Help? Looking for war time photo of Sgt. Thornton

Discussion in 'Airborne' started by teletypeman, Jun 6, 2012.

  1. teletypeman

    teletypeman Senior Member

    I am a new guy here. I a searching for a war time photo of Sergeant M.C. "Wagger" Thornton of 17 Platoon B Coy 2nd Battalion 52nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. Have read about this soldier in S. Ambrose book Pegasus Bridge. I am wondering if any of the other books or magazines written about the battles at the bridges might have a war time photo of Him? Or do any of you know where I might find one? A museum? I am no relation to this fine soldier, I would just like to know what he looked like. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks
  2. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Welcome to the Forum

    I did a bit of a search for a wartime photo of Thornton and came up empty handed. I have several of him in his later years which I suspect would be familiar to you. If no one can help here you may have better luck over at the Forums where someone has made a similar request.

    Perhaps our Arnhem lads can shed some light on Thornton's involvement with the 1st Airborne. I believe after recovering from his wounds in Normandy he took jump training and later went in with the 2nd battalion at Arnhem where he was once again wounded and later captured along side Colonel Frost. That is from Ambrose, so I'm not sure how trustworthy that is?

    Needless to say a very brave man as his Military Medal would attest. There's a poignant picture of him crossing Pegasus Bridge with companions on the 50th anniversary of D-Day. I'm sure his use of crutches is a result of wounds received in both Normandy and Arnhem.

    Wagger Thornton stays the pace
  3. Paul Pariso

    Paul Pariso Very Senior Member

    Perhaps our Arnhem lads can shed some light on Thornton's involvement with the 1st Airborne. I believe after recovering from his wounds in Normandy he took jump training and later went in with the 2nd battalion at Arnhem where he was once again wounded and later captured along side Colonel Frost. That is from Ambrose, so I'm not sure how trustworthy that is?

    Hello Cee,

    I've heard this story too but have never been able to find definitive proof one way or the other :(

    All the best............
  4. Paul Pariso

    Paul Pariso Very Senior Member

    Here are some comments I found on the "web" whilst researching the Arnhem connection:

    We see above a summary of the evidence available from contemporary sources that Sgt Thornton fought at Arnhem in September 1944, was wounded and taken prisoner. This evidence is supported by remarks in the book "Pegasus Bridge" by Stephen Ambrose. We find (pp 189-90) that the sight of gliders heading to Arnhem is mentioned: ".... John Howard [did not know] but Sergeant Thornton was up there, with a group of paratroopers. When Thornton was evacuated from Normandy, he had a quick recovery from his wound. Then, rather than wait for D [strictly B, as he had been in Fox's platoon] Company to return, he had transferred to the 1st Airborne Division, gone through his jump training, and was going in with Colonel John Frost's 2nd Battalion. Thornton fought beside Frost at Arnhem Bridge for four days, and was captured with him. When I suggested to him that he was probably the only man to have been at both famous bridges, he modestly and typically denied it, saying there must have been others." From this extract, we have categorical evidence that Thornton was interviewed by this distinguished author, and confirmed his presence at Arnhem. Sergeant Thornton certainly seems at some point to have acquired the sobriquet of "Thornton of the Three Bridges", the three bridges being, one supposes, Horsa, Pegasus and Arnhem.

    However, as a counter to the above evidence, we must note that the Curator of the Airborne Forces Museum specifically states that no Sergeant M C Thornton transferred to the Parachute Regiment, no NCO of that name is recorded as having taken or passed the parachute training course, and no NCO of that name is recorded as being a POW in Northwest Europe. The POW records were most carefully maintained by both sides, as they were inspected and audited by the International Red Cross under the rules of the Geneva Convention. However, we believe that it would have been quite possible for an enterprising NCO to have 'bummed a lift' to Arnhem. In the chaos of that operation and its aftermath, documentary records if kept at all were mostly lost. One is also a bit uneasy to note that Sergeant Thornton, if he fought at Arnhem, evidently recovered sufficiently from 'a serious leg wound' in the 12 weeks between the Herouvillette battle and mid-September 1944, and yet, after the war had a leg injury that 'refused to heal' and which was amputated. Was he wounded twice in the leg? Or was the first injury only partly healed, and subsequently gave him serious problems?

    One gets the feeling that this NCO, having proved beyond doubt his qualities of leadership in the field and gallantry in battle, is most unlikely to have made up a fictitious story of an Arnhem adventure. He had no reason to want to 'boost his ego.' But the total lack of documentary evidence to support this story means that it must, regrettably, for the time being at least, remain just an intriguing legend.

    We have already noted that 'Wagger' Thornton was a regular pilgrim to Normandy after the war, and we believe that he died in about 1997.""
  5. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Thanks Paul!

