Upon completion of his parachute course he was initially sent to the Airborne Forces Holding Unit, before being posted to the Headquarters, 5th Parachute Brigade on the 29th February. However, just two months later, on the 3rd April 1944, he was posted to the 1st Airborne Division Provost Company, Corps of Military Police. At that time they were billeted at Stubton Hall in Lincolnshire.

3rd April 1944.

14.30 hrs. Lieut. Falck reported for duty, appointed Intelligence Officer.

7th April 1944.

09.00 hrs. Capt. P.B. Thomas, Lieut. Falck and 18 Other Ranks proceeded on Exercise “MUSH”.

23rd April 1944.

16.30 hrs. Capt. Thomas, Lieut. Falck and all N.C.O.’s returned from Exercise “MUSH”. [4]

As well as being the Unit Intelligence Officer, this meant he was also allocated to command No 4 Section, which, when it went into action would be mainly responsible for prisoner of war handling.

On Sunday, 17th September 1944 he took off for Holland as part of Operation ‘Market-Garden’. The Falck family watched with hopes rising as the huge airborne armada flew over them towards the landing zones, little suspecting that Rudi was among them. On the first day they remained near the L.Z. area, and close to Divisional Headquarters. The next day they started to move towards Oosterbeek, and by the end of the day they were established in and around the Hartenstein Hotel. There were some tennis courts at the rear of the hotel, and by Tuesday, 19th September these were being used as the improvised POW Cage for the Germans that the Division had taken prisoner, about 120 – 140 of them. As a native German speaker Lt. Falck was able to translate what the prisoners were saying, and sometimes demanding, of their captors – usually relating to food!

By late on Wednesday, 20th September, the whole area was coming under increasing mortar and artillery fire and all ranks had to be well dug-in. As the main responsibility of the Provost Company, and particularly No 4 Section, was the security of the prisoners it was inevitable that they would be dug-in all around the tennis courts.

On the afternoon of Monday, 25th September orders were given that the Division was pulling out that night, and withdrawing back over the Lower Rhine, to the South bank and link up with the ground forces. Captain. Gray got the Provost Company men together, that were still on their feet, and briefed them on the drill for the withdrawal. The men were to muffle their boots with rags or cloths, they were to make sure that none of their equipment rattled, and when they set off they were to follow ‘tapes’ that would be laid out and manned by Glider Pilots. There were approximately 12 – 15 men in their group.

Something went wrong from the start and instead of heading due South, the small column of Military Policemen headed South-East, this brought them into an area occupied by German Forces, in strength, and they were fired on by at least two machine guns.

Corporal Peter Dale, No 4 Section, was one of the NCO’s who volunteered to stay behind for a few hours to cover the withdrawal: “Sergeant Yardley was supposed to go and recce the route to the river, but I don’t know just how much of a recce he did because he and the main Provost party ran slap into a German ambush. He was the only one who managed to escape, he was leading the way and took off.” [5]

Another who was supposed to have carried out a recce of the route was Sgt. ‘Ernie’ Howard, H.Q. Section: “Get bad news in afternoon, that we have got to evacuate across River as reinforcements cannot get up. Went on recce at dusk. Started off with skeleton kit at midnight. Ran into machine gun nest after about mile. All got by without trouble. Pouring with rain now. Another machine gun post, this time some of our fellows hit. Managed to get away myself, but all on my own.” [6]

Lance Corporal. Charles Cressey, No 4 Section: “It was between 2200 and 2300 hours when the order was given for our Section, which consisted of about a dozen or so men, to pull out. We had been told to follow our leader along tapes put out by The Glider Pilots, but, to this day, I cannot remember seeing or coming across any tapes. We had been travelling [moving] for some time in the dark, when suddenly a machine gun opened up from my right hand side. It was firing across the road we had to cross. Suddenly, another machine gun, which seemed a few yards further up the road, opened fire on us. They were firing tracer which appeared to be travelling at a height of about three feet from the ground. I recollect hearing someone shout out something, and we all dropped to the ground. At no time did I see Lt. Falck, because I think he was at the head of the column, or well up to the front of the line. I think I could possible have seen ‘Paddy’ Breen, because one of our lads was brought in by the Jerries, but he was quickly taken off again by them. He had received terrible injuries to his face.” [7]

