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Percy Newton Aldred      

Servicenumber : 325559
Rank : Gunner
Regiment : Royal Artillery
Unit : 1 Airlanding Light Regiment
Date of Death : 26-09-1944
Age : 24
Grave :
Percy Newton Aldred was a son of Percy William and Gertrude Aldred of Sale, Cheshire.
According to the Roll of Honour published by the Society of Friends of the Airborne Museum (Jan Hey 1999 and 2011) Aldred was badly wounded on 20 september 1944. He went missing on the north bank of the river Rhine during the night of the withdrawal (25/26 september 1944).
The author of The Gunners at Arnhem, Peter Wilkinson, wrote about Aldred. On pages 106 and 107 (21 september 1944): "On the western side of the perimeter, Captain Lee had joined a company of the Border Regiment which was defending the most southerly border. His jeep and wireless equipment were still in reasonable order. In the morning, he and his signaller, Gunner Aldred, made their way on foot to a platoon which was dug in close to the gas works, occupied by the enemy. He remembered that here they experienced an intensive period of mortaring and shelling, including the unnerving 'Nebelwerfer', six barrelled mortars which fired bombs fitter with a screaming device."
On page 113 and 114 (22 september 1944): "Captain Lee had a similar story to tell. With the Border Regiment in the south west sector, he accompanied Major Breese whose task was to gather a small force of men to leave their main position and make their way after dark down the western side of the river meadows beyond the gasworks to try to occupy a group of houses which had a commanding view of the area. On their approach, they were suddenly pinned down by machine gun fire at short range and Lee was asked to call for artillery support. With a hooded torch, he calculated his map reference and his signaller, Gunner Aldred, sent this through by his 68 set, asking for one round battery fire."
On page 143 (26 september 1944): "Captain Lee, who had been with the Border Regiment, decided to call at the RAP to pick up his signaller, Gunner Aldred, who had been wounded. He brought him down to the river as it was getting light. As there was no boat available, he and others took shelter from the enemy fire below the river bank and in his own words: It seemed only minutes before a swarm of Germans arrived above us and a rifle was thrust into my face. I felt utterly sick as I was hauled up onto the bank. There seemed surprisingly few who had been rounded up on the bank. Many had been wounded or killed and many others were no doubt picked up during the day trying to get across the meadows. I have never discovered what happened to the others. Nothing is known of the fate of Percy Aldred."
The author of the book 'Winged Gunners' (Robert Woollacot) wrote about Captain Lee serveral times. Because Percy Aldred was presumably close to Lee I guess he was there with Lee. On page 121 (18 september 1944): "At daylight John Lee with the Border Regiment watched a group of Germans, obviously unaware they were under observation, assemble for an 'O' Group meeting only to be completely flattened in a devastating 30 second burst of fire. Later, John directed his first shoot of 1 Battery guns but his team lost all their gear when their trailer was hit and set on fire."
On page 136 and 137 Lee gives an account of what happened on 20 september. He returned to the battery for the only time during the battle and he was given the order to go as far as possible in a northeasterly direction from the Hartenstein in case any support was required for an impending supply drop. Lee got some way with his O.P. party by jeep and met some groups of infantry dug in at various points. Lee and his men then went further on foot, bringing the 68 set, and moved from house to house untill they got close to the railway. They went upstairs in a house and could see the aircraft dropping the containers and panniers. Because Lee was anious that they would not get back, he and his men made their way back to the jeep and then drove as fast as possible back to the headquarters of Border Regiment. Lee: "We had accomplished nothing. So far as I was concerned it had been a frightening day and a depressing one having seen so mucht of the R.A.F.'s brave effort wasted."
On page 157 Lee talkes about events on 22 september when he was with Major Breese. At one point Breese and his men withdrew, but forgot about Lee and Aldred. They lay on top of the river bank and the 68 set was crackling when they heared noisy footsteps approaching from the direction of the Driel ferry. "Aldred tried to smother the noise from the set. They were so close, had he switched off, they would have surely heard. One, two, three, four, five, unseen, unidentified, silent bodies passed beneath us, as we froze not more than three feet away. They passed unaware of us and we certainly made no attempt to impede them. We shall never know whether it was a German patrol, or some Poles or even Dorsets, who may have crossed the river. So far as we knew there were none of our people down there."
Aldred has no known grave. His name is on panel 2 of the Groesbeek Memorial, which commemorates by name more than 1000 soldiers who died during te campaign in north-west Europe between the time of crossing the Seine at the end of August 1944 and the end of the war in Europe, and whose graves are not known.
Sources: Website CWGC,  'Gunners at Arnhem' and Roll of Honour


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