    I wasn't expecting that. It looks like we have yet another mystery on our hands. Hopefully some kind of documentation will come along to show his whereabouts during that period. It's hard to believe he could have vanished into limbo for the remainder of the war without a record of some kind.

    Here are a couple of pictures from his later years. I won't put up a larger version of the one on the Parr site as I'm not sure of the copyright there.


    Edit: Replaced lost pics

    Attached Files:

  6. Philip Reinders

    Philip Reinders Very Senior Member

    No Sergeant M C Thornton transferred to the Parachute Regiment, no NCO of that name is recorded as having taken or passed the parachute training course, and no NCO of that name is recorded as being a POW in Northwest Europe.

    shouldn't that not be enough prove, that he was not at Arnhem?, there is a list of those captured at and around the bridge, if he is not on that either, I doubt he ever was, will check the list this weekend
  7. Philip Reinders

    Philip Reinders Very Senior Member

    checked the list he is not on it, also checked my arnhem name list with 12.000 names, which ofcourse is nothing official, but he is not on that either, also checked a number of accounts I have from 2nd Battalion members, including 2 of Battalion HQ, no mention either, and as a private he might got list in the paper work, but a sergeant one would remember I think
  8. teletypeman

    teletypeman Senior Member

    Thanks for answering or trying to answer my question. I noted in the photos Cee posted, a museum photo. Is that Sgt. Thornton's original jacket or a copy of it? Did all British Airborne soldiers(both Glider and Paras) wear jump wings on their uniform? Did the Jump qualified soldiers just wear the qualification badge as a cap badge on their beret? I will check at the other site to see if I can get an answer if you cannot come up with anything. I have ordered Neil Barber's book on the battles at the bridges. I am looking forward to reading it. I spent sometime in the U.S.military and know that people who deserve more/greater recognition are often overlooked or forgotten. I feel this way about Sgt.Thornton. I also know that paper work is sometimes lost/misplaced or destroyed. Maybe that is the case with Sgt Thornton being jump qualified. As you guys say "Thanks Mates"
  9. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Hi Gene,

    I pulled the museum display picture from an online Picasa web album found here. It appears to have been taken at the Pegasus Memorial Museum in Benouville.

    Para wings worn on the upper shoulder are awarded on the successful completion of a 2 week physical training course at Hardwick, followed by the jump course at Ringway. Glider pilots had their own distinctive wing insignia that was worn on the left breast as well as their own separate cap badge. Thornton's Battalion the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry retained their traditional regimental beret badge as did all the airlanding battalions. The parachute regiment battalions of the 3rd and 5th Brigade wore the winged badge as seen in my avatar on their berets. The exception there was the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion with their own distinctive insignia. I'm sure someone will correct me if I got any of that wrong.

    Good eye though on noting the wings on the jacket. Thornton's medals are on display, so can we assume he donated the jacket as well? Perhaps the museum could answer that question.
  10. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Here's a page devoted to the cloth insignia worn by the The 2nd (Airborne) Battalion,The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. See the section on the Parachutist (Non Parachute Unit) Qualification Badge which is described as the "lightbulb".

    CLOTH INSIGNIA - Lightbobs

    The jacket on display is one worn by a member of the parachute regiment rather than an airlanding unit. You probably noticed as well that in one photo he is wearing on his beret the winged para badge and in the other the Ox and Bucks badge.
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

  12. teletypeman

    teletypeman Senior Member

    Has anyone listened to the sound bit/recording by Sgt Thornton that was removed from the IWM web site? If so did it have the Arnhem Bridge part of his life in the recording? As I understand it ( and some other files ) were remove over a legal/copyright issue. I would like to listen to it. I enjoyed Pvt. Henry "Nobby" Clark's interview. Sometimes I think Shakespear had it correct when he said "Kill all the lawyers first". If you are a Lawyer sorry about that! At one time in this country any man could defend himself with a copy of "Black's". Sorry about going off on that tangent. I guess someone in Britian is going to have to get really curious about "Wagger" and contact his family and get to the bottom of the Arnhem Bridge thing and ask for a war time photo of his. The Reeenactor web site was a No Go. There is a picture of the entire 2nd Bn taken in 1942 that was interesting and according to the gent who posted it "Wagger" was in the Battalion at that time. Once again Thanks Mates!
  13. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Hi Gene,

    Is this the interview you are interested in at the IWM:

    Thornton, Charles 'Wagger' - IWM interview

    As far as I'm aware many recordings at the IWM are currently unavailable while they sort out technical problems. Much to the chagrin of many people on this forum I might add.

    Apparently the originals are held at the Ambrose Collection at the Eisenhower Centre, University of New Orleans. I only did a quick search there, but have yet to find the Thornton interview under their "Digital Collections"

    Earl K. Long Library

    The medals on display in the cabinet are interesting also and appear to accord with the bars (?) on the left breast of jacket. I'll try to list them at some point.

