Second World War veteran from Northampton talks of his time as a Battle of Arnhem prisoner
A Northampton world war two veteran, who was taken prisoner by German SS soldiers, has contributed to a new book about his time during the Battle of Arnhem.
91-year-old Alan Gauntlett, who lives in Duston with wife Faye, remembers what it was like to be a volunteer Royal Engineer 72-years-ago and has written about his memoirs in a commemorative book titled ‘Theirs is the Glory, Arnhem Hurst and Conflict on Film’.
In 1945, Mr Gauntlett, along with 130 soldiers, was one of many who was asked to play a role in an Arnhem film remake, and this year marks the 70th anniversary of the film premiere that featured the veteran.
And The Chronicle and Echo has had the privilege of reading Alan’s personal memoirs that were given to his family. He wrote: “I was held prisoner by the Germans between September 26th – 1st October 1944.
“Every night and sometimes during the day we used to hear guns and bombs in the distance and we still imagined the second army were getting nearer and would be with us in a few days.
“I boasted openly that I would be home for Christmas and we both [Squadron Lance Corporal Jon Johanson] talked of escape - pure bravado.
“I escaped with a Squadron Lance Corporal Jon Johanson, with the help and courage of the Dutch people we moved house-to-house approx 35km south-west to the [river] Rhine. On the night of 22 October 1944, 155 men were collected by Canadians and British, by boat.”
The battle of Arnhem, which was fought both in and around the Dutch town from 17– 26 September 1944, was a key encounter of the Second World War. If unbeaten, Britain’s plan was to hopefully cease combat in Europe by the end of the year and ultimately steer troops into Germany.
Alan injured his leg in battle and avoided being sent straight to a prison camp.
Instead, he was held prisoner at Appledorne, an old Dutch military barracks that was adapted for hospital use.
Mr Gauntlett, who was 19-years-old when he went into service, remembers “eating pork crackling wrapped in grass cuttings” to combat his hunger as food and ammunition were quickly running out.
Sixty years later, Alan revisited Arnhem and found a hollow where he once lay wounded by shrapnel which bounced of Birch trees nearby.
Mr Gauntlett said: “On the 60th anniversary of Arnhem, the Government said soldiers didn’t speak about the war enough.
“It was always a taboo subject, I didn’t want to speak about it, I’ve written down my memoirs for my family.”