The Military Army Blog

Wartime hero relives his own great escape (From The Argus)

AMID enemy gunfire during one of the most famous operations of the Second World War, the smallest act of kindness saved John Glover s life. Aged 19 and face-to-face with German war troops, compassion, not brute force, was his saving grace during the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944. Known as Frederick to his service comrades, but John to friends and family back home in Woodingdean, Mr Glover was in the 9th battalion Parachute Regiment.

One of a handful of unmarried personnel chosen for the mission, he flew over in gliders from Bulford Camp in Wiltshire on to Sword Beach the codename during the operation for the coastline between Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer and Ouistreham. The plan had gone a bit wrong for Mr Glover and his comrades. Their mission was to get to the battery a long-range set of guns set up to bombard enemy ships but they landed slightly too far away in an orchard past the beach and were immediately faced with an onslaught of German troops.

There was about 650 of them and 150 of us. There was no time for worrying about what was happening. Our training just kicked in and we knew instantly what to do. There was no moment of bewilderment, he said. As the clash subsided he tried his best to catch up with the rest of his troops along the beach but was lagging behind.

I had been wounded badly in both legs. I tried to do them up and catch up but I was getting further behind.

He came across two injured German soldiers which he claimed as his prisoners but noticed one had been hit in the leg and the other was badly shot in the stomach.

I was armed and they were effectively my prisoners. I thought the British troops were going to come back and find me but I was too far away. Despite their opposing allegiances, he took out a draught of morphine a comrade had given him for a time of need and instead of using for his own relief, he handed it to the German with the stomach wound. He did not know it at the time, but his considerate actions between enemies saved his life.

I gave him what morphine I had. He was in more need of it than I. You find during war there is this strange camaraderie between troops, particularly wounded troops, despite the sides.

Then we heard these shots. Some other German troops saw us, they swung round and came towards us. I was very aware that I had two weapons on me a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife and a gammon bomb.

They didn t like that at all and it began to get ugly.

Mr Glover began to fear the worst but before he knew it, his prisoners had stepped in.

I couldn t understand German but I assumed they must have explained what I had done for them because they stopped and looked at me. They seemed to be grateful. He was taken off in a jeep, operated on by a German surgeon and held captive as he recovered and continued to be treated. He ended up in a hospital in Paris with other prisoners who needed treatment and began to plot his escape to avoid the risk of being taken to a prisoner of war camp. As he was carried in on a stretcher, medics secretly offered him a thumbs up salute which he said assured him he was among friends who later turned out to be members of the French Resistance.

In the coming months he made himself useful on the wards to earn the trust of the staff. He said: I would offer to help in the Dying Room as they called it where they were treating those who were incredibly ill. I helped out with all the unsavoury jobs like clearing the bed pans and eventually I could walk in-between the wards without anyone really paying attention to me.

One of the French Resistance staff helped my escape. He left a white coat out for me one day which I stored away and I hid a bed pan, he said. By chance, he managed to sneak into an empty room where he found a valise with a pistol in it.

I can t explain it. It was like I was drawn to the room and I just knew what I was looking for. I opened the valise and take this pistol out.

Then, after biding his time, he made his escape.

I left the ward with the pistol hidden in the bed pan and wearing the white coat. There were some steps, I had to make my way down towards the incinerator. We weren t meant to go down there and it was patrolled by two guards. I took my chance and made my way past them to the room holding the bed pan at a distance and making an expression as though it smelt. They didn t even look at me. Once out of their sight he clambered up through a small window onto a high outside wall. The only way out was to jump and the drop battered his legs which were only in the early stages of recovery. Luckily members of the French Resistance were nearby to help escapees. They hid him in a shop before taking him to a safe house and then to an unoccupied hospital where he recovered. Some sixth months later he was flown back to English shores, and recovered in a convalescent home in Shaftesbury before finally rejoining his battalion back at base in late October. He said the welcome from his superiors Where have you been Glover? will always make him chuckle.

The irony was The Rising of the French Resistance started a few days after I escaped and lots of people just walked right out of the hospital. He went on to take part in the Ardennes offensive and Rhine crossing with the battalion and after the war returned to Brighton, taking up a post with a machinery and engineering firm.

It was here he met his wife Rita and they married, having two sons, and later two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren were born. Over the years he has been awarded a number of war medals for his bravery and makes an annual pilgrimage to Merville, in northern France, in memory of the conflict. On Friday the 89-year-old takes to the skies for the first time since the landings, at Headcorn Aerodrome in Kent to raise money for Cancer Research UK after Rita died from the disease five years ago, aged 84. It is his first tandem skydive, which he has organised to mark his 90th birthday in November. But he said he is not in the least bit nervous.

I m not a nervous person. I m quite looking forward to it. I thought it would be a good way to celebrate my birthday and to remember my wife and help those who also have cancer. She was a wonderful woman, I miss her every day, he added.

Friends are welcome to watch the jump. Donate at justgiving.com/Frederick-Glover[1] or call 01273 544539 and The Argus will pass your details to Mr Glover directly.

References

  1. ^ justgiving.com/Frederick-Glover (justgiving.com)

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