Major Dennis Stewart Munford, US Bronze Star, Dutch Bronze Lion
At Arnhem: 3rd Battery Commander
Prisoner of War Oflag VII-B, Eichstatt, Germany, POW No.76239
Casualty List No. 1791. Previously shown on Casualty List No. 1598 as reported Prisoner of War in German Hands Location Unknown now Not Prisoner of War. Previous Theatre of War, Western Europe.
WO 416/265/449 (POW card in National Archives Record,Kew)
Born: 16-09-1912, Yarmouth
Passed Away: 27-02-2007, Waveney
Information in about Major Munford, Gelders Archief 1604-611, 618, 620, 621
Major Munford commanded 3rd Battery. The seven guns of his battery were to support the troops at Arnhem Bridge.
Major Mumford: “I was told to go to Arnhem, first of all I went centre route with 3rd Battalion, we had trouble and we ran into to General Kussin, he was the town commander of Arnhem.
We then marched on, and one of the Battalions officers said to me, “I think you destination is the bridge”, and I said to him hopefully yes.” So he said if you intend to motor there?” because I had a jeep, he said you going to have problems and it will take you a long time.”
I can’t remember this officer’s name, but he was 3rd Battalion.”
“So I decided lets go by the river, he told me it would though, so I picked another route knowing the railway route was out. 1st Battalion was Colonel Dobie took this and they had a lot of casualties and so I thought I try the river the same which Frost 2nd Battalion will use, going to Arnhem by the river you don’t get lost!”
So I told my driver Bombardier Crook a first class chap, put your foot down and follow the tramlines into Arnhem. And this we did, I got to the river route and caught up with 1st Parachute Brigade and followed them to the bridge getting in touch with the Brigade Major Tony Hibbert. There was a bit of skirmishing but nothing serious, we got to the bridge; I can recall we also had some sappers with us. We had no radio communication at all I don’t know why as we had good signalers and good equipment but nothing worked.
Tony Hibbert and Freddy Gough had no communication either so it was hopeless.”
“I had no place to get everything checked out other then back at Regiment Headquarters at the landing zone, so again I told my driver “Foot down” and told Tony Harrison my troop commander to follow me, because his radio’s weren’t working either and follow me to the landing zone. Check my map reading and signal me if I made a mistake although we couldn’t go wrong as we followed the tramlines.
So we went very fast!, half way there I met Philip Tower the Brigade Major RA, I told him I could not use my radio , and that I was with 2nd Battalion at the bridge and we could hold out as long as we got ammunition and food. My driver was changing a tire which had got shot up, and I said to Tony don’t wait for me, he put his signaler Bombardier Horn into my jeep, and I decided to go back to the bridge with an extra signaler.”
”They changed the batteries we got and started tuning in. We had a brew up, posted out a sentry and went to sleep, I told Tony Hibbert we were back.
I woke up in the morning, no shooting. I told Tony Hibbert that I wanted to register the approaches in case we needed to fire on them, so I would not fire on our own troops.
I ranged the 3rd Battery guns on the southern approaches and shot on targets as requested.
On one occasion I asked 1st Battery to join in.
Later on the 18th when the Germans attacked again all I had to say to Sam Wilkinson was “Mike One”, and 5 rounds and they came down on the spot.”
“Radio communications were good by then and the gunner’s network worked well. As well as Freddy Gough, Tony Hibbert used my set several times. It was a 22set which we took out of the jeep into Brigade Headquarters building. We collected chunks of masonry and some sandbags we found in the building and built a barrier round the signallers and the set in the corner of the building. Visibility was excellent, as by now we had lost most of the roof and the whole town seemed to be on fire.
The following day the 19th a self-propelled gun arrived on the scene and inflicted great damage on our positions. It looked like a 105mm and, when the Germans trundled it into position on Tuesday, I was looking straight down the muzzle at about 200 yards. The gun took up a positon at the crossroads north of the bridge with the crew sheltering behind a substantial shield. My immediate request to engage it as a 'close' target was not granted as our own chaps were too near but, in consequence of the demolitions following the first few rounds.”
"Mike" targets in the Royal Artillery are used to call for the fire of all the Regiment's guns.
“I requested all help to spot the first round which would be smoke as the area was densely built up. Sam Wilkinson must have been surprised to learn from the order that an enemy field gun was in our position since I gave him my own map reference. True to form, 3 Battery gave me a wonderful first round. I reported “shot”' and everyone saw it 200 yards over and we soon put paid to the gun after that."
