Serjeant Sidney CORNELL
Sidney was born and lived in Portsmouth. His father was a former circus acrobat from the USA, his mother a gardener’s daughter from Somerset. Sidney married his childhood sweetheart Eileen in 1934; they had one child when war broke out and he joined the army. He volunteered for the airborne forces, dropping into Normandy on the night of 5-6 June 1944 and receiving the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions during that campaign: ‘a truly magnificent parachutist’.
7 April 1945 found Sidney and his comrades pushing far into Germany after jumping in under fire during the crossing of the Rhine (24 March). They needed to secure Neustadt am Rübenberge and its river crossing, but found the bridge wired with explosives. They immediately rushed it, hoping to surprise the defenders and keep the bridge intact, but an arch was blown as they were crossing. Sidney was one of 22 of his battalion killed that night. The missing are named on the Groesbeek Memorial. Sidney and 15 others lie together in Plot 15 of Becklingen War Cemetery. He was 31 and left three boys, the youngest a toddler.
Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Ernest WIGLE
Frederick Wigle was born in July 1913 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He attended Trinity College School in Port Hope, then McGill University in Montreal, studying commerce and finance. He was an American football star at TCS and McGill, and a great hockey player. He joined the Howell Lithographing Company as their Montreal representative, and married Margaret in 1937.
He joined the Canadian army in May 1941 and rose rapidly, first in an armoured unit, then to command ‘the Argylls’, an infantry unit, in February 1945. They fought their way to the Rhine and over it in March, and 14 April found them deep in North West Germany, pushing for Oldenburg. At first light that day they took Friesoythe, but later that morning lost their beloved commanding officer when Frederick was killed in an attack on his HQ by a group of German soldiers who were still free and fighting. He was 31.
His headstone is inscribed with lines by Rupert Brooke, a famous First World War poet:
“HE LEAVES A WHITE UNBROKEN GLORY, A GATHERED RADIANCE ... A SHINING PEACE”
Captain Ian Oswald LIDDELL
Ian was born in 1919 in Shanghai, where his father was a merchant trader. He moved to the UK aged 11, boarding at St. Andrews Eastbourne and then Harrow, and hoped for a career as a veterinarian. In May 1940 he joined the army and was soon selected for Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the Coldstream Guards, did some Royal protection duty, and then trained with his unit for D-Day. They fought in Normandy, took part in Operation Market Garden, and in February-March 1945 played their part in the slow, hard-fought progress towards and across the Rhine into Germany.
On 3 April Liddell and his company needed to capture a vital bridge over the River Ems intact. It was wired for demolition and heavily defended, and he ran forward alone under fire, crossing and re-crossing the bridge to disconnect all the charges: he was recommended for the Victoria Cross. On 21 April, in action 170 km further into Germany at Rotenburg an der Wümme, he was killed by a sniper. He was 25. He had been married just three months. His widow would collect his Victoria Cross from the King.
His headstone in Becklingen War Cemetery is inscribed
“INTO THE MOSAIC OF VICTORY WE PLACE THIS PRECIOUS JEWEL OF HUSBAND AND SON”
Private John Gerard SPICER
John was from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Born in 1923, he attended the Basilica and Cathedral schools in Hamilton. He worked for steel fabrication companies, first the B. Greening Wire Company and then the Hamilton Bridge Company, whose employ he left to play his part in the Second World War.
His regiment, the Irish Regiment of Canada, fought in the Canadian 5th Armoured Division. In late April 1945 they were clearing German forces out of the northern Netherlands and the Ems estuary. The German garrison of the important port of Delfzijl was holding out. For the Irish Regiment trying to reach Delfzijl the going was slowed by mines and road demolitions while being shelled from Emden, across the estuary in Germany. On 1-2 May, John and his comrades attacked and cleared the Delfzijl pocket, capturing vital lock gates and canal installations intact. This would be both his division’s last battle, and his own.