Bucknall, Peter Lacey.

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Bucknall, Peter Lacey, born in Birmingham. in 1921, the son of Jack H Bucknall and Grace M Bucknall, of Birmingham. He was granted an emergency commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Reconnaissance Corps on the 4th July 1942, having initially volunteered for the Commandos with his great friend Lieutenant John Alban Christie, and was posted to what was to become the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron. Peter Bucknall and John Christie were friends since elementary school. When they were 18, in 1939, they entered the army together. Trained in the commandos and the Airborne Division, they reunited through a number of wanderings in what eventually became the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Corps and fought in North Africa and Italy in 1943 (landing at Taranto). John Alban Christie didn’t survive the war and died in battle on 20-09-1944, aged 23 years old. He also is now buried at Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Arnhem.  As a section commander in “C” Troop, Bucknall served in North Africa and Italy from May to November 1943, and on his return to the UK in 1944 he was given command of No.8 Section.

Peter served as Section Commander of 8 Section, C Troop of 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron, Royal Armoured Corps. He took part in the Battle of Arnhem, during Operation Market Garden.

Parachute trained troops jumped just after 14:00 hours on Sunday 17 September with the remainder of men and equipment arriving by glider. Most of the Squadron was ready to depart from Renkum Heath by 15:40 hours, with C Troop tasked to lead the advance towards Arnhem.

Lieutenant Bucknall proceeded in one jeep with the first three men available from his section: Troopers Goulding, Brumwell and Gorringe. Sergeant Thomas  McGregor followed in a second jeep with the remaining men of No 8 section. Sergeant Tom McGregor also died, the first day of Market Garden, on 17-09-1944, aged 20 years old, and was initially provided a field burial in Duitsekampweg. He is now also buried at Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Arnhem

After departing the Heath the Squadron’s leading jeeps made good progress and stopped to rendezvous on the approaches to Wolfheze. It was decided that Lieutenant Bucknall’s Section would take the lead in the advance a couple of miles further on from the RV. At the agreed position No 9 Section pulled over and Bucknall’s two Section jeeps swept through at speed followed by No 7 Section.

Having taken the level crossing the jeeps advanced down Johannahoeveweg which ran eastwards from the station as a narrow avenue. About a third of a mile from the Wolfheze junction the road dips down and up again. The railway embankment running parallel commands the space around this dip.

As Bucknall’s jeep proceeded down into the dip and up the other side it was ambushed by a defensive blocking line of men from the 16th SS Panzer Grenadier Battalion. under command of SS-Gruppenführer Max Simon    Gruppenführer Simon survived the war and died 01-02-1961 (aged 62) in Lünen, West Germany. All four men in the first jeep including Lieutenant  Bucknall were killed in the ambush and initially given a field burial in a garden at Duitsekampweg.

Most probably the men were not taken prisoner and then shot. It is more likely they were shot from behind because they were moving at speed and probably their jeep overshoot the German positions. The Germans apparently used a flame thrower on the jeep. SS Sturmbahnfuhrer Sepp Krafft’s battle report does mention that they were included as part of his armament.  Sepp Krafft’s battalion consisted of just under 500 soldiers who were stationed in the immediate vicinity of this headquarters: Wolfheze, Oosterbeek and Arnhem. Sepp Krafft died 04-03-1986, age 80, in Meckenheim, Germany.

Death andf burial ground of Bucknall, Peter Lacey.

Lieutenant Bucknall died on 17-09-1944, aged 23 years old in an ambush and is now buried at Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Arnhem. Plot 16. Row B. Grave 5.

Dear Mr Bucknall,

It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that Peter was killed whilst assaulting a wood on Sunday evening 17th September 1944.

His section were the leading section of the whole division when we started to move down to the bridge at Arnhem. He met some machine-gun posts in a wood during the first hour of the advance. He set off very courageously with his section to assault the wood but was killed with 3 of his men. The wood, however, was soon cleared and Peter’s body recovered, he was buried on the Monday morning.

Peter was a personal friend of mine, his death is a great loss to all of us in the Squadron. He was so well liked and always so keen on his job.

It is difficult for me to find words to console you in your great loss. All I can say is that Peter gave his life for a very great cause. He knew as do we all that the operation at Arnhem was hard. This, however, did not sheer him away from doing his duty. He went into battle with a smile on his face as he always had knowing full well what was at stake. He died for his country which hourly grows greater and greater because of men like your son Peter.

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