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Victoria Crosses to the Airborne

  • Posted on 28 Jan 2022
  • 51 min read

By Paul Raison

On 29th January 1856, Queen Victoria instituted the Victoria Cross to reward extreme valour in the face of the enemy. Since then, there have been just 1,358 awards of the Victoria Cross, including three bars for second awards. Of the eight VCs to soldiers of The Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces, six were posthumous.

Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC –– 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (1 PARA)

The actions for which Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey of the 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment earned the Victoria Cross occurred on 22nd August 2013 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence summarised the reasons for the award of the VC to Joshua Leakey: “Under fire yet undeterred by the very clear and present danger, Lance Corporal Leakey ran across the exposed slope of the hill three times to initiate casualty evacuation, re-site machine guns and return fire. His actions proved the turning point, inspiring his comrades to fight back with renewed ferocity. Displaying gritty leadership well above that expected of his rank, Lance Corporal Leakey’s actions single-handedly regained the initiative and prevented considerable loss of life.”.

A routine joint patrol composed of British paratroopers, US Marines and Afghan soldiers had targeted a village to search for illegal weapons. Having been flown into the area in Chinook helicopters, the patrol was attacked by machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades soon after dismounting.

L/Cpl Leakey’s helicopter had landed on a hill near the village and he, with three other paratroopers and an Afghan solider, was to provide fire support for the main segment of the patrol. From their vantage point, his section could see the attack and heard over their radio that someone had been injured.

Leakey ran up the hill to assess the seriousness of the attack and came to the conclusion that urgent action was needed. Though he was only a lance corporal, he took control of the situation and led his section down to the group under attack. His citation states:

“Between May and December 2013, Lance Corporal Leakey was deployed in Afghanistan as a member of a Task Force conducting operations to disrupt insurgent safe-havens and protect the main operating base in Helmand province. The majority of operations took place in daylight in non-permissive areas, attracting significant risk. On the 22nd August 2013, Lance Corporal Leakey deployed on a combined UK / US assault led by the United States Marine Corps into a Taliban stronghold to disrupt a key insurgent group.

“After dismounting from their helicopters, the force came under accurate machine gun and rocket propelled grenades fire resulting in the Command Group being pinned down on the exposed forward slope of a hill. The team attempted to extract from the killing zone for an hour, their efforts resulting in a Marine Corps Captain being shot and wounded and their communications being put out of action. Lance Corporal Leakey, positioned on the lee of the hill, realising the seriousness of the situation and with complete disregard for his own safety, dashed across a large area of barren hillside which was now being raked with machine gun fire. As he crested the hill, the full severity of the situation became apparent: approximately twenty enemy had surrounded two friendly machine gun teams and a mortar section rendering their critical fire support ineffective.

“Undeterred by the very clear and present danger, Lance Corporal Leakey moved down the forward slope of the hill, and gave first aid to the wounded officer. Despite being the most junior commander in the area, Lance Corporal Leakey took control of the situation and initiated the casualty evacuation. Realising that the initiative was still in the hands of the enemy, he set off back up the hill, still under enemy fire, to get one of the suppressed machine guns into action. On reaching it, and with rounds impacting on the frame of the gun itself, he moved it to another position and began engaging the enemy.

“This courageous action spurred those around him back into the fight; nonetheless, the weight of enemy fire continued. For the third time and with full knowledge of the extant dangers, Lance Corporal Leakey exposed himself to enemy fire once more. Weighed down by over 60 lbs of equipment, he ran to the bottom of the hill, picked up the second machine gun and climbed back up the hill again: a round trip of more than 200 metres on steep terrain. Drawing the majority of the enemy fire, with rounds splashing around him, Lance Corporal Leakey overcame his fatigue to re-site the gun and return fire. This proved to be the turning point. Inspired by Lance Corporal Leakey’s actions, and with a heavy weight of fire now at their disposal, the force began to fight back with renewed ferocity.

“Having regained the initiative, Lance Corporal Leakey handed over the machine gun and led the extraction of the wounded officer to a point from which he could be safely evacuated. During the assault 11 insurgents were killed and 4 wounded, but the weight of enemy fire had effectively pinned down the command team.

