The battle of John Frost's second Bn at Arnhem Bridge
Sergeant Nevill Ashley, Co. A 2nd Bn 1st ABN DIV
Sgt. Ashley landed at Heelsum with the first wave of paras on the 17th of September. Company A of which sgt. Ashley was part, let the attack of John Frost's second battalion through Heelsum, in the direction of the railroad bridge south of Oosterbeek. Just outside the village of Heelsum, the company ambushed a German truck convoy. Several German vehicles where destroyed in the ambush. The Germans were completely taken by surprise by the ambush. Not aware of the fact that the British had landed, the Germans thought that they were fired upon by their own men and where therefore reluctant in returning fire.
In the meanwhile Company C under command of Lt. Peter Berry had pushed through to the river, where the railroad bridge was blown up in face of the Company. Company A caught up with Co. C at the river and proceeded towards the city of Arnhem. Co B was left to hold the Germans off of the road near DenBrink.
Lt. Greyburn, a platoonleader in A Company send a section under Sgt. Billy Fulton over the traffic bridge, when they arrived there and found the bridge intact. The section of seven men walked on the northern entrance of the bridge, when they tried to reach the southern entrance they were challenged by a German sentry that shot Sgt. Fulton in his leg. The section retreated, leaving the wounded Fulton on the bridge. A half an hour later the British soldiers would return and carry him of the bridge.
Meanwhile the main body of Company A, together with the officers of the battalion headquarter had arrived at the northern end of the bridge. The platoon led by Lt. Vlasto then took positions in the houses under the bridge. Another attempt was undertaken to cross the bridge. This time two platoons would try to cross. Lt. Greyburn with the remainder of his platoon advanced on the left side of the road and Lt. McDermont's platoon, led by sgt. Ashley advanced on the right side. The Germans saw the British coming and lowered their 20 mm anti aircraft guns and fired them across the bridge. Six men were killed in the assault and the remainder was forced to retreat.
On September the 20th Sgt. Ashley was shot in his leg by a German sniper. He was then moved to a storage room under the bridge together with other wounded soldiers. That day the Germans brought in Tiger 1 tanks and blasted the bridge abutment at close range. Infantry closed in with flame throwers and were in position to fire into the room in which sgt Ashley was, when he told a German prisoner that was with him in the room, to call out to the Germans and tell them the men in the room wanted to surrender. The Germans held their fire and the British came out of the room. Sgt. Ashley smashed his stengun against the pillar of the bridge when he came out of the room. The Germans laid the wounded in the grass on the embankment and treated their wounds.
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