With Recce at Arnhem (Kindle)
The Recollections of Trooper Des Evans – a 1st Airborne Division Veteran
Determined to 'do his bit', Des Evans absconded from a reserved occupation in 1939 and joined the newly formed Reconnaissance Corps. He saw action in North Africa and Italy before being evacuated back to England with pneumonia in early 1944. Once fully recovered, he volunteered as a wireless operator with 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron. After parachute training, he joined C Troop in time to play his role in Operation MARKET GARDEN, the ill-fated but glorious attempt to seize the Rhine Bridge at Arnhem.
In this gripping memoir, Des vividly describes both the intense action and his emotions following the drop. At first there was an unreal sense of calm but this was soon to evaporate. In the intense action that followed, Des was ambushed twice and badly wounded. Fortunate to survive, he became a POW. After eight long months' captivity moving between camps, Des escaped to American lines.
Sadly, but inevitably, new first-hand accounts by Second World War veterans are becoming increasingly rare. Covering the author's frontline action in three theatres and his POW and escape experiences, With Recce at Arnhem is a gem. Some readers may find its brutal honesty disturbing but war has never been for the faint-hearted.
As time moves on, we lose more of those veterans from WW2 and their individual memories become lost to us. That is especially so as many found it difficult to talk about their experiences once the war had finished. This could have happened with Des Evans I suspect, but the friendship he struck up with Mike Gallagher enabled this book to be presented now, even after his death.Military Modelling Online
The author gives us the context of the story at the beginning, explaining how he first met Des by chance during a trip to the Arnhem battlefields for the 40th anniversary in 1984. The core of the book is in the words of Des himself, as he wrote down his own experience of that trip back to Arnhem in 1984, of visiting places he had been in action back in 1944 and even identifying himself and two other paras in a well known photograph from the battle.
The story continues with his treatment and journey into captivity in Germany. Then his experiences in prison camps, as they were moved, and on to his eventual bids for freedom as the Allied forces came closer.
For the sake of history and anyone with an interest in the story of the British paratroopers who landed at Arnhem in 1944 this is a little gem. It isn't the glory of generals or big strategic decisions, this is the story of what happened for a trooper to be involved with the actual mission, and such a well written story simply telling us what it was like for one man to have experienced. I found this a fascinating book to read, and one I could not put down until I had finished it. Author Mike Gallagher has done his friend Des proud with this new book and one I am sure you will like reading if you have an interest in Market Garden.
Despite being in a reserved occupation Des Evans was determined "to do his bit". Having left school at the age of 14 with no qualifications, he was placed on one of the many pre-war labour schemes and became a farm worker. His attempts to join up proved fruitless until he simply walked away from his job and told the recruiting officer that he was unemployed. He was accepted and sent to the Green Howards Depot at Richmond. Although he was now in the Army, where his soldierly qualities were recognised, after training he was kept back at the depot to become part of the Demonstration Squad to assist in the training of recruits - not exactly what he had joined up for!Army Rumour Service
Eventually he "escaped" by volunteering for the newly formed Reconnaissance Corp and saw action in North Africa and Italy from where he was evacuated to the UK suffering from pneumonia. On his return to fitness he volunteered for the Airborne Forces and, despite a fear of heights, completed his training and was posted to Reserve Troop. Once again he seemed fated not to see action.
Literally hours before take-off for Arnhem Des was posted to C Troop 1st Airlanding Reconnaisance Squadron to replace a man who had broken his leg in an impromptu game of football. For three days he fought at Oosterbeek, unable to reach Arnhem due to the sheer intensity of the fighting. Wounded twice, he was finally captured whilst receiving medical treatment at the Home For The Blind at Wolfheze. He was taken to a hospital in Utrecht to receive further treatment and whilst there had his first of two encounters with Field Marshal Model; apparently the Field Marshal was far from amused by his chance meeting with Des!
Spending eight months in captivity, during which he saw the Field Marshal again, Des finally escaped whilst being moved to another camp and was able to reach American lines. Not content to sit around waiting his turn on the evacuation flight, he and three other POWs volunteered for counter-sniper duties to assist the Americans manning the airfield - they were successful.
It was not until the 40th Anniversary of Arnhem in 1984 that Des returned to Oosterbeek and Arnhem. At the age of 61 he simply put on his red beret and hitched from his home in Norfolk to Arnhem. It was indeed an overwhelming and emotional experience made all the more memorable by the tremendous hospitality of the Dutch people who have such enduring gratitude for the sacrifice made by those who fought at Arnhem. Needless to say there was no need to hitch back home.
During the course of the celebrations Des met Mike Gallagher, the author of this book, and they were to become lifelong friends. Des died in 2010 and left his diaries, medals and red beret to Mike. To honour Des and their friendship and also as a tribute to all those who fought at Arnhem, Mike Gallagher has written a marvellous account of Des' exploits and adventures centered around his time at Arnhem and thereafter. There is plenty of humour and sadness (and a surreal episode with a red car); no punches are pulled when describing the intensity of the fighting which was at times literally murderous; in contrast there were also many acts of kindness shown.
With Recce At Arnhem is an absolute must read, not only for those with an interest in Arnhem, but also because it affords an extraordinary insight into an apparently ordinary man.
First hand accounts like this one do allow the reader to gain an insight into a soldiers experience of battle. This particular book is quite gritty and captures the feel and at times intensity of the Arnhem battle. I also thought that the narrative of the authors uncertainty during his time spent in captivity was almost tangible.The Eagle, Glider Pilot Regimental Assc
'… gripping memoir..'Lancashire Life Magazine
A fascinating read, and one I could not put down until I had finished it. Author Mike Gallagher has done his friend Des proud and I am sure you will like reading it if you have an interest in Market Garden.Military Modelling Magazine May 2016
As featured in.Pennant May 2016
The story is well told, and is worth reading to understand the war from a trooper's experience as opposed to those of officers.Aeroplane Monthly July 2016
This book covers the inception, growth and employment of Britain's airborne forces (parachute and glider-borne formations) between June 1940 and March 1945. It takes a comparative approach and follows tailored lines of development. Each of these lines - politics and policy, equipment and technology, personnel and training, command and control and concepts and doctrine - influence each other. The contents include: Politics and Policy: The political environment within which the major decisions were made concerning the concept of development of Britain's airborne forces. Churchill's personal contribution,…By John Greenacre
Click here to buy both titles for £16.98