“Displaying gritty leadership well above that expected of his rank, Lance Corporal Leakey’s actions single-handedly regained the initiative and prevented considerable loss of life, allowing a wounded US Marine officer to be evacuated. For this act of valour, Lance Corporal Leakey is highly deserving of significant national recognition.

“Having reached the group under attack, he gave first aid to the wounded US Marine Corps captain and began the process to evacuate him from the battlefield. While under fire, he returned to the machine guns that his section had left at the top of the hill. He moved one to a better position to fire at the attacking Taliban even though he was under constant, accurate fire (bullets were ricocheting off the weapon he was carrying). His actions were inspiring other soldiers to join in the fightback.

“While he was manning the machine gun, he was also shouting updates of the situation into his radio. Having realised more than one machine gun would be needed to effectively fight back the insurgents, he allowed his gun to be taken over by another soldier. He then ran once more through heavy fire to retrieve a second machine gun, position it in a suitable site, and then manned it to fire at the Taliban.

“The skirmish lasted approximately 45 minutes during which eleven insurgents were killed and four wounded. It was only when air support arrived that fighting ceased. When they did, he handed the second machine gun over to another soldier. He then returned to the injured American officer and oversaw his medical evacuation.”.

Corporal Bryan Budd VC –– 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment (3 PARA)

Corporal Bryan Budd of A Company, 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for two separate actions in the southern Afghan town of Sangin in 2006. He did not survive the second action. His citation needs no embellishment.

“During July and August 2006, ‘A’ Company, 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment were deployed in the District Centre at Sangin. They were constantly under sustained attack from a combination of Taliban small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar and rocket fire.

“On 27 July 2006, whilst on a routine patrol, Corporal Bryan Budd’s section identified and engaged two enemy gunmen on the roof of a building in the centre of Sangin. During the ensuing fierce fire-fight, two of Corporal Budd’s section were hit. One was seriously injured and collapsed in the open ground, where he remained exposed to enemy fire, with rounds striking the ground around him. Corporal Budd realised that he needed to regain the initiative and that the enemy needed to be driven back so that the casualty could be evacuated.

“Under fire, he personally led the attack on the building where the enemy fire was heaviest, forcing the remaining fighters to flee across an open field where they were successfully engaged. This courageous and prompt action proved decisive in breaking the enemy and was undertaken at great personal risk. Corporal Budd’s decisive leadership and conspicuous gallantry allowed his wounded colleague to be evacuated to safety where he subsequently received life-saving treatment.

“A month later, on 20 August 2006, Corporal Budd was leading his section on the right forward flank of a platoon clearance patrol near Sangin District Centre. Another section was advancing with a Land Rover fitted with a .50 calibre heavy machine gun on the patrol’s left flank. Pushing through thick vegetation, Corporal Budd identified a number of enemy fighters 30 metres ahead. Undetected, and in an attempt to surprise and destroy the enemy, Corporal Budd, initiated a flanking manoeuvre. However, the enemy spotted the Land Rover on the left flank and the element of surprise was lost for the whole platoon.

Commissioned from artist Stuart Brown by the 3rd Bn, The Parachute Regiment

“In order to regain the initiative, Corporal Budd decided to assault the enemy and ordered his men to follow him. As they moved forward the section came under a withering fire that incapacitated three of his men. The continued enemy fire and these losses forced the section to take cover. But, Corporal Budd continued to assault on his own, knowing full well the likely consequences of doing so without the close support of his remaining men. He was wounded but continued to move forward, attacking and killing the enemy as he rushed their position.

“Inspired by Corporal Budd’s example, the rest of the platoon reorganised and pushed forward their attack, eliminating more of the enemy and eventually forcing their withdrawal. Corporal Budd susequently [sic] died of his wounds, and when his body was later recovered it was found surrounded by three dead Taliban.

“Corporal Budd’s conspicuous gallantry during these two engagements saved the lives of many of his colleagues. He acted in the full knowledge that the rest of his men had either been struck down or had been forced to go to ground. His determination to press home a single-handed assault against a superior enemy force despite his wounds stands out as a premeditated act of inspirational leadership and supreme valour. In recognition of this, Corporal Budd is awarded the Victoria Cross.”.

