Officers with 8th Battalion on Tonga

Discussion in 'Airborne' started by welshmedals, Jul 7, 2021.

  1. welshmedals

    welshmedals Junior Member


    I just wondered if there was a list of Officers who jumped on Tonga in June 1944. I am just starting to research an officer Lt William Irving.

    Para data seems light on this battalion.

    thanks again.
  2. David Woods

    David Woods Active Member

    Lieutenant William Irving (285991)
    Commissioned R.A.C., 18th July, 1943

    Parachute Regiment
    Lieutenant William Irving (285991) from R.A.C.
    6th Nov. 1943 to Dec. 1946 +

    Lieutenant William Irving (285991)
    8th (Midland Counties) Parachute Battalion
    Reported Missing 10.02.1945
    Reported Not Missing D. N. R.

    Captain William Irving (285991)
    8th (Midland Counties) Parachute Battalion
    GSM Palestine 07.08.1945 - 14.07.1946

    From Pegasus Archive

    8th (Midland Counties) Parachute Battalion

    Battalion Headquarters

    Commander : Lieutenant-Colonel Alastair Pearson

    Second-in-Command: Major J. W. B. Marshall

    Adjutant : Captain A. J. Bookless

    Acting Adjutant : Lieutenant John Kay England

    Intelligence Officer : Lieutenant R. A. Casares

    Brigade Liaison Officer : Lieutenant E. G.Wells

    Medical Officer : Captain R. S. Holtan

    Chaplain : Captain/Reverend G. A. Kay

    Regimental Sergeant Major : RSM A. G. Parsons

    Headquarters / Support Company

    Commander : Major G. Payne

    Administration Officer : Captain C. E. Greenwood

    Signals Platoon : Lieutenant C. A. Cramp

    Anti-Tank Platoon : Lieutenant L. M. McLaine-Cross

    Medium Machine Gun Platoon : Lieutenant D. C. Scaife

    Mortar Platoon : Lieutenant R. C. Thompson

    Company Sergeant Major : CSM I. Hutchinson

    A Company

    Commander : Major S. Terrell

    Second-in-Command : Captain C. J. V. Shoppee

    Company Sergeant Major : CSM F. Cooke

    No.1 Platoon : Lieutenant G. R. Whitely

    No.2 Platoon : Lieutenant I. E. Nicholls

    No.3 Platoon : Lieutenant Richard Fry

    Attached Officer : Lieutenant B. G. Luxton

    B Company

    Commander : Major A. J. Wilson

    Second-in-Command : Captain D. B. Kelland

    Company Sergeant Major : CSM L. Jones

    No.4 Platoon : Lieutenant C. Connelly

    No.5 Platoon : Lieutenant B. Ridings

    No.6 Platoon : Lieutenant P. Durrance

    C Company

    Commander : Major G. Hewetson

    Second-in-Command : Captain H. McCartney

    Company Sergeant Major : CSM W. Burns

    No.7 Platoon : Lieutenant R. G. Ellen

    No.8 Platoon : Lieutenant J. Cooper

    No.9 Platoon : Lieutenant Colin William Brown

    Seaborne Echelon

    Commander : Lieutenant Thomas Ellemore Miller

    Died: 117 Wounded: 236 Missing: 110
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2021
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  3. welshmedals

    welshmedals Junior Member

    David thanks so much! Fabulous

    I can only assume he must have joined the unit post DDay. I will have to dig into his career further, the listed missing and found Is very interesting. He must have taken part in Varsity.
  4. arnhem2280

    arnhem2280 Member

    I have a nominal roll of all the officers that were with the 8th. If you are still looking for info I will dig it out and check it for you. It could be that he was a reinforcement as the 8th took heavy casualties in Normandy.
    Let me know if you are still looking for info.


  5. arnhem2280

    arnhem2280 Member

    A bit more info ,Lt Irving was on para cse 98 at Ringway which ran between 29/113 and 13/12/43.


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  6. welshmedals

    welshmedals Junior Member

    Arnhem et all,

    Thanks for that. Having spoken to Mark at Pegasus I have received copies of the War Diary. Irving is listed as joining the battalion on the 13/12/1943. He was in the Officers Roll on the 6th May and 30 November. I would assume he must have dropped with the battalion on D-Day although I have not found mention during the period they were in France including joining.

    He was listed as missing on a patrol on the 8th Feb. I post the details he appears to have gone off with another man on a 24hr patrol and never returned, there is no record of him being a POW as I could find but he did not resurface for some 8 weeks later. He later served in Palestine as a Capt in the battalion.

    I am sure there is some interesting story with this disappearance.

    I stumbled on an Obit entry in the April 1988 Pegasus Journal for W (Bill) Irving of B Coy 8th Btn Parachute Regiment who died on 11th Dec 1987. I found a close match a William Irving who died in Carlisle on the 8th Nov 1987 born in 1923 this could be the man?

