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Reginald Bryan Woods

Servicenumber : 176460
Rank : Lieutenant
Regiment : The Parachute Regiment
Unit : 2nd Battalion
Date of Death : 14-10-1944
Age : 25
Grave : Plot 8. Row C. Grave 3.
Reginald Bryan Woods was a son of Captain Alfred Reginald Woods and Eileen Elizabeth Woods, of Lenaderg, Co. Down, Northern Ireland.
Woods was the commanding officer of Mortar Platoon, S Company, 2nd Battalion. According to the Roll of Honour published by the Society of Friends of the Airborne Museum (Jan Hey 2011) Woods died in Stalag XIB at Soltau. He was given a field burial in the local POW cemetery, near Oerbke.
The author of the book 'Brotherhood of the Cauldron', David Truesdale, wrote about Lieutenant Woods on page 36: "Reginald Bryan Woods of Malahide, County Dublin, had been studying at Cambridge when war was declared. His was also a military family. His brother Desmond was in the Royal Ulster Rifles and had won the Military Cross serving in Palestine, while their father had served in the Royal Munster Fusiliers in the First World War. Bryan joined the Ulster Rifles at the Regimental Depot at Ballymena, County Antrim, and was shortly commissioned into the 1st (Airborne) Battalion. He later transferred to the 2nd Parachute Battalion and served with them in North Africa and Sicily before Arnhem. Because of his Irish accent he was known as 'Danny Boy' by the other officers, while the enlisted men called him 'Lakari', a Hindustani word meaning 'wood', which shows that the other ranks of the battalion were capable of displaying a little more imagination than their officers. For Market Garden he commanded the Mortar Platoon in Support Company."
Woods was granted an emergency commission with The Royal Ulster Rifles on 1 March 1941. He was posted to 1st Battalion which at that time was based in the black mountains. This battalion was part of the 31st Infantry Brigade Group. Later that year the brigade was reorganised and formally redesignated on 10 december 1941 as 1st Airlanding Brigade Group. The battalion spent the following month training for its new gliderborne role with 1st Airborne Division. In 1943 Woods volunteered for service with The Parachute Regiment and went to Ringway in april of that year. On 2 june 1943 Woods joined the 2nd Parachute Battalion.
On page 74 David Truesdale wrote about Woods during the action in Sicily, where the battalion had to occupy three small hills near Primosole bridge. These hills were codenames Johnny I, Johnny II and Johnny III. "An incident near 'Johnny One' will also serve to show the calibre of Lieutenant Brian Woods, the former Royal Ulster Rifleman. During the action a large party of the enemy was pursuing Lieutenant Woods and his men as they withdrew up a nearby hillside. On achieving the summit the Lieutenant saw that the nearest cover available to his men was a wood some 200 yards away. Dispatching his men posthaste towards the tree, he turned to face the enemy. Adopting the prone position he opened fire on the pursuing Germans and, with some very accurate shooting with his Colt .45 pistol, managed to cause such casualties that the Germans withdrew."
James Sims, who served with the Mortar Platoon, wrote a book called 'Arnhem Spearhead' about his experiences. He wrote about Lieutenant Woods on page 25: "The next day we marched into the surrounding hills and our platoon officer, Lieutenant Woods, gave a demonstration of how to blow an instant mortar pit with explosives. He was a tall slim man, rather quiet but very efficient and cool under fire according to the veterans of the platoon who had seen action with him in Sicily". This happened in June 1944, shortly before D-Day.
On 17 september 1944 Reginald Woods was the first man to exit the Dakota that flew the platoon to Arnhem. On their way to the bridge, while passing through Heveadorp, the platoon came under fire. On page 101 of Brotherhood at the Cauldron the incident is mentioned: "After 'C' Company had left the column, the remained of Frost's 2nd Battalion advanced along the river road towards Heveadorp when it came under fire from a concealed machine-gun. As several men of the mortar platoon fell wounded, one mortally, 'Danny Boy' Woods ran into the middle of the road firing his pistol in the general direction of the enemy. As this was going on the remainder of his platoon, heavily laden with mortar barrels, base-plates and ammunition boxes, made it to safety." James Sims wrote about the same incident on page 40: "We reached a village, which might have been Heelsum. Here we ran into our worst ambush yet and the Mortar Platoon received its personal baptism of fire. On the left-hand side of the road was a hedge about seven feet high and on the other a row of red-brick houses on a higher road......the hedge was raked from end to end belly-high by machine-gun fire. Although the enemy could not see us they hit at least three of out lads, one of them with an incendiary bullet. This was the youthful Brum Davis....Lieutenant Woods, having reached the dubious shelter of the house at the other end of the hedge, stoop up and emptied a whole clip of .45 ammunition in the direction of the enemy, at the same time ordering us to make a dash for it."