When it was realised that Bryan Budd was missing, most of A Company went out to find him. Apache and Harrier air support was called in to beat the Taliban back. An hour later, they found Bryan Budd’s body beside three dead Taliban.

Sergeant Ian John McKay VC –– 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (3 PARA)

Sgt Ian McKay of B Company, 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment earned a posthumous Victoria Cross during the Battle of Mount Longdon in the Falkland Islands on 12th June 1982. Ian McKay’s VC citation stated:

“During the night of 11th/12th June 1982, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment mounted a silent night attack on an enemy battalion position on Mount Longdon, an important objective in the battle for Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Sergeant McKay was platoon sergeant of 4 Platoon, B Company, which, after the initial objective had been secured, was ordered to clear the Northern side of the long East/West ridge feature, held by the enemy in depth, with strong, mutually-supporting positions. By now the enemy were fully alert, and resisting fiercely. As 4 Platoon’s advance continued it came under increasingly heavy fire from a number of well-sited enemy machine gun positions on the ridge, and received casualties. Realising that no further advance was possible the Platoon Commander ordered the Platoon to move from its exposed position to seek shelter among the rocks of the ridge itself. Here it met up with part of 5 Platoon.

“The enemy fire was still both heavy and accurate, and the position of the platoons was becoming increasingly hazardous. Taking Sergeant McKay, a Corporal and a few others, and covered by supporting machine gun fire, the Platoon Commander moved forward to reconnoitre the enemy positions but was hit by a bullet in the leg, and command devolved upon Sergeant McKay.

“It was clear that instant action was needed if the advance was not to falter and increasing casualties to ensue. Sergeant McKay decided to convert this reconnaissance into an attack in order to eliminate the enemy positions. He was in no doubt of the strength and deployment of the enemy as he undertook this attack. He issued orders, and taking three men with him, broke cover and charged the enemy position.

“The assault was met by a hail of fire. The Corporal was seriously wounded, a Private killed and another wounded. Despite these losses Sergeant McKay, with complete disregard for his own safety, continued to charge the enemy position alone. On reaching it he despatched the enemy with grenades, thereby relieving the position of beleaguered 4 and 5 Platoons, who were now able to redeploy with relative safety. Sergeant McKay, however, was killed at the moment of victory, his body falling on the bunker.

“Without doubt Sergeant McKay’s action retrieved a most dangerous situation and was instrumental in ensuring the success of the attack. His was a coolly calculated act, the dangers of which must have been all too apparent to him beforehand. Undeterred he performed with outstanding selflessness, perseverance and courage.

“With a complete disregard for his own safety, he displayed courage and leadership of the highest order, and was an inspiration to all those around him.”.

Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert Jones OBE –– 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA)

Lieutenant Colonel “H” Jones OBE’s Victoria Cross citation states: “On 28th May 1982, Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Jones OBE was commanding 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment on operations on the Falklands Islands. The Battalion was ordered to attack enemy positions in and around the settlements of Darwin and Goose Green.

During the attack against an enemy who was well dug in with mutually supporting positions sited in depth, the Battalion was held up just South of Darwin by a particularly well-prepared and resilient enemy position of at least eleven trenches on an important ridge. A number of casualties were received. In order to read the battle fully and to ensure that the momentum of his attack was not lost, Colonel Jones took forward his reconnaissance party to the foot of a re-entrant which a section of his Battalion had just secured. Despite persistent heavy and accurate fire the reconnaissance party gained the top of the re-entrant at approximately the same height as the enemy positions. However, these had been well prepared and continued to pour effective fire onto the Battalion advance, which, by now held up for over an hour and under increasingly heavy artillery fire, was in danger of faltering.

“In his effort to gain a good viewpoint Colonel Jones was now at the very front of his Battalion. It was clear to him that desperate measures were needed in order to overcome the enemy position and rekindle the attack, and that unless these measures were taken promptly the Battalion would sustain increasing casualties and the attack perhaps fail. It was time for personal leadership and action. Colonel Jones immediately seized a sub-machine gun, and, calling on those around him and with total disregard for his own safety, charged the nearest enemy position. This action exposed him to fire from a number of trenches. As he charged up a short slope at the enemy position he was seen to fall and roll backward downhill. He immediately picked himself up, and again charged the enemy trench, firing his sub-machine gun and seemingly oblivious to the intense fire directed at him. He was hit by fire from another trench which he outflanked, and fell dying only a few feet from the enemy he had assaulted. A short time later a company of the Battalion attacked the enemy who quickly surrendered. The devastating display of courage by Colonel Jones had completely undermined their will to fight further.