    I am looking to discover if Irving dropped with the battalion on DDay and a positive ID. With a single first name its a tricky one to track down.

    Attached Files:

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  7. David Woods

    David Woods Active Member


    You've been busy. Just a reminder that not everyone landed on D-Day.

    He is not on the list of officers for D-Day that I have already posted.

    My instincts tell me you should think about an entry in the War Diary that reads:

    8th Parachute Battalion
    5th July 1944
    Place: 140723

    Reinforcements of 5 officers and 92 OR's arrived from R.H.Q.

    Judging by the composition of these reinforcements, I suspect that this is the Reserve Company.
    I would not be surprised if one of its platoon commanders was Lt. William Irving.

    However, documentary proof is required to be certain.

    Assuming that he arrived on the 5th July, 1944 and was given a new appointment in the battalion.
    The change would be seen in the Field Return Of Officers.
    Obtaining copies from before and after 5th July, 1944, may answer your question, as it would give the date of his new appointment.

    The 8th Parachute Battalion had lost a number of platoon commanders by 5th July, 1944. So there were plenty of positions to fill.

    8th Parachute Battalion Casualty List.jpg
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2021
  8. arnhem2280

    arnhem2280 Member

    Irving is definitely not on the list I have of officers who dropped on D Day. He is an officer with the battalion on D Day so I suspect for some reason he was a member of R (Reinforcement) company which remained in the UK until members of it were required to replace those who were either injured or KiA. I suspect as has originally been mentioned by David Woods that if there was a list of those who joined the battalion on 5th July he would appear on it. Unfortunately that list has not come to light yet.


    BrianHall1963 likes this.
  9. welshmedals

    welshmedals Junior Member

    Gents, just a brief update i have just got off the phone with Bill Irvings son Michael. Bill owned a family farm in Cumbria and the family still live on the farm he joined in 1941 in tanks, he died in 1987 after a short illness.

    Michael confirmed that Bill did not jump at D-Day but was captured with an NCO from Whitehaven and was incarcerated until liberation at the end of the war. He spent alot of his time in solitary confinement and had a rough time in his 3 months. He is getting photos and other bits for me and i will update this thread in due course including photos as i get them.

    Once again thanks everyone for your assistance.
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  10. welshmedals

    welshmedals Junior Member

    Lads received his POW card this week, not much but confirmation of capture.
  11. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    When was he captured? February I think you said, which would obviously mean 1945. At that time they were on the river Maas in Holland. A few men were lost (from all battalions) on river crossing patrols there.

  12. David Woods

    David Woods Active Member


    Some information that could be useful to you.

    The closed file on Lieutenant William Irving (285991) at the National Archives was opened on the 3rd August, 2021, for public viewing. You can also order a copy if you wish.

    Attached Files:

  13. welshmedals

    welshmedals Junior Member

    thanks gents yes that’s me and I opened it which was the attached card above. I await his service records but a biblical wait at the moment.
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  14. welshmedals

    welshmedals Junior Member

    Chaps here is his story:

    William Irving was born in Carlisle on the 20th December 1923, he was the son of Thomas Irving, a Cattle Dealer of Blackwell Hall Carlisle and ‘Farholme’ 139 Brampton Road, Carlisle. The Irving Family were farmers living in the Manor House of Blackwell Hall, a mile south of Carlisle. He attended St Bee’s School, Cumbria between 1937 and 1941, and was a member of the OTU before joining the Home Guard. At 18 he left school and enlisted at Carlisle in February 1942 into the Royal Armoured Corps as Trooper 7952413. He was posted to Bovington Training Camp, Dorset where he was later discharged to an emergency commission in the Royal Tank Regiment in July 1943.

    On commissioning he was posted to the 11th Tank Bde in July but in October applied to join the newly formed Airborne Forces and joined the depot located at Hardwick Camp near Chesterfield in Derbyshire. Hardwick Hall became the new nucleus for parachute training and physical selection for airborne forces.The Hall was a magnificent Elizabethan House built between 1591-97 by Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick). In 1941 the house and grounds were part of the Duke of Devonshire Chatsworth Estate. Army Northern Command leased 53 acres of it to establish a camp of red brick huts with training areas.

    The camp was located south west of the Hall with a Parachute Jump Tower on its periphery. Assault courses and trapeze in-flight swing training structures were also next to the camp. When pre-jump training was successfully completed, the recruits that passed out were required to speed-march approximately 50 miles to join the parachute course at RAF Ringway. They further marched back to Ringway from the Tatton Park drop zone each time they completed a training descent.