    Gotta run ...
  14. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Ok here's my take on Charles Thornton's Medals as poorly viewable in the museum display photo. I'll add a couple of pics as attachments despite the fact the detail and colour rendering is not the best. Top to bottom is left to right for close up included

    The Military Medal
    The 1939-1945 Star
    The Africa Star
    The Italy Star
    The France and Germany Star
    Defence Medal
    War Medal 1939-45

    As far as I can tell there is no clasp on the Africa Star Medal ribbon, but there is a noticeable "one" on the chest bar which indicates the 1st ARMY to me. I'm not the best with medals so your thoughts would be appreciated if I'm off the mark.


    Attached Files:

  15. teletypeman

    teletypeman Senior Member

    One more question to any European member of this forum. I just read Neil Barber's "The Pegasus and Orne Bridges, listed in the Bibliography is item called "The Pegasus Trail" Audio accounts of the ops of the 6th Airborne
    in Normandy. 1994 Brittany Ferries. Do any of you have this Tape/Cd/Book
    and is Sgt Thornton among the people interviewed. I have contacted numerous sources here in the States trying to get the a complete copy of Sgt. Thornton's interview with S. Ambrose. The Univ. of New Orleans turned over all their tape and files to the WW2 museum. I have not heard back from them on the status of this file. I also E-mailed the Pegasus Bridge Museum in Normandy to enquire if the Tunic that is in their display case is Sgt Thornton's (the tunic in Cee's post). I have not heard back from them either, so I plan to snail mail them. I might even try a facebook search try to see if I can find a related Thornton in London to ask for a Photo and enquire for permission to obtain his service records only on the Arnhem question. Once again Thanks for all your help Ttyman
  16. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    Paul Reed who is a member on WW2Talk may be able to help you with the content of the "The Pegasus Trail" tape. I suspect, however, it will 6th Airborne specific.


    And good on you for being relentless in your search and do let us know how you get on. It is a bit of a delicate one as you know.

    Cheers ... :)
  17. teletypeman

    teletypeman Senior Member

    I have done a little more research on Sgt. Thornton just using the forum. Looking at the MM award that Drew5233 posted, Thornton's service No. is 5340498. Is that correct? Using that No. I went to one of Geoff search engines and found that he entered the Service as a member of The Royal Berkshire Regiment. I then did a Google search for that regiment. Noting Sgt. Thornton's other medals-Africa/Italy service may we surmise he was at one time assigned to the 10th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire as that was the only unit in that Regiment that was in that theater of the war? As we do not have his records and will not be available for another 10 year to the public, we can only surmise at all this.Would this be a way to determine this?
    I am new to this so comments would be appreciated. Ttyman
  18. teletypeman

    teletypeman Senior Member

    I did a little more research on Sgt. Thornton using info from the Forum. I got Thornton's service No. from Drew5233's post. This is 5340498. Would that be correct?
    I took that No. and used Geoff program to find out that Thornton probably started out in the Royal Berkshire Regiment, that block of numbers was assigned to them. I then Googled the Royal Berkshire Reg., taking into account Sgt Thornton's Africa & Italy Star. The only Battalion in that Reg. that was in both places was the 10th Bn.
    So we can presume he was in that unit before Volunteering/Transfering to the Oxf. & Bucks. Would that be correct? We cannot be assured of this unless we/I make contact with a known direct relative, or wait another 10 years and then any one can obtain his records. I am new at all this, would appreciate comments Thanks
  19. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    At this time I don't know when Thornton transferred to the 2nd Ox and Bucks (and from what unit). But to correct information I sent in a PM see this exchange starting with Mike Barr followed by lightbob's response. The 2nd Ox and Bucks didn't go to North Africa except for members with the 52nd Divisional Defense Platoon.

    WW2Talk - Permalink

    And yes it does appear his first posting was with the Royal Berkshire Regiment as you say and may be an avenue of research. Of course without knowing his exact postings it is a bit of a gamble.

    No news yet from the relative I mentioned ... :(

    Carry on ... :)
  20. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Private N. J. Neads in his account on ParaData (pages 5 and 9) mentions a Snowy Thornton being present with him at the Bridge when they attempted to breakout after the situation proved hopeless. Neads is wounded and captured. Later after eluding the Germans for several days Snowy is caught and ends up in the same temporary POW camp as Neads.

    For the sake of elimination can anyone identify this Thornton and what unit he was with?

    Private Neads' personal account of Operation Market Garden including capture - ParaData

    On an unrelated note you have to marvel at Neads' discovery of an unnamed 2nd Battalion stowaway found in a jeep after his glider had set off for Arnhem.

    Thanks ...

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