Niall Cherry, late of 23 & 144 PFA, tells the story of The Two Lieutenants.

Hidden in an unmarked grave: Lieutenants Bussell and Cambier

This is the story of two young officers from The Parachute Regiment who took part in the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944 and what happened to them. They were Lieutenants Raymond Meyrick Bussell of the 3rd Battalion and Harry Michael Cambier of 156 Battalion. 

Raymond Bussell was known as Eric to his family and Harry Cambier preferred to use the name Michael. Lt Bussell parachuted onto Ginkel Heath with the first wave on 17 September 1944 and Lt Cambier jumped there the next day with the second wave. We know that Bussell was wounded in the arm near Wolfheze in the early evening of 17 September and Cambier in the leg on 19 September.

Although relatively light, their wounds required hospitalisation in Oosterbeek, where they were made prisoners of war during the short truce with the Germans on  24 September. Both officers were then sent to the King Willem III barracks in Apeldoorn, where the  medics of the 1st Airborne Division had set up a hospital with the permission of the Germans. As walking wounded, Bussell and Cambier were selected for transport to a POW camp in Germany on 26 September 1944. With a number of other officers in their cattle wagon, they decided to try to escape. 

Lieutenant Raymond Meyrick Bussell, known within his family as Eric, was born in the Dutch East Indies on 1 September 1917. His father, Raymond Evans Bussell, was a director of the East Indies commodities trading company, Maclaine Watson & Co and, from 1930 to 1933, the local British Vice-Consul. His mother was Dutch. 

Raymond Bussell

Raymond Bussell junior spent the early part of his life in Batavia with his family but was sent to England for his education. . His first school was in Somerset, at St Dunstan’s in Burnham-on-Sea. From there, Bussell went on to Blundell’s in Devon. He attained the rank of Lance Sergeant with the school’s Officer Training Corps. On 31 January 1937, Bussell entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Passing out in July 1937, he was commissioned into the Dorsetshire Regiment, joining the Dorsets at their depot that September. 

Posted to North Africa in January 1943, Lieutenant Bussell was transferred to the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment in the Tunisian coastal town of Sousse in August as one of the replacements for officers killed or wounded in the invasion of Sicily. As a gliderborne battalion, 2nd South Staffs was part of 1stAirborne Division. Bussell took part in the invasion of southern Italy that September as a platoon commander in A Coy. 

On 30 November 1943, three days after the 2nd South Staffs had embarked on its homeward voyage to England, Bussell was promoted promoted Captain and appointed Adjutant. He served as Adjutant until May 1944, when he relinquished the rank of Captain to join The Parachute Regiment. Posted to the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, Lt Bussell attended Parachute Training Course Number 116 at RAF Ringway, near Manchester. Parachute-trained, he was given command of 1 Platoon, A Coy, 3rd Para Bn. 

Raymond Bussell flew to Arnhem with members of his platoon in aircraft chalk number 63. Only two members of the 17-man stick in this aircraft would escape across the Rhine during Operation Berlin on the night of 25/26 September. Two would be killed in action during the battle and the remainder taken prisoner, a number of them after being wounded. 

Harry Michael Cambier was born in the Woodside Nursing Home in Plymouth, Devon on 9 September 1921. He would be the only child of Valentine and Hilda Cambier. Captain Valentine Cambier was serving in the Indian Army with the 32nd Sikh Pioneers. Hilda Cambier was the daughter of a colonial civil servant in India. Although given the name Harry, young Cambier preferred to use Michael as his Christian name.

Michael Cambier was an extremely gifted academic, attending Ampleforth College, Yorkshire, from September 1935 to July 1940 after earning a scholarship from Wellbury Park Preparatory School in Hertfordshire. At Ampleforth, where he became Head Boy of St Aidan’s House and Secretary of the Musical Society, he excelled at Mathematics. Cambier also enjoyed sport, playing for Ampleforth’s First XV. He was Captain of the school’s Second XI cricket team and was a member of the Cross Country Team. 

Michael Cambier

From Ampleforth, he went up to New College, Oxford in October 1940 with an Exhibition in Mathematics, a scholarship awarded on merit. In the testimonial recommending Cambier for the scholarship, Cambier’s Headmaster commented, “He obtained a very good Higher Certificate in mathematics last year, only missing a Distinction by a few marks.”. In June 1941, he gained a Second in Mathematics but never took his Finals as he was called up for military service in November 1941. 

