VE Day 75: One man’s journey through Arnhem and home again.

A personal account of a Great-Grandfather’s bravery and determination during the Second World War

This year the 8th of May marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. For the vast majority of us, this day is predominantly symbolic as we have no personal experience of the Second World War (WW2). But we are able to gain a greater understanding of VE day’s significance from those who were there and are willing to share their stories and experiences of WW2.

I was asked to share a story of my family connection to WW2. I am Daniel Van Hinsbergh, a civil servant working in Strategic Command as a Communications Officer. In this blog I will give a personal account of my Great-Grandfather, Sergeant Albert Jackman, affectionately known as “Ted”.

My Great-Grandfather, Sergeant Albert Edward Jackman, otherwise known to the family as “Ted”, endured experiences I could not even begin to comprehend. Through taking this journey of research into his service during WW2, I have come to realise how truly brave he and his fellow soldiers were.

Ted was born 18 February 1920 the eldest of 7 children. In 1942 aged 22, having just taken a gardening apprenticeship at Kew Gardens, he was conscripted to join the military. Following his basic training, he joined the 2nd Parachute Battalion (2 Para) and he was promoted from Private to Sergeant. As a part of 2 Para Ted served in North Africa, Sicily and most famously Arnhem in Holland, where he took part in the Battle of Arnhem.

2ND PARACHUTE BATTALION

My Great-Grandfather can be seen on the far left of the photograph above

On 29 November, 1942, 2 Para, alongside the 1st Parachute Brigade dropped in to Depienne airfield in Tunisia. The objective was to destroy enemy planes at Oudna, nine miles from Tunis. This was achieved, but unexpectedly heavy German resistance prevented the advancing of 1st Army and 2 Para became isolated 56 miles behind enemy lines. Attacked by German air and armour, 2 Para conducted a fighting withdrawal to re-join the Allied lines, losing 266 men en-route. Ted was one of the lucky survivors. During the next five months to April 1943 the battalion fought through the winter as line infantry. Oudna became a Parachute Regiment battle honour.

In 1943, Ted and 2 Para dropped into Sicily with the 1st Parachute Brigade during the difficult and costly attempt to secure the Primosole Bridge. They also participated in the later sea landings and fighting around Taranto in Italy that September. In November the battalion returned to the UK with the 1st Airborne Division and Ted was briefly on home soil in preparation for Operation Market Garden.

My Great-Grandfather, Sargent Albert Edward Jackman approaching the DZ in his parachute.

On 17 September 1944 2 Para were dropped at Arnhem as a part of Operation Market Garden. Ted dropped as part of the mortar platoon. The objective was to seize the three bridges over the Rhine forming a bridgehead to allow the advanced units of the 2nd Army free passage whilst denying the use of it to the enemy. According to Ted, his Commanding Officer had died, leaving him and another Sergeant in charge of 2Para. Between them, they took the decision to split the Battalion, Ted taking half of the me right and the other Sergeant advanced left. Sadly, the others were killed in action and only Ted’s men survived.

Following the successful capture of a road bridge, Ted and his men found themselves cut off, but they held their ground despite incessant German tank and infantry attacks for three days and four nights. The division’s objective had been to hold for 48 hours before being relieved by the advancing Corps. These troops never arrived. At this stage the Battalion was reduced to a few survivors, who were eventually captured and taken Prisoners of War. Speaking years later, Ted told us that this was one of the most frightening moments in his life. He had witnessed many of his men dying in front of his eyes and there was nothing he could do to help them.

Sergeant Albert Edward Jackman was captured at Arnhem and was taken prisoner of war on 27 September 1944. Back home his loving fiancé and family were distraught, having been told that he was missing and presumed dead. What followed was a period of what could only have been the most excruciating worry, not knowing what had happened to their beloved. But 7 months later on 24 April 1945, Ted’s family gratefully received confirmation that he was alive and in Walsall Manor hospital with severe malnutrition.

A letter received by family members where my Great-Grandfather was presumed missing
Letter sent to family members on 24 April 1945

On the 8th of May 1945 victory was achieved and the nation celebrated the very first VE day. This incredible achievement was in no small part down to the effort of men like Ted. But, his experiences during the war had destroyed his mental health, suffering what is now described as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Token of appreciation from the Barnes War Effort Committee after it was discovered my Grandfather had been held a prisoner of war for 7 months

Despite this, He went on to have 2 daughters, 6 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren who were his life and he worked as a caretaker at a school until his retirement in 1985. He was a very lovely and kind man; whose whole mantra was good deeds and kind thoughts to all people. He always had time to spend with me and the family, and I was the only family member who managed to get him to talk about his experiences during Second World War. He never complained about anything, always saw the positives and when I think of my Great Grandad all I have are happy memories.

Ted’s story is one of selflessness and devotion in service to his nation, one of many who helped us achieve victory 75 years ago. At that time, we came together and made it through one of the most difficult periods in history and this wouldn’t have been achieved without the sacrifices of so many. Millions of families had someone like Ted in their lives. Not all of them were lucky enough to have them return home safely. Through telling my Great-Grandfather’s story not only do we gain some understanding of the true cost of war, but we see the greatness and courage in others.

He was and forever will be a hero to his loving family.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Ministry of Defence

Ministry of Defence

DefenceHQ is the official corporate news channel of the UK Ministry of Defence.