Lt J S D Hardy, RSO of 1 Border Regiment in Operation Ladbroke

Lt J S D Hardy was Regimental Signals Officer of the 1st Battalion of the Border Regiment in Operation Ladbroke. This is his account.

Lt J S D Hardy account - Capo Murro di Porco cliffs and lighthouse from the SE, Operation-Ladbroke_com (C) Aurora Publishing

The point of Cape Murro di Porco seen from the south-east. There were no pleasure boats about when Waco glider 57 ditched into the sea near these cliffs in the darkness of 9 July 1943.

Lt J S D Hardy was part of the Battalion HQ team of 1 Border Regiment in Waco glider 57 [story] during Operation Ladbroke, the glider assault that spearheaded Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily on 9 July 1943. His glider landed in the sea just south of the cliffs of Cape Murro di Porco. A week after the invasion, back in Tunisia, he wrote a report on his experiences which was filed with the battalion war diary. What follows is his report in full, with editorial additions or corrections in square brackets [like this]:

“The glider took off from Strip C at 1915 hrs and circled to get into formation for about twenty minutes. As soon as all the gliders were in the air a course was set out to sea. Before take-off the crew were all instructed what to do in case of the glider coming down in the sea, on the correct landing zone, or a crash landing off the zone. The crew were all Bn HQ personnel, Lt Col G.V. Britten, MBE, Capt N.A.H. Stafford, Capt G.G. Black, Lt J.S.D. Hardy, Sjt Burton, L Cpl Toman, L Cpl Smith, Pte Clark, Pte Ditte, Pte Cull, Cpl Day and Sgm Gilbert. The two pilots were Lt [Buchan] and an American pilot.

The trip was uneventful, and the glider, with a fairly heavy load, flew very well. The load included a handcart and five folding cycles, as well as two No. 18 sets, carried by the signallers.

Two islands, which we took to be Linosa and Malta were the only land sighted until about [2200] hrs, when the coast of Sicily could be plainly seen off the port side. There was a little flak, but none of it came very near us at all. Our pilot cast off at what we, the crew, thought was the correct place, but which, was as near as the tug was willing to go without taking evasive action. We were actually quite a way out at a height of only 1300 ft. We glided all along the South coast of the Cap du Porco [Cape Murro di Porco], heading straight for the LZ, but could not make landfall. Lt [Buchan] gave us “prepare to ditch”, but his order was not heard at the back of the glider. The front emergency doors were jettisoned, and the rear doors still locked when the glider actually hit the water.

The fuselage filled absolutely immediately, but there was no panic at all. About half of the crew came through the doors, the remainder through the roof. The first men out started to split the roof as soon as they were clear, and thereby saved the lives of those still inside.

We formed up on the wings a little shaken, but really no worse, and were about to make a plan of action when we and another glider some 50 or 60 yds away were engaged by two MG posts on the cliffs. The enemy fired a few illumination rockets towards us, but their lights did not make the fire much more accurate.

Our only arms were three revolvers and about 18 rounds of amn, so it was useless trying to get all the crew ashore as a fighting unit. We decided to make for the shore in twos and threes, those of us that were armed keeping together to try to do something about the enemy posts. On arrival in shore we found ourselves at the bottom of a cliff face where it was impossible to get higher to get into position anywhere near the enemy posts. We decided to lay up until the following morning.

At 0220 hrs on the morning of the 10th, a [Wellington] bomber, which must have been hit by flak, dropped its bomb load in the water about thirty yards away from us, then crashed into the sea itself. Capt Stafford was wounded in the neck and the hand.

At first light we moved along the cliff face then climbed to a ledge fifteen or twenty feet higher. We found all the crew except three, gathered them together, and decided to swim out to the gliders to try to get some water and tinned food. Two or three of us were fairly successful, so the situation, apart from lack of arms, was not too bad. We also managed to get some of the first aid kits from the gliders.

At 1000 hrs Lt Col Britten [the battalion CO] decided to attempt to break through to the Bn area, a distance of six to eight miles, so he and Lt Hardy left at 1400 hrs, hoping to meet up with the Bn by first light the next day. We covered about 1000 yds in the first two hours, this in stockinged feet over the rocks was better than we had hoped, but we thought this too slow, so we pocketed our revolvers and decided to walk boldly through.

We met Lt Green [probably Alan G Green, CO of 15 Platoon in C Company] at about 1700 hrs, he had a batch of thirty or forty prisoners, but no definite information about the Bn as a whole. We filled our water bottles, had some tea and pressed on.

At one place on our way we looked over a wall and saw some 60 Italians, soldiers and civilians. The soldiers were armed so we bluffed them that we had the situation in hand, took their arms and made them destroy them, explaining as best we could that as far as they were concerned the war was over. We could not of course take them prisoner. They gave us quite a cheer as we left.

As darkness set in we were stopped by two men of the Glider Pilot Regiment, they told us they were with a pl of the S. Stafford Regt. As their forming up area was more or less the same as ours they joined us, together we made for Waterloo [the Ponte Grande bridge].

The rest of our journey was more or less uneventful and we reported to Bde HQ at about 2000 hrs. By this time our feet were pretty tender, so we de-booted the first of the many PW [prisoners of war].

We joined Major T.P.H. du Boulay [the CO of H Company, wounded, but the senior present officer in the battalion until now] at about 2100 hrs in the Bn area where we rested for the night. The Bn moved into SYRACUSE at about 0800 hrs the next day, and from there parties were sent out to collect the wounded, and arm the unarmed men with enemy weapons.

Capt Stafford was collected at about 1000 hrs on the 11th and sent off to the CCS [Casualty Clearing Station] on George Beach. The remainder moved to the Bn area on cycles with as much kit as could be collected from the gliders in an old Italian car.”

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