Valiant World War Two veteran who was captured by German SS soldiers dies aged 93

A World War Two hero, who courageously escaped German SS soldiers during the battle of Arnhem, has passed away at his home in Northampton.

Tuesday, 20th November 2018, 4:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st November 2018, 3:32 pm
Alan had written down his memoirs for his family after 60 years of not speaking about the battle.

Former 4th Parachute Regiment of the Royal Engineers Alan Gauntlett, 93, had written about his memoirs in a commemorative book before he passed away.

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.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

During the battle Alan injured his leg in battle and avoided being sent straight to a prison camp.

Instead, he was held prisoner at Apeldoorn , an old Dutch military barracks that was adapted for hospital use.

Mr Gauntlett, who was 19-years-old when he went into service, revisited Arnhem 60 years later and found a hollow where he once lay wounded by shrapnel which bounced of Birch trees nearby.

In 1945, Mr Gauntlett, along with 130 soldiers, was one of many who was asked to play a role in an Arnhem film remake.

The Chronicle & Echo first interviewed him two years ago to mark the 70th anniversary of the film premiere that featured the veteran.

Speaking at the screening of Theirs is the Glory back in 2014 Alan recited a passage he wrote about his escape to his children.

His speech was retold in Theirs is The Glory Arnhem Hurst and Conflict on Film - written by Allan Esler-Smith and David Truesdale.

He said: "We were collected. Herded together - sorted out those to go to hospital and those to go straight to prisoner of war camp. With my wound I was taken to Apeldoorn Barracks Hospital and there fortunately I met a colleague from 4th Parachute Squadron RE.

"We had joined together and attempted two escapes. The first caused havoc in the barracks at 2.30am in the morning. Everyone was very annoyed. The army, the Germans, our wounded people and we ourselves felt very sorry. The second one was on October 1 at 12 noon in brilliant sunshine. My colleague and I saw an opportunity.

"A split-second opportunity and we took it. We were with the Dutch underground until October 25 and on that night we returned across the river to our own side and this was all done by the organisation of Pegasus 1, which is an entirely different story, which I would love to tell you about."

Alan and his friend then sheltered in a safe house with a Dutch family only 100 yards from where they escaped and fled to safety.

Alan was born on July 3, 1925 and was one of three children. From 1939 Fordingbridge in Hampshire became home.

On impulse one Saturday afternoon when in Salisbury, in June 1943, Alan volunteered for the Army, his first stop was was Arnhem.

But courageous Alan, who was a civil engineer after the war, was more than a soldier, he was a husband to his wife Faye, a father to his five children, Paul, Judith, John, Marie-Louise and Steve, a grandfather to his five grandchildren and great grandfather to five great grandchildren.

His granddaughter Zoe Darnbrough said: "He was our back bone. We feel like we have lost that and we lost our nan at Christmas in 2017.

"They were the strongest couple, they were amazing.

"My son is a Royal Marine cadet and he worshipped granddad, he even wore his medals. We are hoping to go to Arnhem next year as it's the 75th year anniversary year."

Mr Gauntlett had written two books to his family, one about his time growing up and his freedom as a child to play without worry and the other about his time at war.

"My grandad took everything in his stride and he was really strong. He would ask questions and was not opinionated in any way.

"He would sign off everything with 'God bless'. He stuck to his beliefs and commitment to everything.

"Our commitment to grandad is to continue to tell his story."