Ralph Jones

Born: Norton Canes Staffs, 1992
Age at signing up: 18
Division: 4th Airborn
Rank: Paratrooper
There they were, King and Queen, come to inspect us, right before we’re off on our skirmish in Normandy. Now we’re all standing there, and one of the officers gets all over-enthusiastic – tries to rile us up. He gestures to us then shouts hip hip…hooray! and throws his hat up. Not one of us responds. Not a sound. Well that officer had to calm down quickly and go and pick his hat back up.
The moon is out and there are 90 of us gliders in the air. It’s beautiful actually, very beautiful. But the port hole blows before we’re even close to the ground. The whole glider is screaming with the wind. Absolutely murderous. We can’t talk, we can only mouth at each other. The glider overturns once, rights itself and we go right through the brick wall of a house and then slide along for about 100 yards.
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The staff at Aldershot hospital were worried about doodlebugs.

One day – I’d been there for weeks getting treated – this big gust of wind comes through the window next to my bed. It blows over all the medicine onto the floor and makes a load of noise. The nurse on the ward throws up her tray and makes a run for it. She thinks it’s a doodlebug!

Come back you bloody fool! shouts the doctor.

The wife was coming up to York after I’d got better, and me, big head, was there to meet her.

Thing is we pass right by each other at the train station. And it’s the smallest station in the world!

So I go back to the town and I’m thinking – where the hell is she? I feel so guilty. I walk around looking for her. Finally, I try the main road and who do I see but my wife with all my luggage. She’s fuming. Carried it around the whole of town looking for me.

It was a lovely week though. Nice weather.

On a glider again for my second jump. Thought I’d be seeing all my old mates from the 6th but I only recognise a handful. All new recruits now. Stranger’s paradise.

We’re dropping and the visibility isn’t good. Before we know

it we’ve overshot the target – we land between the river and a big squad of German parachutes, young ones. We’re trapped.

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I get a letter from two parents. They’d heard I’d been a witness to the Rhine Crossing, that I’d seen one of their lads being shot in the air. They’re only 30 miles away from where I live.

I’m not one for writing letters, so I go visit them.

They make me a cup of tea and we walk out into the garden. I tell them what happened. The father is an ex-officer from the First World War and understands the lowdown. But the mother, she isn’t happy. She can’t understand why I’m there. Why I’m there and her son isn’t.

I don’t have nightmares but I do think about it, about it all.