Jones VC’s medals

“Thereafter, the momentum of the attack was rapidly regained, Darwin and Goose Green were liberated, and the Battalion released the local inhabitants unharmed and forced the surrender of some 1,200 of the enemy.

“The achievements of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment at Darwin and Goose Green set the tone for the subsequent land victory on the Falklands. They achieved such a moral superiority over the enemy in this first battle that, despite the advantages of numbers and selection of battle-ground, they never thereafter doubted either the superior fighting qualities of the British troops, or their own inevitable defeat.

This was an action of the utmost gallantry by a Commanding Officer whose dashing leadership and courage throughout the battle were an inspiration to all about him.“.

 

Captain Lionel Queripel –– 10th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment

Captain Lionel Queripel, second in command of A Company, 10th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, laid down his life to give his men a chance to escape death or capture during the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944. Captain Queripel’s Victoria Cross citation states:

In Holland on 19th September 1944, Captain Queripel was Acting Commander of A Company, The 10th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. 

At 1400 hours on that day, his company was advancing along a main road which ran on an embankment towards Arnhem. The advance was conducted under continuous machine gun fire which, at one period, became so heavy that the company became split on either side of the road and suffered considerable losses. Captain Queripel at once proceeded to reorganise his force, crossing and recrossing the road whilst doing so, under extremely heavy and accurate fire. During this period, he carried a wounded sergeant to the Regimental Aid Post under fire and was himself wounded in the face.

Having organised his force, Captain Queripel personally led a party of men against a strong point holding up the advance. This strong point consisted of a captured British anti-tank gun and two machine-guns. Despite the fire directed at him, Captain Queripel succeeded in killing the crews of the machine-guns and also recapturing the anti-tank gun. As a result of this the advance was able to continue.

Later in the same day Captain Queripel found himself cut off with a small party of men and took up position in a ditch. By this time, he had received further wounds in both arms. Regardless of his wounds and of the very heavy mortar and Spandau fire, he continued to inspire his men to resist with hand grenades, pistols and the few remaining rifles.

As, however, the enemy pressure increased, Captain Queripel decided that it was impossible to hold the position any longer and ordered his men to withdraw. Despite their protests, he insisted on remaining behind to cover their withdrawal with his automatic pistol and a few remaining hand grenades.

This was the last occasion on which he was seen.

During the whole period of nine hours of confused and bitter fighting Captain Queripel displayed the highest standard of gallantry under the most difficult and trying circumstances. His courage, leadership and devotion to duty were magnificent and an inspiration to all.“.

Queripel VC’s medals

Ex-Sergeant Lewis Reid of A Company, 10th (Parachute) Bn said of Lionel Queripel VC after the war:  “He was one of the finest men I was privileged to serve under, always the last officer to return to his mess.  His first thought was for his men. One hears of VCs being given for impulsive bravery, but not Captain Queripel.  Anyone who knew him would have expected him to do just what he did.”.

Lieutenant John Hollington Grayburn –– 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, Army Air Corps

On 25th January, 1945, the War Office announced that “The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the VICTORIA CROSS to: —

“Lieutenant John Hollington Grayburn (149002), Parachute Regiment, Army Air Corps (Chalfont St. Giles). For supreme courage, leadership and devotion to duty.

“Lieutenant Grayburn was a platoon commander of the Parachute Battalion which was dropped on 17th September, 1944, with the task of seizing and holding the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem.

“North end of the bridge was captured and, early in the night, Lieutenant Grayburn was ordered to assault and capture the Southern end with his platoon. He led his platoon on to the bridge and began the attack with the utmost determination, but the platoon was met by a hail of fire from two 20 mm. quick firing guns, and from the machine guns of an armoured car. Almost at once Lieutenant Grayburn was shot through the shoulder. Although there was no cover on the bridge, and in spite of his wound, Lieutenant Grayburn continued to press forward with the greatest dash and bravery until casualties became so heavy that he was ordered to withdraw. He directed the withdrawal from the bridge personally and was himself the last man to come off the embankment into comparative cover.

