Ordnance

Ordnance
Stokes Mortar - one of the simplest inventions

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Operation Market Garden 17 September 1944

Seventy years ago the largest ever airborne operation was gathering at RAF Barkston Heath in Lincolnshire.

Amongst those who would take off for Arnhem were men of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, some of whom formed the Ordnance Field Park Recce Party whose job it was to seek out large garages and commandeer suitable vehicles to help transport the troops from the drop points. It was a group of seven men, including Private Ted Mordecai who wrote a gripping account of the five days he spent face to face with the enemy.

The beginning was unexceptional. The Dutch civilians, all wearing Marigolds,  welcomed the soldiers as saviours. A small village pub offered beer which they had been told to refuse. Local people gave them cups of ersatz coffee.

With the news that the battalion ahead of them was encountering tough opposition, they were ordered to press forward at all speed. Further orders came that their intended role had been shelved and they were to take an active part in securing the bridge across the river.

Ted's words paint the picture better than mine ever could:

"As we moved up the road parallel to the river we could see the span bridge outlined against flashes of gunfire against the sky. At the same time the Germans on the other side of the river were concentrating all their fire in our direction and at the bridge...the sound of shot and shell was deafening, but we inched our way forward up to the bridge..."

They successfully occupied a house within reach of the bridge. It was 2000 hours on 17 September.