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Somewhere somebody has an album with some unique, unpublished photographs of Operation Ladbroke in it.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.

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4 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].

  2. Chris porter Hollis says:

    Dear Ian
    Thanks for your reply.
    Firstly my connection to “Airborne” is my second cousin , A.S Hope (Stan), 16th Para Fd Amb, who was one of the few medics to make it to the Arnhem Bridge. He was sadly killed there by a sniper on, I believe, the 19th September, he now lies in plot 20.A.17 Oosterbeek War Cemetery, still aged 24. His story is told at “” by myself. You can download his story for free off the website if you wish. Stanley set off for “Operation Ladbroke” but his Dakota was shot down and he spent some time in the sea before being picked up by a Greek Warship , this story is told by Captain Percival’s report on page 49 of “Red Crosses and Red Berets”.
    Secondly I am a close friend of , and in regular touch with Wilf Oldham, B Company 1st Batt Border Regiment (see attached photo of Wilf doing the honours at Arnhem in 2017). Wilf landed in Wolfeze by glider on LZ “Y” on 17 September.He spent 10 days fighting (he was a Bren gunner) but managed to escape across the river on the last morning by stealing a boat. In 1943 Wilf also set off for “Ladbroke” but his Glider was cast off early, the Horsa crashed out at sea, and he spent 24 hours clinging onto its wings, being picked up by a landing craft on its way back (several men did not survive the night) . He is 99 and still lives independently, in Radcliffe, Manchester and is an amazing character.
    His Dutch hosts, of 29 years, come to visit him and stay at my house. They have just spent 4 days with us and bought these prints for me. His hosts parents owned the hotel opposite the “Schonored”, on the crossroads in Oosterbeek, during the battle.. They hosts both worked in the hotel after the war and one day in the 1960,s an Englishman walked in and gave them these two prints. They have kept them for 40/45 years but have never displayed them and they gave them to me, they know nothing else of them. They were in old frames, I have removed them from the frames . I presume they are original copies of the prints( there is no vertical crease). The top one has written, in very faint pencil, on the rear backing “ S/Sgt Galpin and S/Sgt Brown ### ## ### over the ANAPO river and canal” . I will need to look closer to get the missing words and letters from the backing sheet. But I have done some digging and now know a little about this part of the operation.
    The second print is interesting and is the artists( Bryn De Grineau) impression of a mass Glider landing somewhere(lots and lots of Gliders). The fields in the drawing are small and bounded by hedges , so I guess, its not Holland. Could it be the “Boccage” of Normandy perhaps?? Or is it Sicily???? I am hoping you will know more, I am looking forward to your comments. I hope you enjoy looking at Stan’s website and I look forward to your reply. Thank you
    Chris Hollis,
    PS WIlf and John Jefferies( and a little of me) are in a film made last year by the Dutch National TV . Its on youtube – type in “ documetaire arnhem forever” and is 50 mins long.

  3. David Orme says:

    Hi Ian,

    I posted on this site a little while ago and have since been doing much further research regarding my Great Uncle Thomas (Pte T Orme – E Coy 2nd Sth Staffs – Tactical Glider 47 KIA 9/7/1943). Your information has provided me with many more leads and is of great assistance.

    I have come across a photograph of Thomas and my Grandfather along with 2 other South Staffs (and a second Royal Horse Artilleryman) which I believe was taken either in in Oran, Algeria or Sousse in or about May 1943. I would be happy to share privately if this was of any interest to you. What I am now trying to establish along with the assistance of the research team at Whittington Barracks is if South Staffs would have possibly worn / be entitled to wear Airborne style cap badges which the soldiers in the picture appear to be sporting – rather than the distinctive South Staffs knot badge Their epaulette flashes appear to Pegasus also. The soldiers are not wearing their combat uniform (ie Khaki drills and bush shirt) but are in a slightly more formal dress. Perhaps you might be able to resolve the cap badge question? Many thanks again.

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