“Later, his platoon was ordered to occupy a house which was vital to the defence of the bridge and he personally organised the occupation of the house.

“Throughout the next day and night the enemy made ceaseless attacks on the house, using not only infantry with mortars and machine guns but also tanks and self-propelled guns. The house was very exposed and difficult to defend and the fact that it did not fall to the enemy must be attributed to Lieutenant Grayburn’s great courage and inspiring leadership. He constantly exposed himself to the enemy’s fire while moving among, and encouraging, his platoon, and seemed completely oblivious to danger.

“On 19th September, 1944, the enemy renewed his attacks, which increased in intensity, as the house was vital to the defence of the bridge. All attacks were repulsed, due to Lieutenant Grayburn’s valour and skill in organising and encouraging his men, until eventually the house was set on fire and had to be evacuated.

“Lieutenant Grayburn then took command of elements of all arms, including the remainder of his own company, and re-formed them into a fighting force. He spent the night organising a defensive position to cover the approaches to the bridge.

“On 20 September 1944, he extended his defence by a series of fighting patrols which prevented the enemy” gaining access to the houses in the vicinity, the occupation of which would have prejudiced the defence of the bridge. This forced the enemy to bring up tanks which brought Lieutenant Grayburn’s positions under such heavy fire that he was forced to withdraw to an area farther North. The enemy now attempted to lay demolition charges under the bridge and the situation was critical. Realising this, Lieutenant Grayburn organised and led a fighting patrol which drove the enemy off temporarily, and gave time for the fuzes to be removed. He was again wounded, this time in the back, but refused to be evacuated.

“Finally, an enemy tank, against which Lieutenant Grayburn had no defence, approached so close to his position that it became untenable. He then stood up in full view of the tank and personally directed the withdrawal of his men to the main defensive perimeter to which he had been ordered.

“He was killed that night.

“From the evening of September 17th until the night of September 20th, 1944, a period of over three days, Lieutenant Grayburn led his men with supreme gallantry and determination. Although in pain and weakened by his wounds, short of food and without sleep, his courage never flagged. There is no doubt that, had it not been for this officer’s inspiring leadership and personal bravery, the Arnhem bridge could never have been held for this time.

Lance-Sergeant John Baskeyfield –– 2nd (Airborne) Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment

Lance-Sergeant John Baskeyfield’s posthumous Victoria Cross was announced on 23rd November 1944. L/Sgt Baskeyfield was a Gun Commander in the South Staffs’ Anti-Tank Platoon. Called up in 1942, he was a veteran of the glider landings in Sicily in 1943 and the further fighting in southern Italy that year. His body was never found. His Victoria Cross citation states:

“On 20 September 1944, during the battle of Arnhem, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was the N.C.O. in charge of a 6-pounder anti-tank gun at Oosterbeek. The enemy developed a major attack on this sector with infantry, tanks and self-propelled guns with the obvious intent to break into and overrun the Battalion position. During the early stage of the action the crew commanded by this N.C.O. was responsible for the destruction of two Tiger tanks and at least one self propelled gun, thanks to the coolness and daring of this N.C.O., who, with complete disregard for his own safety, allowed each tank to come well within 100 yards of his gun before opening fire.

“In the course of this preliminary engagement Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was badly wounded in the leg and the remainder of his crew were either killed or badly wounded. During the brief respite after this engagement Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield refused to be carried to the Regimental Aid Post and spent his time attending to his gun and shouting encouragement to his comrades in neighbouring trenches.

A German tank destroyed in Oosterbeek

“After a short interval the enemy renewed the attack with even greater ferocity than before, under cover of intense mortar and shell fire. Manning his gun quite alone Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield continued to fire round after round at the enemy until his gun was put out of action. By this time his activity was the main factor in keeping the enemy tanks at bay. The fact that the surviving men in his vicinity were held together and kept in action was undoubtedly due to his magnificent example and outstanding courage. Time after time enemy attacks were launched and driven off. Finally, when his gun was knocked out, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield crawled under intense enemy fire to another 6-pounder gun nearby, the crew of which had been killed, and proceeded to man it single-handed. With this gun he engaged an enemy self propelled gun which was approaching to attack. Another soldier crawled across the open ground to assist him but was killed almost at once. Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield succeeded in firing two rounds at the self propelled gun, scoring one direct hit which rendered it ineffective. Whilst preparing to fire a third shot, however, he was killed by a shell from a supporting enemy tank.

