Veteran Stories:
Les Davison

Army

  • In 1969, Les Davison returned to the church where he hid in Holland during the war. He hid in the attic of the minister of Wapenveld Church for five weeks awaiting an opportunity to escape back into Allied territory.

  • Postcard of Arnhem Cemetery.

  • Map of Arhem, where thousands of paratroopers landed to try to liberate the Netherlands from Nazi control.

  • On October 19, 1945, Les Davison's Commanding Officer wrote to congratulate him on behalf of 224 Parachute Field Ambulance for being mentioned in dispatches.

  • Newsletter for the "Arnhem 1944 Veterans' Club."

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"I had no intention of going to a POW camp if I could help it and I jumped off the train."

Transcript

My name is Les Davison and I was in British Army but I've been in Canada for fifty-three years, and I was in the Parachute Regiment Medical Corps. I was a medic – I wasn't a fighting soldier. I was called up, or drafted as they use the term here, in November of 1942, and after initial basic training I joined the Parachute Regiment in September '43. I went to 16th Parachute Field Ambulance, which is part of the 1st Airborne Division of England, and from there, after some time at the headquarters, I was transferred out as a medic attached to the fighting battalions. I was sent to the 1st Battalion in January of '44.

I was transferred to 3rd Battalion, doing the same job as medic, on September 17th. We parachuted into Arnhem in Holland, on an operation which was called 'Market Garden' and there were ten thousand that landed there behind the north side of the Rhine and right in the middle of the German lines. I became prisoner because I was working in the St. Elizabeth Hospital in Arnhem, which is about the equivalent of Victoria Hospital here in London, and the Germans won the battle and they took it over and we all became prisoners. All the medics and the doctors all became prisoners. We were sent to another barracks in Apeldoorn where we ran a hospital all on our own and we put about thirteen hundred people through there. Then they put us on a train for Germany for POW camp, which was on a regular passenger train that had been converted into a hospital train. The seats were taken out and bunks were laid on each side, and there were thirty-six bunks on each coach. All the rest had been sent locked in boxcars but we were sent on the hospital train because we had the most seriously wounded with us and we had to look after them on the way to the POW camp. However, I had no intention of going to a POW camp if I could help it and I jumped off the train after it had been going for about half an hour, along with a doctor from my home town called Theo Redman. We spent three months with the Dutch Underground, and I swam the River Rhine on December 6th, from north to south, and the Canadians picked us up on the other side.

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