Having been in the Officer Training Corps at Ampleforth and then at Oxford, Cambier was immediately selected for officer training. On 6 November 1941, he was posted to 122nd Officer Cadet Training Unit, a Royal Artillery Officer Training Unit at Larkhill, Wiltshire. He remained here until 28 February 1942, when he was granted an Emergency Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant and posted to the 70th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Posted to North Africa at the beginning of October 1942, Cambier saw action in the Second Battle of El Alamein with the 244th Anti-Tank Regiment before being posted to the 84th Anti-Tank Regiment as a replacement officer that November. 

On 10 April 1943, 2/Lt Michael Cambier volunteered for Airborne Forces and was posted to 156 Battalion, The Parachute Regiment at Jenin in Palestine. He was immediately sent to RAF Kabrit in the Canal Zone in Egypt for parachute training, joining Course 34, which commenced on 19 April 1943. 

On his return to 156 Battalion, he was posted to B Coy as a platoon commander. He earned a Mention in Dispatches during Operation Slapstick in south-eastern Italy in September 1943. When 156 Battalion was posted to England in December 1943, Bn HQ decided to add an anti-tank platoon to Support Coy, appointing Cambier as commander. Cambier was holding this position at the time of Arnhem. 

Cambier flew from RAF Saltby to Arnhem on 18 September 1944 aboard a US Army Air Force Dakota aircraft of the 314th Troop Carrier Group bearing the chalk number 615. Only one member of that stick perished at Arnhem: Private Joseph George, killed on 21 September. Everyone else on Cambier’s aircraft ended up as a prisoners of war. 

Cattle wagons like those used by the Germans to transport prisoners

Loaded into a cattle wagon with other officers for transportation to Germany, Bussell and Cambier decided to try and escape with a number of other officers. They managed it after the train had crossed the river IJssel and was passing close to the town of Deventer, some twenty miles north-east of Arnhem. 

Like other British paratroopers on the run in the Dutch countryside after the battle, Bussell and Cambier were given shelter and civilian clothing by local people, at great personal risk. After a week in hiding, they were passed along to the Dutch Resistance, which sent a guide to take them south towards Allied lines. 

Unfortunately for the two lieutenants and their guide, the Germans were constructing defensive positions east of the IJssel river. On the second day of their trek, they were stopped by a suspicious German soldier near Zutphen. The Resistance man, a student, had valid papers but neither Bussell nor Cambier had any papers. The German took them to the  police station in Zutphen. 

The Beast of Zutphen: SS 2nd Lieutenant Ludwig Heinemann of the SD

The two Lieutenants and their guide were then taken to the police station in Gorssel, some three miles to the north, where the Police Inspector quickly estabished the truth. Bravely, he released the young Resistance man because his papers were in order and, in any case, the police officer was a patriot. 

When SS-Untersturmführer Ludwig Heinemann of the local Sicherheitsdienst or SD [The SS Security Service often mistakenly described as the Gestapo –– Editor] heard of the release of the young Dutchman acting as the lieutenants’ guide, he saw to it that the Inspector, Theodorus te Brake, spent the remainder of the war in a Nazi concentration camp. Heinemann had been alerted by one of his Dutch SD agents, who happened to visit the police station. 

Bussell and Cambier were arrested by the SD and taken to SD headquarters at the Villa ‘t Selsham in Vorden where they were interrogated by an English-speaking SD man. It was quickly ascertained that they were escaped POWs. However, Ludwig Heinemann declared that the two lieutenants were terrorists, took them outside and he and other SD man, a Dutch national of German origin, shot them in the back. One of the murder weapons was a captured British Sten gun. The bodies were buried in an unmarked grave in the garden. 

Ludwig Heinemann –– known as The Beast of Zutphen –– ended up in front of a Dutch firing squad in Arnhem in February 1947. He was found guilty of the murder of seventy people, as well as other war crimes, including torture. He was also guilty of the murders of Lieutenants MIchael Cambier and Raymond Bussell of The Parachute Regiment. His sole defence was that he was just obeying orders. 

Authors John Howes and Ruud Kreling researched this sad story in great detail for their book The Two Lieutenants. The 130-page book, published by Brendon Publishing, also describes the investigations into their deaths after the war and the fate of those responsible for this war crime. As a result of the research by Messrs Howes and Kreling, the dates of death on the Lieutenants’ headstones has recently been changed from 10 October to 2 October 1944. Both officers repose in the town cemetery in Vorden. Every September, someone places flowers on their graves.

[Editor’s note –– Brendon Publishing’s books are not available though Amazon and similar distributors but Niall Cherry can hook interested parties up with specialist booksellers who offer Brendon’s titles. Email:]