Memory Lane: Book reveals plight of airmen

VETERANS: Second left is the late Sgt Morley Williams, whose search for his former glider passengers was taken up by Dutch journalist Haks Walburgh Schmidt, third left, for his book No Return Flight. First left is former Lance Corporal Ted Clague, while on the right is the late Cyril Crickett
VETERANS: Second left is the late Sgt Morley Williams, whose search for his former glider passengers was taken up by Dutch journalist Haks Walburgh Schmidt, third left, for his book No Return Flight. First left is former Lance Corporal Ted Clague, while on the right is the late Cyril Crickett
0
Have your say

Dutch journalist Haks Walburgh Schmidt has fulfilled an honorary debt to the British veterans at the Battle at Arnhem who he interviewed for his research on that epic Second World War battle.

His “repayment” is an enlarged version of his well-received book, now translated into English under the title No Return Flight: 13 Platoon at Arnhem 1944.

The search the writer undertook started about 10 years ago when he came into contact with British glider pilot, Sergeant Morley Williams.

The Welshman had landed a huge Horsa glider near Arnhem during the battle. His passengers were 25 highly trained, but lightly armed, airlanding soldiers.

After the war ended, when he returned from his prisoner of war camp in Germany, Sgt Williams wanted to know what had happened to the others.

As he got older, that thought became more compelling to him.

So when he met Haks in the Netherlands, during the annual commemoration of the battle, he asked if he could try to find some answers to the fate of his passengers.

As the book reveals, at least three of those passengers – Jim Isles, Ted Clague and Cyril Crickett – and a possible fourth, thought to be called Johnny Walker, have connections to the Fylde coast.

Haks says: “In 2004, a preliminary Dutch account of the search appeared. By then, I had already been able to trace an unexpected high number of these British and Canadian people or their relatives.

“They had sent me many stories and unique photographs, but I knew the search would only end with an English account of it.”

This again turned out to be a large project. It included the search for two of the men who had gone missing.

Haks says: “It led to a request for the re-dedication of a specific grave on the Airborne cemetery and, quite bizarrely, to the discovery of a German missing soldier.”

The enlarged English version was presented to surviving members of the Border Regiment and of the Glider Pilot Regiment, and it has been hailed as a sound piece of research, and a valuable contribution to the history of the Battle of Arnhem, now 67 years ago.

One of the Blackpool men was Jim Isles, born December 24, 1924, a great fan of Blackpool Football Club, called into the Kings Own Lancashire Regiment, where he attended a recruitment session of an officer looking for volunteers for the Airborne troops early in 1944.

Haks says: “He found this so challenging he enlisted. On his next leave, he proudly told his parents and wife-to-be about joining the Airbornes.

“Her parents, who both witnessed the First World War, were not at all pleased about the transfer of their future son-in-law, and Jim’s own parents were also not very happy.

“But there was no way back. Jim joined the First Airborne Battalion of the Border Regiment.”

In Norway, Ted Clague was involved in a serious motorcycle accident, having taken a German motorbike for a spin. He got back to the base by himself, but was immediately put in a plaster corset.

During his convalescence, news arrived that Ted would be allowed to return to civilian life fairly soon.

Ahead of his demobilisation, he was transferred to Blackpool and became batman for a captain.

He met his future wife Elsie, five years older than Ted, and widow of a British soldier killed near the French town of Caen three weeks after the invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

After Ted had left the Army, he and Elsie stayed in Blackpool for a while, before moving to her home town of Oldham.

In October 1945, Cyril Crickett was dismissed from the Army. Searching for work, he found a job as temporary administrative employee with the Civil Service in Blackpool.

“As he lived with his father in Wigan, this meant he had to move to Blackpool. He went to evening school to prepare for the exams to get a permanent job as a civil servant in June 1948, at the War Pensions Department for disabled ex-service men from the First World War,” says Haks.

n The English translation of No Return Flight is available from the UK distributor, Lancaster-based Gazelle Books, price £25, at sales@gazellebooks.co.uk or on (01524) 68765.