“The superb gallantry of this N.C.O. is beyond praise. During the remaining days at Arnhem stories of his valour were a constant inspiration to all ranks. He spurned danger, ignored pain and, by his supreme fighting spirit, infected all who witnessed his conduct with the same aggressiveness and dogged devotion to duty which characterised his actions throughout.”.

Captain (temporary Major) Robert Cain –– 2nd (Airborne) Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment

Along with Joshua Leaky almost seventy years later, Robert Cain is one of just two Airborne Forces soldiers who lived to receive their Victoria Crosses.

Robert Cain joined the Honourable Artillery Company in London in 1928. Commissioned into the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers in 1940, he transferred to 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment in 1942. He took part in and survived two combat glider landings in Sicily in July 1943 and at Arnhem in 1944.

On November 2nd 1944, the War Office announced the award by the King of the Victoria Cross to Captain (temporary Major) Robert Henry Cain of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, attached the South Staffordshire Regiment, 1st Airborne Division.

Robert and Mary Cain in 1945

“In Holland on 19th September, 1944, Major Cain was commanding a rifle company of the South Staffordshire Regiment during the Battle of Arnhem when his company was cut off from the rest of the battalion and during the next six days was closely engaged with enemy tanks, self-propelled guns and infantry. The Germans made repeated attempts to break into the company position by infiltration and had they succeeded in doing so the whole situation of the Airborne Troops would have been jeopardised.

“Major Cain, by his outstanding devotion to duty and remarkable powers of leadership, was to a large extent personally responsible for saving a vital sector from falling into the hands of the enemy.

“On 20th September a Tiger tank approached the area held by his company and Major Cain went out alone to deal with it armed with a Piat. Taking up a position he held his fire until the tank was only 20 yards away when he opened up. The tank immediately halted and turned its guns on him, shooting away a corner of the house near where this officer was lying. Although wounded by machine gun bullets and falling masonry, Major Cain continued firing until he had scored several direct hits, immobilised the tank and supervised the bringing up of a 75 mm. howitzer which completely destroyed it. Only then would he consent to have his wounds dressed.

“In the next morning this officer drove off three more tanks by the fearless use of his Piat, on each occasion leaving cover and taking up position in open ground with complete disregard for his personal safety.

“During the following days, Major Cain was everywhere where danger threatened, moving amongst his men and encouraging them by his fearless example to hold out. He refused rest and medical attention in spite of the fact that his hearing had been seriously impaired because of a perforated eardrum and he was suffering from multiple wounds.

“On 25 September the enemy made a concerted attack on Major Cain’s position, using self-propelled guns, flame throwers and infantry. By this time the last Piat had been put out of action and Major Cain was armed with only a light 2” mortar. However, by a skilful use of this weapon and his daring leadership of the few men still under his command, he completely demoralized the enemy who, after an engagement lasting more than three hours, withdrew in disorder.

“Throughout the whole course of the Battle of Arnhem, Major Cain showed superb gallantry. His powers of endurance and leadership were the admiration of all his fellow officers and stories of his valour were being constantly exchanged amongst the troops. His coolness and courage under incessant fire could not be surpassed.”.

During the withdrawal across the Lower Rhine of 1st Airborne Division survivors on the night of 25th September 1944, Major Cain ensured that every one of his men who were still fit to move had crossed the river before he finally crossed at dawn.

As Cain clambered out of the boat on the western bank, 1st Airlanding Brigade commander Philip Hicks commented:“there’s one officer, at least, who’s shaved!”. Cain replied: “I was well brought-up, sir.”. Major Robert Cain VC TD was also a modest man. His daughter Francis later said that she did not know of her father’s Victoria Cross until after his death from cancer in 1974.

The Parachute Regimental Association thanks the Airborne Assault Museum at IWM Duxford, the National Army Museum and the managers of the ParaData website for images and information.

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