Jack Bruce



Pay Respect

Guys, it is with great sadness I have placed Sgt Jack Bruce on the Honour Roll

Sergeant Jack Bruce – The Glider Pilot Regiment

After joining the Army in January 1940 age 20, I was posted to the 2nd/8th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, a Territorial Battalion with the job of a Machine Gun unit attached to the 51st Highland Division.

My specific job was rangefinder for the guns and understudy to the dispatch rider. We were posted to defence duties in the London area which included covering Ack Ack Batteries in North London and guarding the docks at Millwall, where I was issued with a life belt as well as a rifle in case I fell into the water in the dark.

One particular incident gave me an early lesson in warfare. We were guarding Kenley airfield when we had a very low level daylight raid by Dorniers and Hienkel bombers, they were so low you could see the pilots’ faces. In one bunker, about sixty Women’s Royal Air Force [WRAF] ladies had sheltered, it took a direct hit and they were all killed instantly.

We were sent to Ulster in December 1941 for battlefield training and were a fairly untrained rabble playing at soldiers when a regular officer, Captain Cummings was sent to us and pulled us into shape. We eventually became the Demo platoon for the Battalion; we learned what was required of us and rapidly turned into soldiers. We gave a demonstration to the first US troops to arrive in Northern Ireland by firing off the Royal Port Rush golf course at targets in the sea.

After a few months I was promoted to Lance Corporal and while stationed in Ulster I returned to London to marry my pre-war girlfriend Rosie. It was around this time I applied to be a Glider Pilot and in November 1942 was sent for training to Tilshead Camp in the middle of Salisbury Plain. There wasn’t much flying at first, they had to make sure you were suitable for the Regiment so normal soldiering carried on.

Tilshead was a funny camp, a near-by Artillery unit would fire its shells over us, this was noisy and occasionally a shell would drop short making life very exciting. It did make me wonder whose side I was on. Flying training completed, I was posted to ‘A’ Squadron 17 flight under the instruction of a Staff Sergeant Ranfield. He was from Lancaster and had been in the Army since he was a boy.

We were preparing for D-Day which we knew wasn’t far off although the actual date was top secret. On the 6th June we took part in follow-up flights with equipment going into Ranville, then a trip to Sword beach for a boat ride home to Newhaven.

On the 17th September Operation Market-Garden took place in the attempt to secure the bridge over the Lower Rhine at Arnhem. Our squadron was split with half going to Mansden in Kent to fly out the Headquarters of 1st Airborne Division to Nijmegen.

We were sent to Tarrant Rushton in Devon to prepare for Market Garden. On the 18th September we took off for the Dutch Landing Zones. Behind our Halifax tug aircraft we were carrying a Jeep and munitions along with four lads in the rear of the glider from the RASC.

A few miles out from the Landing Zones we dropped in height and got ready to drop the tug and come in. We could see the smoke from the landing zones in the far distance. We were now at between 1500 and 2000 feet when an amazing amount of flak and tracer fire came up to greet us.
Considering it was daylight it was like a firework display outside the glider and it was no surprise when the tow rope was hit and broke in two – now we were on our own.

I watched the Halifax bank around to get clear of the Ack Ack and off he went, we identified a landing area right in front of us and in we came. We landed near a brick works and a laundry; we were in Wageningen and very quickly rounded up by German troops.

Three of us got out of the glider and three were trapped, injured still inside. One of the lads in the back was in a bad way and the following day he died of his injuries. There is a photograph of me taken just after I was captured standing with a German officer, he is holding a Luger pistol and I’m eating a pear. The photograph was taken by a Mr Leinwebber with a Kodak camera; we remained firm friends after the war.

After local interrogation I was taken to a POW camp Stalag 4B in Muhlberg, East Germany where I remained until April 1945. We were liberated by the Russians and handed over to the Americans, I crossed the River Elb at a town called Reisa and sent for repatriation.

I was flown home to England in a Dakota a couple of week’s later, arriving back a lot thinner than on my departure.


To share your memories about Jack use the form below. If you'd like to share a photo you can do by clicking the photo icon along the bottom of the comment box.