Wounded in Action (N.W. Europe 1944-45) - 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment
Major Bryan Elder (130065)
(Commanding ‘D’ Company)
At the start of the war Bryan Elder initially found himself as Private soldier in the Army stationed at Maidstone with the Royal West Kent Regiment. After only 8 weeks he moved to an Officer Training Unit (OCTU) at Colchester. He was commissioned in to the Sherwood Foresters Regiment at Normanton Barracks, Derby, and was then posted to the 8th Battalion in Scotland. He then spent a period of time in Northern Ireland before returning back to Scotland in autumn of 1942. Shortly after he went with the Sherwood Foresters to Reykjavik, Iceland for winter training. On his return back to England he was posted to Whittingham Barracks at Lichfield. Shortly after he moved to Wrotham in Kent to take over the duty of Weapons Training Officer at a Pre OCTU training centre. At the beginning of 1944 he was appointed acting major commanding a company.
In August 1944 as a Reinforcement Officer he sailed from Newhaven to France, and landed at Mulberry Harbour. He was then posted to the 1st Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment who had just taken heavy losses at Mount Pincon. He arrived at St. Pierre la Vieille on the 15th August 1944 and was posted as a Captain to be second in command of “D” Company.
On the 12th February 1945 he was awarded the Military Cross (M.C.) for his actions in commanding ‘D’ Company during Operation Veritable.
Major Bryan Elder, M.B.E., M.C.
Towards the end of the war on the 14th April 1944 the battalion was advancing towards the river Lethe, just short of the village of Ahlhorn, with ‘D’ Company in the lead, with Major Bryan Elder in command. During this action Major Elder was severely wounded in the right leg.
Lt. K. Hill, Lt. R. Fellows and Major B. Elder
Bryan recalls what happened:
Ahlhorn Crossroads was our next objective, and “D” Company led the advance clearing craters and road blocks etc., until we reached the line of the River Lethe about 2000 yards short of Ahlhorn Crossroads.
The bridge across the River Lethe was blown up and there was no possibility of our tanks proceeding further. However, 17 Platoon managed to wade through the River and gain a strong bridgehead in a farmhouse area left of the bridge crater, in spite of heavy enemy fire. To the right there was an imposing house (which turned out to be a maternity hospital) and there was a somewhat inferior bridge for light vehicles to get to the house. We secured the area round the house and I took a Tank Officer to inspect the possibility of using the bridge to get a tank across the river to support our troops. He said he would attempt to get across, and to my relief he was successful. He took up a position at the far side of the river whose main bridge had been blown up. We then had a bridgehead over the River Lethe.
I remember suddenly realising that I might well have forgotten to tell the Tank Commander that our 17 Platoon held the farmhouse to the left, so I went to the tank to use the speaker unit on the left side of the tank and to the rear. The next moment I was bowled over by automatic fire from down the road from the enemy. Fortunately there was a ditch, and I lay helpless. The bravery of the Stretcher Bearers now became apparent as they came with their red and white flag and stretcher and carried me to the area of the maternity home from where I was able to hand over the tricky (to say the least) situation. To my eternal disgrace, when a lady Nurse from the maternity home offered to dress my wounds, I told her to get back in the cellar of the house.
The house used at Ahlhorn by ‘D’ Company
I was taken back to a field infirmary where the wounds were attended to, and then flown back to Basingstoke to the Park Prewett Army Hospital. I managed to get a telephone message relayed to my Wife’s Father’s garage at Henley-on-Thames, reassuring them that I was being well attended to and not too seriously wounded, which was just as well, as a telegram arrived from the War Office:
“Major Bryan Elder seriously wounded, whereabouts unknown”
Attack at Ahlhorn - Major Elder wounded
I do not remember much about my first days in hospital except that I was on a four-wheeled bed, which was shunted from one theatre to another as required. I was obviously drowsy with drugs as they did various things and finally got me in a “Jackson traction” with my right leg in the air suspended at 45 degrees. My ward had some 8 or 9 wounded soldiers all with different wounds. There was no despondency and in spite of some of the more seriously wounded not having too much expectancy, there was no defeatism. My Wife visited me 3 or 4 times each week travelling from Henley-on-Thames and back, and was a great source of encouragement at all times. The Sister and Nurses were fantastic and did all they could to encourage us to look forward to the future.
When I had had my leg up for 10 weeks or so, I noticed a green coloured grub on the sheets. This aroused great interest and the Specialist inspected the same and decided that it had come from the plaster on my leg in the air. So my plaster was duly taken off very carefully and it was covered in these green grubs, which were hurriedly placed in large glass bottles to be used when patients failed to react to the normal penicillin injections. My wound was shining just like meat cleaved in a butcher’s shop, and natural skin formed in a very short time.
About this time, my Wife came in beaming as usual, but with a little extra glow when she produced a letter for me to read. It was an announcement that I had been awarded the Military Cross.
I finally got out of hospital on full crutches, and able to drive, so it was off to Heanor with my Wife, Ian our Son, and we took an unfurnished semi-detached house at Nuthall where my Father was the Rector.
Men of 'D' Company, 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment (Germany 1945)
L to R: Pte. ??? (company clerk), CSM Bryan, Pte. ???, Major Bryan Elder, Pte. Dick Pigneguey, Capt. Percy Huxter
After the war Bryan became a Chartered Surveyor and J.P. living at Matlock, Derbyshire. Bryan died on the 8th February 2000 at the age of 83.