Lance Corporal ‘Stan’ Reast, No 4 Section: “On the night that we set off from The Hartenstein to cross the river, there must have been about a dozen of us, or maybe more. There was Jock Gray, Lieut. Falck and Sgt. Yardley with us. Somebody said that there was tape laid out for us to follow. Off we set, and I was up the front with someone else. As we got near to the cross-roads they opened up on us. The bullets ploughed into all the men there. As they opened up someone shouted, I think it was Sgt. Yardley, that we should split up and re-group on the other side of the cross-roads. I ran and jumped to the right and landed in some barbed wire, just strands stretched across the tracks and trees.

I never saw any more of my section. I headed down towards the river crawling along and dropping into the occasional mortar hole. Then, suddenly, it lit up all around me and there was a bloody great German in front of me with a stick grenade in his hand. But he never saw me. I’d blacked all my face. I was looking right at him thinking, “this is it”, but he never saw me. I backed away and rolled into a ditch which was full of water. I was wet through and remember thinking to myself, “You silly bugger, you could get pneumonia”. After that there are a couple of hours missing in my memory. I know I got some cracked ribs from somewhere. The next thing I remember it was nearly daylight and the Jerries came down the road and I was captured.

I was taken to a house near a school, or chapel, made into a hospital or First Aid Post. They put me in a room and there was another of our CMP chaps there. I did not know him very well. I think he must have been one of the replacements to the Company. On the way up to this house I had seen Lieut. Falck dead, he was propped up against a lamp post. L/Cpl. Jack Newby lay on the ground beside him. I wasn’t able to do anything at the time. The youngsters in the house thought that we were all going to be shot. I was the oldest there, so I was sort of in charge. I swore at them to calm them down. Captain Gray was also there, in the house, he was badly wounded. When I turned him over to put a field dressing on his wound the blood coming out was very pink and frothy, and I knew he hadn’t got much of a chance really. I put another field dressing on and gave him some morphine and marked the details of the morphine on his forehead. I sat there for quite a while. I think the Germans who had caught us were the forward troops and they probably weren’t sure what to do with us.

I went to the German sergeant, but he did not speak any English, so he went away and came back with an officer who did. I asked if I could bury my own officer and comrade who were lying outside. He went away and got two shovels and detailed this young British MP to come with me. We only went across the road and there was a big orchard by the side of a house. We buried him there. This must have been somewhere between The Hartenstein and the river.

After this I was sent to the hospital. It wasn’t a very big hospital, just a converted schoolroom or something like that.

I know that it was definitely Lieut. Falck that I buried, because I took his cheque book out of his pocket for identification. He was not wearing any dog tags or other means of identification (because of his German surname). I also know that it was Jack Newby, because I took one of his dog tags off as proof. He was the other one I buried in the orchard.” [8]

Despite extensive searches and investigations by the Dutch and British, mainly through John Hamblett, in the early to mid 1990’s, no trace of Lieut Falck’s grave was found. Although Lance Corporal Stan Reast handed the cheque book stubs in to the relevant authority, for some reason they did not find their way to his widow, who never discovered exactly how her husband had died. This was particularly ironic, as Stan Reast lived just 10 miles or so from where she spent a lot of time in her parents’ holiday cottage in North Devon.

Lieutenant Rudolph Julian Falck has no known grave and is commemorated on the Groesbeek C.W.G.C. Memorial.


[1] London Gazette 14 July 1942.

[2] London Gazette 18 February 1944.

[3] R.A.F. Ringway Parachute Course Report, 101. February 1944.

[4] 1st Airborne Division Provost Company War Diary. April 1944.

[5] Peter Charles Unett Dale. Interview, Canada. 1996.

[6] Ernest Howard. Wartime Diary 1944-45.

[7] Charles George Cressey. Letter to John Hamblett. 21 October 1994.

[8] Stanley Reast. Taped interview for John Hamblett. 6 September 1993.

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Rudolph J Falck

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