In the interest of, Happy Friday, here is this May 1945 U.S. Army Signal Corps image of an M4 Sherman tank crew from the Library of Congress.
“A tank sunk in 5 feet of water waits for towing equipment. The Tank Commander gives vent to his feelings with a string of unprintable phraseology, while his driver uses a helmet to bale out the interior. Okinawa.”
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.
A few days ago, these several pallet displays of low brass 12 gauge shells by the case were five-to-six feet high and squared-off. Then, dove season hit this weekend.
Of note, if you haven’t gone on a Deep South dove hunt in September– which is often done with your best friends over a corn or soybean field while wearing shorts and flipflops and debating everything from the moon landing to politics– you haven’t lived the Southern experience.
As tonight is both a Friday the 13th and a full moon, enjoy Joseph Wright of Derby’s circa 1780 moonlight landscapes. As a youth who grew up on the seacoast and often spent summers under sail or by the flickering light of driftwood campfires on the barrier islands, they have always brought me a measure of solace.
Just watch out for black cats today!
On the latest edition of Select Fire, I took a trip to Tampa and hung out with Mark Serbu, who gave me a look behind the curtain.
Hopefully, you have the day off. If not, proceed accordingly, setting your own level of commitment. Maybe work on your mustache.
Lieutenant Junior Grade H. Blake Moranville, USNR, napping in Fighter Squadron Eleven’s ready room on USS HORNET (CV-12), in company with VF-11’s mascot dog, circa January 1945. He was shot down while strafing Saigon Airport, French Indochina, on 12 January 1945. Captured by local French authorities, he ultimately escaped via China.
On this day some 105 years ago, British Army Cpt. Francis Octavius Grenfell– aged 33 and a noted polo player– led the 9th (Queen’s Royal) Lancers into combat against the Germans at Audregnies, a small village west of Mons in Northern France. The Germans were advancing on the far west flank of the British Expeditionary Force during the Battle of Mons and threatened to encircle the Old Contemptibles of the 5th Division. Grenfell and his lancers were busy that day, both charging the on-coming Germans and later pulling back some abandoned British field guns, keeping them from being captured.
Richard Caton Woodville later immortalized the action at Audregnies in the below painting, from the National Army Museum collection.
As noted by the NAM:
Although not the first action of World War One (1914-1918) for which the Victoria Cross was awarded, Grenfell was the first to be gazetted, that is, officially listed in ‘The London Gazette’ as a recipient. The citation was for ‘gallantry in action against unbroken infantry at Audregnies and for gallant conduct in assisting to save the guns of the 119th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, near Doubon the same day’.
Notably, the 9th later took part in the final “lance-on-lance” action by British horse-soldiers when, on 7 September 1914 at Montcel à Frétoy, Lt. Col. David Campbell led a charge of two troops against a squadron of lance-armed Prussian Guards Dragoons.
After service in the Great War and as a tank unit in WWII, the 9th was amalgamated with the 12th Royal Lancers to form the 9th/12th Royal Lancers in 1960. They were later further amalgamated with the Queen’s Royal Lancers in 2015 to form the Royal Lancers, which today is an armored recon battalion equipped with Scimitar vehicles. They are the only “lancers” still in the British Army although they officially retired the weapons for field use in 1928.
However, they still use the famous skull and crossbones badge that is one of the most recognizable in the British Army with the motto: ‘Death or Glory’.