A Very British Salute, 75 years on
British Lt. Jack Reynolds, aged 22, with LCPL George Parry in the background, gives the classic British two-finger salute to a reportedly grinning German Wehrmacht cameraman as he is captured near Arnhem, The Netherlands 19 September 1944, during the start of the worst chapter of Operation Market Garden, some 75 years ago today.
Reynolds, (SN 190738), joined the colors as a signaler in the Sussex and Surrey Yeomanry in 1939 and served in the Coastal Artillery during the Battle of Britain, exchanging fire with German big guns across the Channel in Dover. He later volunteered for the new glider-borne infantry with S coy, 2 Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment (“South Staffs”) being stood up in 1942, which became part of the 1st Airlanding Brigade in the 1st Airborne Division.
He earned a battlefield commission by 1943, leading the company Recce platoon as part of Simforce through Operation Ladbroke, an element of the Allied invasion of Sicily, where he picked up the MC.
This officer with his party of nine men landed at 2225 hours some four miles south of the Battalion Rendezvous. He led his party throughout the night to Waterloo Bridge encountering stiff opposition on the way during which six of his nine men became casualties. On the way up he collected several stragglers, forming them into an organised group, eventually assisting in the defence of the Bridge, during which two more of his men were killed and another missing.
Throughout the fighting this officer set a very high example of courage and leadership in the face of heavy odds.
Leading S coy’s Mortar Platoon at Arnhem, and facing being overrun after two days of fighting after Allied armor failed to make it to the town in time to save them, Reynolds and his remaining men tried to break out westwards towards Oosterbeek and only took the reluctant decision to surrender after being pinned down and running out of ammunition and water.
The British 1st, 3rd, and 11th Parachute Battalions, along with the South Staffs, had made it to Arnhem but were so mauled that, when the survivors of the four units amalgamated near Oosterbeek on 20 September, they only counted about 450 combat effective members. The rest had been killed, captured, or were still holding out to the East in little pockets.
As for Reynolds, he spent the rest of the conflict in Germany as a prisoner of war, until his liberation in 1945. He was demobilized from the army in 1946.
Jack passed away last month, on 21 August, aged 97.
Vale, Lt. Reynolds.
And of course, remember the entire 1st (British) Airborne this week, who were sent epically “a bridge too far.”
For more on the battle, a great and amazingly comprehensive book about Market Garden is The Battle of Arnhem by Anthony Beevor.