The intentions to document this information are long standing in that they go back some two decades to the early/mid 1990’s, just a few years before the subject of this site, James Kitchener Heath passed away.

As is the case in so many families in which a generation experienced war and all its traumas, certain aspects of service are known, but all too often the details are sketchy and disjointed. Add into this mix the passage of time and the result is invariably a collection of stories and fragments of memories accompanied by a handful of fragile and faded documents (if you are lucky) that represent the sum of information relating to the most extraordinary period in a soldier’s life. This was certainly the case in our family..... and it’s not much to go on.

In February 1995, my Father and I struggled to put together a potted service history to be read by the cleric presiding over my Grandfather’s funeral. At this point I decided to take steps to fill in some of the gaps as best I could.... sadly now without the benefit of first hand testimony.

A well known turn of phrase, ‘written on the back of a fag packet’ is defined by the Collins on-Line dictionary as something ‘composed or formed quickly and without detailed analysis or research’. As far as first hand source material for this history is concerned, no better a description could be made. The details gleaned from my Grandfather in brief (and often emotional) discussions in the 1990’s are summarised as a list of place names written in an old man’s shaky handwriting on the back of a standard envelope! (this will feature later). On the upside, a standard envelope is approximately twice the size of a cigarette packet, which immediately doubles the amount of information to work with!

By my own admission, this site is a little self-indulgent, being of primary interest to myself, my mother, my children and a handful of relatives still living in Staffordshire. In addition, it may be that the information presented here will be read by others outside of the family who have a passing interest in military or family history.

I would welcome any comments/suggestions or dare I say it relevant information to contact me.

Monday, 4 January 2016

And then..... September 2015

Hi Adrian,

I was out to dinner with Col. Douglas last week and I took the opportunity to raise with him the question regarding whether or not your grandfather was in 16 Platoon, D Company. I also showed him extracts from your blog regarding your grandfather and the photographs on there of your grandfather.

Unfortunately, whilst he said the name rings a bell, he said he couldn't really remember. He said it was easy to remember those who were "very good" or those who were "very bad", but difficult to remember the bulk of the men who just went about their business quietly and efficiently, as they should.

He did say that if Sergeant Little MM was your grandfather's sergeant then in all likelihood he was in 16 Platoon. Whether he was on the Haalderen raid would be more difficult to say. The likelihood is that he would be there if he was in 16 Platoon but inevitably there might be one or two men left behind for all sorts of reasons.

He said the only way you might be able to find out more would be to track down Corporal/Sergeant Mellor DCM (who took over as Platoon Sergeant from Sergeant Little) or a member of his family if he is no longer alive. He may have kept in touch with people post war. As Col. Douglas went to Africa with KAR after the war and then joined the regular army a couple of years later he rather lost touch with many of his men, and in those days it wasn't so easy to track people down.

He did comment on some parts of the blog. He's pretty certain that measuring the depth of the water would have been on The Island, near Nijmegen, after the Germans had breached the flood defences and there were spring floods. He says it would be unlikely to be Rosendaal as there was no water of significance, or at least which was a problem there.

He also thinks that the wounding on 7th April 1945 may not have been in Nijmegen itself but nearby, on The Island, whilst clearing it prior to the liberation of Arnhem. Your grandfather may have been taken to Nijmegen for treatment. Nijmegen at that time was pretty safe, he recalls, and the clearing of The Island started on around 2nd April 1945 and there were pockets of localised fighting for a few days thereafter as they push up across The Island.

Col. Douglas says that Sergeant Little was his third Sergeant of the North West Europe campaign, Sergeant Mellor the fourth. The first lost his life in the fighting around Fontenay/Rauray, the second to the East of Caen (whilst Col. Douglas was at an 'O' Group meeting and he was waiting outside, a stray mortar shell came literally out of nowhere on a quiet day and it was a direct hit, leaving in Col. Douglas's words, pretty much just his boots and his weapon). Sergeant Little, as you know, was killed immediately on landing behind the enemy lines at Haalderen. Apparently he shouldn't have actually been the first man off the boat, he should have been the last man off, to make sure that everyone else got off, but he was very eager.

I'm sorry I can't have been of more assistance.

Best wishes,

It’s a wonderful thing this military research, frustrating and confusing at times, but thoroughly absorbing and on occasions such as tonight highly satisfying!

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