On pages 46 and 47 Sims wrote about advancing through Arnhem, towards the bridge: "The Lieutenant's batman had been one of those wounded in an earlier ambush and he asked me to accompany him in his place; I was a newcomer to the battalion and just a bombcarrier, so I would not be missed. I now found myself at the head of the platoon right behind the officer, a most uncomfortable position. We were crossing a road when there was a sudden burst of fire. A stream of tracer bullets passed so close to us that they lit up the lieutenant's face. I grabbed at his shoulder to pull him back but he had already reacted and dashed for cover with the rest of us as the enemy fire narrowly missed our backsides.
Now we were cut off from the rifle companies but at that moment George Hines brought up the Bren gun carrier, out platoon transport. Lieutenant Woods jumped aboard, ordering George to take her round the corner and head straight for the enemy machine-gun nest. As the carrier tore off some wit remarked, 'Hope her tracks stay on....' We all laughed, as back home the carriers had a nasty habit of shedding a track when turned too sharply. However, on this occasion George cornered her faster than any of us had seen him do before - and the tracks stayed on. Lieutenant Woods fired straight down the throats of the enemy while we dodged past the back of the carrier to gain the shelter of the houses beyond."
Sims wrote on page 60 and 61 that he and Woods had not eaten anything for a while and that Woods told him to make a stew from the dehydrated meat cubes and biscuits that they carried. Sims set up a tommy cooker and started to make a stew. "I powdered the dehydrated meat and mixed it with shrapnel-like fragments of Army biscuits in one of the mess tins of water. I then brought the whole ghastly concoction to the boil, watched by the most unenthusiastic Lieutenant Woods. When it was ready I handed the tin to the lieutenant to have first taste. He gingerly took a spoonful, tasted it, and with a grimace of disgust spat it out. He then reached into his pack, took out a half-pound slab of chocolate and broke it solemnly in half, one piece of which he gave to me without a word. We ate in silence and I was grateful that he made no comment on my cooking. Perhaps he was afraid that I might do for him before he could get to grips with the enemy"
The men at the bridge were occupying several buildings. One was know as the White House and Sims thought he was killed when the house collapsed. He wrote about in on pages 74 and 74: "A burst of enemy tracer from the northern road behind us ribboned its way over the White House. This was Jerry's warning that he was about to shell the building, so the occupants had better get out. The reply was a burst of Bren-gun fire...The first shell burst against the White House at a range of something under a hundred yards. It hit a top storey near th rood and the entire building seemed to shake itself like a dog. We could plainly see the riflemen and airborne engineers, caution thrown to the winds, kneeling openly inside the blasted windows, pouring fire down at the Germans as though determined to take as many as possible with them to death...The German SP crashed out and a second shell hit the White House.
We watched in horrified silence as the walls appeared to breathe out before the whole structure collapsed. The roof and floors fell inside and a towering column of flame shot in to the sky. A cut-off scream marked the end of many gallant riflemen and engineers....Sergeant Jackman was now in command of the platoon, Lieutenant Woods being presumed killed in the White House. "
When the men at Arnhem bridge surrendered, the wounded Lieutenant Woods was carried to the railway station and sent to Stalag XIB, where he died of his wounds. James Sims wrote about this on pages 105 and 106: "One morning I saw some members of my battalion under the command of the RSM pulling a handcart along with a plain pine coffin on it. Behind the cart were two men carrying a huge wreath of laurel and pine with a large golden ribbon adorning it; this had obviously been made from one of our nylon identification scarves, which were used for calling in air support. Later I learned that it was the funeral of my own platoon officer, Lieutenant Woods, who had been wounded in the lung at Arnhem and had died as the result of the terrible journey to the camp. This was yet another needless death."
According to information on the website www.paradata.org.uk Woods was injured by shrapnel towards the end of the battle. 
Picture: 29-10-2016
No man shall say
That he failed
 
Sources: Website CWGC, website www.marketgarden.com, website www.paradata.org.uk,'Brotherhood of the Cauldron', 'Arnhem Spearhead' and Roll of Honour

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