Private William (Bill) Thomas Aldcroft enlisted into the East Surrey Regiment at the age of 18 in 1940 and later volunteered for airborne forces in 1942 along with his friend George James.
They transferred to the Airborne Forces Depot at Hardwick Hall and began preparatory ground training under Royal Air Force instructors on Monday 26 October for Course 36. Having completed the preparatory ground training satisfactorily the course cadre, comprising of 202 personnel, moved into camp at RAF Ringway, Manchester, on Thursday 5 November to begin parachute training the next day. The course of seven jumps was completed on 12 November 1942.
Bill and George joined C Company, 2nd Parachute Battalion as reinforcements in January 1943 in North Africa, inspite of being torpedoed en route.
Bill recalled "We finished our training and before Christmas we were all on our way to N Africa. But our ship was torpedoed and we had to be re-equipped and were sent by train to Tunisia to join C Company. On arrival, the station was shelled and my mate 'Ginger' was killed. After that we were in action continually for six months. We lost a lot of men in the fighting that took place in the Atlas Mountains where it was cold and wet. I was wounded (shrapnel from a mortar bomb) in one of the last German Paratoopers attacks on our positions. After that it was just about all over, but I finished up in hospital and missed the the victory parade in Tunis."
George was in the same trench as Bill in North Africa when Bill was wounded. He rejoined the company on return from hospital and went on to serve with the battalion through Sicily and Italy.
Bill was part of the 1st British Airborne Division's assault to capture the Rhine crossings at Arnhem, and served as a member of No 9 Platoon C Company which got cut off from the remainder of the battalion occupying houses close to the road bridge.
'I suppose I learnt all about the Battle long after the war was over by reading various books on it. At the time I didn't know what was going on except from a very rough briefing before we went, even then I was suprised that we actually took off as we had stood by a few times before.'
He was wounded in action for the second time, and spent some time at St Elizabeth's Hospital where he was well cared for by the nuns. As the hospital had fallen back into German hands, Bill was held as a prisoner of war and recalls that he spent a short period in a PoW camp close to the Polish border before he was sent to work in a railway workshop.
After the war Bill left England and wandered around the world until he settled in Australia in 1952, where he has since remained, aside from the odd visit to England and a trip back to Arnhem in 2004. Although he lost touch with George, they restablished contact in 2004 and kept in touch until George's death in 2008.
Bill was awaded the Order of Australia Medal, for his service to the community, particularly in the areas of prisoner rehabilitation and the provision of services for people with addiction.
By ParaData Editor with the kind assistance of Bill AldcroftRead More