Escape Artists

The Perfect Telegraph Obituary

A Twitter follower directed me to this astounding obituary in today's Telegraph:

Maj-Gen Tony Deane-Drummond

Major-General Tony Deane-Drummond, who has died aged 95, won a DSO and two MCs and escaped three times from enemy hands.

One of his MCs was awarded for his courage during Operation “Market Garden”, launched in 1944 with the aim of seizing a 60-mile corridor spanning eight major water obstacles to secure the Allied advance on to the German plain. The 1st Airborne Division was dropped on September 17 with the main objective of capturing the bridge over the Lower Rhine at Arnhem.

Deane-Drummond was second-in-command of Divisional Signals, but took temporary command of a company of 1st Parachute Battalion after the company commander was killed. The German opposition was far stronger than had been anticipated, and within a short period the company was reduced to 20 men.

Deane-Drummond distributed them between three houses. By nightfall nearly all their ammunition had gone and the main body of the battalion was 400 yards behind them. He and a small group moved to a house near the river.

When a party of Germans broke in and went upstairs to site a machine gun, Deane-Drummond and his team dived into a lavatory on the ground floor. For three days and nights, they took it in turns to rest on the lavatory seat and subsisted on a few apples that they found in the cellar. The Germans often tried the door, but finding it engaged went away again.

On the fourth night the group broke out and swam 400 yards across the Rhine. The opposite bank was manned by Germans, and in the darkness Deane-Drummond fell into a slit trench on top of a German soldier. He and his comrades were taken prisoner and moved to a house on the outskirts of Arnhem, a temporary PoW “cage” holding about 500 all ranks and guarded by an under-strength company. Deane-Drummond found a wall cupboard about four feet wide and 12 inches deep with a flush-fitting concealed door. He unscrewed the lock, turned it back to front, pasted over the outside keyhole and locked himself in. For the next 13 days and nights, he remained there.

The room beyond his door was used by the Germans as an interrogation centre. He had only a one-pound tin of lard, half a small loaf of bread and his water bottle to keep him going. A gap in a corner of the floor surrounded by pipes served as a makeshift urinal.

On the 14th night, the Germans left the room empty and held a party upstairs. Deane-Drummond slipped out of his cupboard, climbed out of a window, dropped into the shrubbery, dodged the guards outside and got away.

There's more, much more, about this incredibly gallant officer and soldier.

And as always with Telegraph obituaries, the pay-off comes at the end:

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Deane-Drummond was a proficient carpenter and enjoyed restoring antique furniture.