- Thomas Smithson was born on 21 february 1924
in Birmingham. In 1940 or 1941 he joined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was still 17 years old. He
falsified his birth certificate so he could join.
- On 17 september 1944 he took off in a glider
from Down Ampney airfield for Arnhem and landed near Wolfheze. He served
with the Defence Platoon of Headquarters 1st Airborne Division and
stayed close to the Hartenstein Hotel during the battle.
- In the night of 25/26 september Smithson was
able to cross the river Rhine to safety and returned to England.
- The author of the book "D-Day to
Berlin", Andrew Williams, wrote about Thomas Smithson. He quotes
Smithson when he was talking about the Germans: "Corporal
Smithson was dug in close to the divisional HQ in the Hartenstein hotel:
"Towards the end of the battle their plan was to systematically destroy
every house by putting a shell into it. They were moving forward wiping
them out one at the time up the road. You can't fight tanks with rifle
and bayonet. So you just moved back until there was nowhere to go back.
Towards the end there was hardly anything that wasn't burning or smoking
of collapsing or falling down. There were so many casualties they were
wheeling them in all the time. They'd got nowhere to put them, so they
were lying outside and getting wounded again by shellfire. It was always
a quastion of: 'Any news of XXX Corps? No News.' During the night you'd
hear the clanking and movement of armour and you'd think, oh, it's XXX
Corps, but when it got light- no XXX Corps. It was German armour."
- He also quotes Smithson when he talked about
the resupply: "There was no way of saying "not there, we're
down here. We did everything we could, like waving, but it didn't make
any difference. I watched one afternoon - seven Dakotas came in slow and
low. And the Germans had God knows how many 88mm guns and they shot the
first five down - bang, bang, bang. Down they came. Missed the sixth one
and shot the seventh one down. They were all dropping their stuff
towards what is now the cemetery but you just couldn't get it. So we had
no supplies whatsoever."
- On 8 may 1945 he was about to board a plane
but was called back when he was walking up the steps to be sent on a
mission to rescue a VIP from a Norwegian airfield. He thought the
mission would be suicide and that he wouldn't survive. But the mission
was a success. The plane he was about to board went on to crash in bad
weather, killing all aboard.
- Apart from Arnhem, Smithson also saw action in
Egypt, Palestine and Norway.
- After the war Smithson spent his life in
Birmingham as an electrical engineer. He ended up owning his own
electro-plating company, a major client of which was Jaguar Cars, who
used his company for the electro-plating of grilles, door handles etc.
- Throughout the 1990's Tom Smithson
solo-parachuted for charity at Ginkel Heath and Teuge during the
commemoration at Arnhem/Oosterbeek. He attended parachute training at
Netheravon before the dropping of 2004.
- On 18 september 1994 Tom landed in a
cornfield, he missed the dropzone at Teuge because of the wind. In 2004
Tom Smithson was mentioned on the BBC website in an article about that
year's commemoration; "Solo jumper Tom Smithson, 80, from Sutton
Coldfield said he landed in a tree, but just had scratches and grazes.
"It was very windy and I couldn't get back onto the the dropping
zone but it is wonderful down here," he said." The website
www.scotsman.com also mentions
Tom: "Smithson, of Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, was a
corporal with the 1st Division HQ Defence Platoon. "You never get
rid of the memories. You think of nothing else," he said."
- According to Giles, the son of Thomas, his
father was haunted all his life by what he went through during the war
and suffered recurring nightmares. He never liked to talk about his
- Thomas Smithson passed away in the early hours
of 20 march 2011 in Sutton Coldfield, surrounded by his wife, son and