The Lost Photos of Operation Ladbroke

Somewhere somebody has an album with some unique, unpublished photographs of Operation Ladbroke in it. Historians have seen them, but nobody knows where they are now. A plea for bringing them to light.

I’m hoping readers may be able to help track down some photographs of the Ponte Grande bridge near Syracuse in Sicily. The bridge was the primary target for the glider assault during Operation Ladbroke on 9 July 1943. There is also a photograph of the men who fought at the bridge which is now missing. Photographs of the bridge are extremely rare, as are shots of Operation Ladbroke airborne troops in Sicily.

The Blockhouse on the Ponte Grande

In the first case, somewhere there is an album of photographs, apparently taken after the war. Perhaps the photographer had fought in Sicily. I was told about this album by a man who was in contact with the family that owns the album, but he has since lost their contact details. There were five photographs on one particular page. The centre one was of the fishing village of Scoglitti (where American forces landed during Operation Husky on 10 July 1943), but the other four were of the Ponte Grande bridge and the area around it. Captions were along the lines of “Bridge near Syracusa”. Uniquely, a couple of the photos show the blockhouse / pillbox on the bridge. No other photographs of the blockhouse are known to exist.

Survivors of the Battle

The other case of a lost photograph concerns a group photo which glider pilot H N ‘Andy’ Andrews says was taken after the battle. Andrews flew Waco 10 during Operation Ladbroke, barely reaching land next to an Italian searchlight, way south of the LZs. He carried some senior officers, including Colonel ‘Jonah’ Jones, who next day led the men in a successful attack on an enemy howitzer battery. As a result Andrews did not reach the bridge until after the battle for it was over.

In his book ‘So You Wanted to Fly, Eh?’, Andrews wrote how “Richard N Clark and Jack Battersby in Waco 67” took part in the battle for the bridge, were captured and then released. “Later they took a photograph with a ‘liberated’ camera showing a group of survivors; it is believed that it is the only photograph still available.” Andrews did not include the photograph in his book, and his son says it is not in his father’s papers. The photo seems to have about 50 people in it, in four rows. Andrews identifies many, but not all of them. Many names are those of Operation Ladbroke glider pilots, including: Barclay, Scott, Landsell, Cairns, Morgan, Leadbetter, Hay, Coates, Barnwell, Hill, Nutton, Cushing, Reddish, Clarke, Smith, Stewart.

It would be sad if these unique images were lost to the history of this remarkable operation. I would like to use them in a book I may write about Operation Ladbroke, and would happily pay an appropriate licence fee. If you can help, please send me a message using the “Leave a Reply” section below, and I will send a reply to your email address. Neither your comment nor your email address will be published.

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2 Responses to The Lost Photos of Operation Ladbroke

  1. Christopher Hollis says:

    It’s a long story but I have a print of the sketch done by the artist Bryan de Grineau showing the attack on the Ponte Grande bridge. I believe this sketch is not on the internet. The artist has drawn Galpin’s glider and the South Staffs rushing the bridge. There is a figure taking the demolition charges off the structure who I have learnt is Pvt I Curnock RAMC. Have you seen this print, is it of interest to you? I also have a second De Grineau print showing a mass daylight drop by Horsas which I know little about yet. Chris

    • Ian Murray says:

      Thanks, Chris. Yes, de Grineau’s illustration is magnificent, even if it contains numerous inaccuracies. I’ve commented in particular on his positioning of the glider in my article [here].

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