Note: Special thanks to Dr T.E Rogers and Marlborough College for their assistance in writing this article, who provided information beyond the questions I asked when conducting the research below. They also supplied some of the photographs. Equally thanks to those who helped with the translations.
Today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK, and for obvious reasons I was debating putting an article up today. However as Remembrance Sunday is a UK only event, and as we have a global readership I decided to do something fitting with the period and still produce an article.
A couple of years ago when researching a British army tank unit I brought a second hand book on the subject. When the book arrived I was surprised to find a sheaf of papers inside it. These were letters from a Troop commander to a relative of one of the units soldiers. The book also had a dedication glued into the front page. From what I can tell the book, and the letters were gifted to the next of Kin of one of the soldiers after the war.
This soldiers story has never been seen in one place before, although parts of the story are known. There is no daring-do in this story, no medals. Just a perfect example of the hundreds of thousands of people from around the world who stopped their lives to fight in histories most destructive conflict, and were never able to carry them on. Many of whom have been forgotten by history. At least in this case I can do something about that. So today I give you Jonathan Wilson's story.
In September 1937 he enrolled at Marlborough College, where he became an accomplished poet. So much so Marlborough college published about 20 of his works in a book called False Starts. He was still at college when the Second World war started. In 1942 he Captained the Marlborough 1st Rugby XV. In his final year he was also Prefect and the editor of the school magazine "The Marlburian". However as an 18 year old in the middle of World War Two, there was only one option, and he enlisted.
Jonathan Wilson became an officer, and on the 24th of January 1944 he Joined the 3rd Scots Guards while based at Thoresby Park, as a Second Lieutenant. The 3rd Scots were a regiment in the 6th Guards tank brigade. At this time I've yet to be able to find out what role in the Regiment he served in. However on the 19th of September due to an internal promotion Lt Wilson was put in command of a troop in "S" Squadron, although it appears later on he was transferred to "Left Flank".
(It should be noted that the Scots guards have an odd way of naming their squadrons. Squadron one is called "Right Flank", Squadron two "S Squadron" and Squadron three is "Left Flank")
Until the late of October the Scots Guards saw no combat, apart from a bombardment against German bunker position at a range of 4000 yards. However on 24th It was realized the Germans had started falling back from the front, and so an advance was ordered. As part of this deployment the Scots were hurriedly pushed forward to seize the village of Moergestel, and its bridge. When they arrived the Scots found the bridge over the canal demolished. The jubilant Dutch townsfolk upon realizing the problem were led by a local priest. Unbidden by the Guardsmen they began gathering boulders and rubble to construct a ford, so the Scots might continue to pursue the retreating Germans. The exuberance shown in this endeavour caused several of the watching officers to fear for their safety as the work was carried out with extreme haste and little care. After a short while the leading tank commander thought he could make it across. On the far bank the Churchill's legendary hill climbing ability failed, and the tank got stuck. However shortly afterwards a bridge-layer arrived and the regiment continued its advance.
A quick push and the Scots worked their way into the outskirts of Tilburg where they started meeting resistance. At this point it appears Lt Wilson's squadron was stuck trying to get through the celebrating Dutch at Moergestel. By the time that Lt Wilson's troop had cleared the traffic jam Tilburg had fallen. Tilburg was the first large town the Scots had liberated and a massive celebration was under-way. Lt Wilson's troop was moving up to join in the celebration when, much to his troops annoyance they were diverted to the south. A German counter attack had hit and scattered parts of the US 7th armoured Division, and the Scots guards were required to assist. By the time the Scots Guards reached the front the battle was over, broken up by air and artillery power, and the dogged resistance of some US forces.