I was wounded by a German sniper in the morning, he hit a roof tile and the bullet hit my noise, you can still see the scarf today.”
“On Wednesday a tank was shooting at us and eventually hit the corner of the building and the wall hit the set and smashed it and communication with divisional headquarters stopped.
Bombardier Hall was badly hurt, Bombardier Crook, Gunner Low and I
dug ourselves out of the rubble and carried Hall down to the Regimental Aid Post, difficult because the stairwell was filled with debris. The cellars were crowded with wounded; we left Hall with the medics and went back returned to salvage our gear. The 68 set was still functioning but we were unable to contact Captain Buchanan, the Forward Observer Officer east of the road by the river. Later, as a prisoner, I heard that a bomb or a shell through the roof of his and had killed them all but, as far as I know, 'Buck' was never found."
"Battalion HQ next door was now burned out and Brigade HQ burning; as everyone else had left the building, we had about 300 stretchers cases and Tony Hibbert told me that we had to get them out before it was too late, as we had a truce with the Germans.
So we clambered down to the ground floor. Shortly afterwards, I heard Freddie Gough urgently shouting for me and saw him vanishing up the stairs with the tail of his smock unfastened and smouldering. I called him down and beat out the flames. We all helped with this task, not forgetting our owwn Bombardier Hall, until the indefatigable Freddie ordered us to rendezvous, in a large building as the truce was broken and 'the bastards are infiltrating our positions'. Tanks were once again prowling the streets and infantry closing in from all directions so we had to leave by vaulting boundary walls behind houses on the main street leading north. We had seen many soldiers killed in the last few days and I did not think I would be so moved as I was when we came upon Dutch civilians lying dead in their own homes and gardens."
“When I got to this building Tony Hibbert was there. John Frost, who was wounded, wasn’t there and Freddy Gough took over command from John Frost. Tony said to me, we got so many groups and we signing the ranks up in groups. I said to Tony look I want my own chaps but he said we don’t have time for that, so I got mainly 1st Parachute Brigade chaps.
We set off up the street next to the building I was in and we met some other chaps from 1st Parachute Brigade They had a Sergeant Major with them and he didn’t know me, perhaps he didn’t trusted me and they went off trying to cross the road. A German MG opened up and killed a number of them.”
“We then went back into the building where I stayed until dark. After that we went into a wood working yard or so. We were out of ammunition and we had nothing to fight with, there was a big house on a corner and Tony Hibbert went inside. There were Germans inside and he was one of the first to be captured, followed soon by others in our group, so I went back into the yard.”
The following morning I heard them coming so I went under a packing case and they missed me, they got all the others, but missed so I thought I am lucky and any I must have been dog tired and fell asleep I woke up being kicked at and had a bayonet pointed at me. So I just stood up and I was taken to the east to a building where they were searching and disarming people were I met the others Freddy Gough, Tony Hibbert I think I was the last one of the group they caught.
On Saturday 23rd September, having been held at big house in Velp just outside Arnhem with a number of other officers, they were loaded into a lorry with others and driven towards Zupthen railway station. One of those on board was Major Hibbert, the 1st Parachute Brigade's Brigade Major, and he gave Munford a very pronounced wink as they were about to enter the small town of Brummen. As soon as the lorry had reduced speed the pair jumped off and attempted to escape. Hibbert had a heavy landing and injured himself, yet he made good his escape and was later able to return to Britain. Munford set off in the opposite direction but was soon recaptured. When they jumped from the truck, one of the German guards panicked and opened fire with his Schmeisser on the other men in the lorry. One German soldier and four airborne troops were killed outright and a further two would later die of their wounds.
From the book Officers of the 1st Airlanding Light Regiment Royal Artillery during the Battle of Arnhem 17th - 26th September 1944 (2016- Philip Reinders)
The Bronze Lion (Dutch: Bronzen Leeuw) is a high Royal Dutch award, intended for servicemen who have shown extreme bravery and leadership in battle favouring The Netherlands; in some special cases it can be awarded to Dutch or foreign civilians. It was first created in 1944 and has since been issued 1,210 times. Proposals for an award are reviewed by the Dutch Board for Bravery Awards, which is part of the Ministry of Defence. If awarded they are enforced by a Royal Decree. The Bronze Lion has precedence after the Order of the House of Orange but is the second-highest military decoration still being awarded for bravery (only preceded by the Military William Order).