March Second World War hero who defied Germans during Battle of Arnhem before becoming prisoner of war tells his story
- Credit: Archant
Seventy years ago, paratrooper Trevor Pentney, of the 1st division of the Parachute Regiment attached to the 2nd Battalion, was involved in one of the boldest, though ultimately unsuccessful, offensives of the Second World War.
On September 17 1944, Pentney, of Morton Avenue in March, was one of thousands of British and American troops dropped behind enemy lines to capture the eight bridges which spanned the canals and rivers on the Dutch/German border.
Had Operation Market Garden been successful, it could have brought about a swift end to the war.
The Allies met with fierce resistance and only a small force was able to reach the Arnhem road bridge. After four days, the small British force at the bridge was overwhelmed.
Pentney was dropped at Wolfheze. His regiment headed for Arnhem bridge but was stopped in its tracks at Oosterbeek. They defied the German forces for nine days before the call was made to evacuate.
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The human cost of the Battle of Arnhem was startling - the Parachute division left behind nearly 1,500 dead and more than 6,500 prisoners, many badly wounded.
He said: “We were supposed to go to the Arnhem bridge but we met with quite a bit of resistance and only got as far as Oosterbeek, which had been the German headquarters
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“We settled in there and dug foxholes. We dived into them when they bombarded us. Up until then I used to pray but when I saw blokes just lying there dead I thought what’s the point.
“One night a German vehicle drove around with a speaker. The man said ‘Gentleman of Arnhem you have fought well but you are completely surrounded so surrender now’.
One of the blokes said ‘get him, so we did’.”
When the call to evacuate was made Pentney made it to the river, but there were no boats there to pick him up as they had already been sunk and he could not swim.
“I was exhausted so I lay down on the ground and fell asleep,” Pentney said.
“In the morning I felt someone kicking me. It was a German soldier. Initially after capture we were held in a garage before being transferred to railway wagons, 64 of us in each wagon.
“We were travelling for four days and ended up in Limburg.”
After interrogation in Frankfurt, Pentney and his fellow prisoners of war were transferred to Stalag 4b in Dresden, where they stayed for the rest of the war.
Even in captivity, they were able to defy their German captors.
Pentney said: “We fitted up a radio so we could keep up to date with what was going on and the Germans, even though they knew about it, never could find it, even though we just kept it stuck under a table.”
Pentney and five fellow soldiers escaped from the camp on May 8, 1945, the day the war finished.
They walked almost 200 miles from Dresden to Nuremburg, where they were flown to Reims in France, before eventually flying back to England.
Pentney had hoped to travel to Arnhem for the 70th anniversary commemorations of the battle last month, but he was in hospital and not well enough to make the planned trip.