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John Aubrey Bruce Wetherall

Servicenumber : 14414511
Rank : Sergeant
Regiment : Glider Pilot Regiment
Unit : 2nd Wing 
Date of Death : 2 november 2012
Age : 87
John "Johnny" Wetherall was born in Headington, Oxford. He worked as an apprentice at Morris Oxford at the age of 15. In november 1942 he volunteered for the army, two months short for his 18th birthday. He was not called up until late january 1943 where he completed six weeks training in the 66 Primary Training Wing General Service Corps. From here he was assigned to 16 Infantry Training Centre of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. During the summer of 1943 Wetherall was injured during training and was removed from his unit for a time. On his return, he saw a notice seeking volunteers for the Glider Pilot Regiment and volunteered. Wetherall was transferred to the Glider Pilot Regiment (GPR) in Autumn 1943
Johnny Wetherall completed his initial training with the GPR in Tilshead and on 24 november 1943 he began his flying training. He initially went to No. 21 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at RAF Booker followed by No.3 ETFS, Schellingford, where he learnt to fly Tiger Moths. After this, he began training on gliders at 3 Glider Training School (GTS) in RAF Stoke Orchard, Gloucestershire. He spent a very brief time at RAF North Luffenham and then on 26 february 1944 he was moved to RAF Broadwell, Oxfordshire and was assigned to No 16 Flight, F Squadron. Here he paired with a more experienced Glider pilot, Staff Sergeant Charles "Spud" Taylor, and engaged on further training, on a Horsa glider. 
On 17 september 1944 Sergeant Wetherall was the co-pilot of a Horsa glider and landed on Landingzone-Z, near Wolfheze.  The glider was loaded with equipment for the Border Regiment and included a jeep, a trailer full of ammunition, a 6 pounder anti-tank gun trailer, two motorcycles and two dispatch riders. 
Wetherall was hit by a bullet in the cheek and taken prisoner at Oosterbeek on 20 september 1944. The authors of the book Glider Pilots at Arnhem (Mike Peters and Luuk Buist) wrote about Wetherall in their book. On page 199 they wrote: "The night had not been as comfortable for 'F' Squadron as things took a turn for the worst early in the morning when they were attacked by SS infantry supported by self-propelled guns. Outnumbered and outgunned 'F' Squadron were forced out of their positions in the woods on the Dennenkamp Estate. They withdrew with considerable losses towards the Hartenstein. Sergeant Peter Bond: 'I was taken prisoner by, I believe 9th SS troops, on the 20th with Captain Robson, Staff Sergeants Appleton, Edwards, Hope, Cobbold, Sayles, and Sergeants Mahoney, Price, Wetherall, Bowden, Maughan, Seaman and Walsh while on patrol."
On the same page John Wetherall is quoted about his capture: "Sergeant Gordon Wright had been detailed off somewhere as a runner I was teamed up with Staff Sergeant Sayles who was No. 1 on the PIAT. I was his No. 2. We dug in short of the railway line, more or less north of a house called Dennenkamp. 
When we were attacked the next morning, I stuck my head up when I should have kept it down and got an explosive bullet in the right side of the face, its casing stuck in my cheekbone but punctured the eye. 
We were duly rounded up, drubbed several hundred metres eastwards and handed over to guards of a different calibre, one of whom tried to remove our helmets with rifle blows. I recall Sayles shouting 'he wants our helmets off' but I didn't come to until about four days later.
Sergeant Wetherall was moved to Apeldoorn and then to Gronau before being sent to a civilian hospital in Munster. Following some basic treatment, he was taken to Dulag Luft Oberursel, near Frankfurt, for interrogation. He was then sent to Stalag Luft 7 in Bankau, in Upper Silesia, via a transition camp at Wetzlar. During christmas 1944 his eye began to cause some problems and so he was moved to Stalag 344, Lamsdorf where he received treatment at the camp lazarette. He was one of the last to leave the camp as the Russians advanced in spring 1945, and was transported by train to Memmingen and then Stalag 383, Hohenfels. In april 1945 the POW's in this camp were moved, this time to keep them away from advancing US forces. They were marched out of the camp towards Regensburg. It was on this march that Johnny Wetherall broke away from the column and ran. After travelling across country, he came across some US soldier and together they made their way back to US lines. By the end of april 1945 he was repatriated.  
After the war Johnny Wetherall returned to Morris Motors and completed his apprenticeship. Then in 1948, he moved to Dublin on what was supposed to be a two year loan, to set up a Morris production line. While he was there he met Audrey Grace, whom he married in 1952. They had three children: Ann, Bruce and Jan. 
Later Wetherall worked as the Service Manager for Ballbridge Motors and as an assessor with Tanham and Co. He took over the latter company and ran it until his retirement in 1988.
In 1984 Wetherall returned to Arnhem for the first time. He visited Arnhem and Oosterbeek again several times.
John Wetherall passed away in Leopardstown Park Hospital in 2012.
His daughter Jan tells about her dad in april 2013, in an Irish newspaper: "Remembrance was a very important thing to Dad and he would be so very, very chuffed that the IMI Leinster Members' Association decided to honour him. 'I'm just Johnny' he'd say. 'Fancy them remembering me like that' and then he'd raise his glass in a toast to you all."
Sources: D. Pasley (grandson of John Wetherall, who wrote large parts of this profile), website www.southsidepeople.ie and Glider Pilots at Arnhem


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