    Following completion of the Parachute Course in October 1943, Bill was awarded his wings and Parachute pay. He joined up with the 8th Battalion Parachute Regiment of the 6th Airborne Division on the 10th January 1944. On 6 June 1944, the 8th Parachute Battalion landed in Normandy on their own drop zone 'K' between Cuverville and Touffréville 3 miles (4.8 km) to the south of the main force at Ranville. The battalion's objectives were to destroy two bridges crossing the River Dives near Bures and a third at Troarn. Bill Irving did not drop with his unit or serve in France during that Summer but remained in the echelon in the UK. When the battalion returned from France in August 1944, Irving re-joined A Company as a new platoon commander.

    The Ardennes 1944-45

    On 16 December 1944, the Germans launched a surprise counterattack through the forests of the Ardennes. Their plan was aimed at splitting the Allied armies and pushing through an armoured force to the English Channel. In command on the northern sector Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery ordered the 6th Airborne division, refitting in England to move to Belgium and form a defensive line along the River Meuse. On Christmas Eve 1944 the 8th Battalion Parachute Regiment was training on Salisbury Plain, they were taken by truck to Dover, spent the night in Dover. Christmas morning across the Channel to Calais, in trucks through snow and ice to Belgium. The next morning, they were taken on the Ardennes Forest, up to front line within the snow-covered forest and stayed there for three days, occasionally fired on, living on basic rations. They made tea by melting snow and shaved in the water as well. After three days we came out of the front line into a village.

    By 29 December, still part of the 3rd Parachute Brigade the 8th Parachute Battalion, were in position to attack the leading German formation, in the Rochefort area. After heavy fighting the town was eventually captured.

    The wintry conditions made life very difficult for the division, and operations became somewhat hazardous because of the thick snow and sub-zero temperatures. By the end of January, 6th Airborne Division had been withdrawn to Holland, where it took up positions near the River Maas in the area of Venlo and Roermond. A vigorous programme of patrolling was conducted fighting by units of all its three brigades, although such operations were made hazardous by the necessity of having to cross the Maas, which was wide and in full flood. The small assault craft used by patrols were often swept away by the strong current, and landfall at any predetermined spot on the far bank became difficult. Nevertheless, patrol operations continued. On the 8th February Lieutenant Irving and an NCO from Whitehaven set off on one such night recce patrol to a wood on the other side of the Maas, they were lightly armed with sten guns and a few grenades. Their task was to lie up in enemy occupied territory within a wood for 24hrs and observe any movement on roads and railway lines running north south on the east side of the Maas. They were dropped off on the west back of the Mass at 20.30hrs by a boating party on the bank of the river and disappeared into the darkness, never heard from again.

    It appears Lieutenant Irving’s patrol ran into a party of Germans and were captured, opposite them was a Regiment of the German Fallschirmjäger, battle hardened soldiers who were far more experienced at patroling. Irving would be classed as missing until the 14th April 1945 when he found his way back to allied lines. During his imprisonment he would initially be kept at a local Police Station and then moved by train east deeper into Germany as the Allies advanced. He eventually found freedom when his prison train was attacked by Allied fighters and unlocked by the German Guards, he found escape on foot to allied lines.


    Bill Irving returned to England on the 21st April 1945 and given 42 days leave and told to report to AAC Depot after. Bill headed back home to the farm in Carlisle for a well-earned rest for a possible move to the Far East and Invasion of Japan. As it happened with the use of the nuclear bombs on Japan in August 1945 they surrendered and the 6th Airborne Division was instead redeployed to Palestine. Bill returned to the 8th Battalion in on the 9th September and 10 days later was embarking on a ship with the battalion for Palestine. Arab intransigence over the surge of Jewish immigration that followed the Holocaust in Europe led to the forming of extreme dissident Zionist groups such as IZL (Irgun Zwai Leumi) and the Stern Gang, all seeking to promote their aims through violence. As tensions mounted the 3rd Parachute Brigade moved to Lydda District, incorporating Tel Aviv and the 6th Air Landing to Samaria; while the 2nd Parachute Brigade remained in Gaza. Terrorist outrages, including assassinations and the murder of airborne soldiers were exacerbated by the failure of the British White Paper in November 1945 to offer a political solution to the Palestine problem. The Division responded with aggressive cordon and search operations, road blocks, convoy protection and guarding key points, which became the daily routine between 1946 and early 1947. Curfews imposed during strikes and rioting in Tel Aviv earned airborne troops the Jewish ‘Kalanyot’ nick-name, which associated the maroon beret with a red poppy, that has a black heart.


    Bill returned from Palestine in September 1946 and was demobbed from the service. He returned to his family business of farming in Carlisle and became the organiser of many of the 8th Battalion Parachute Regiment Reunions. Bill sadly died aged 63 at Carlisle in November 1989. His WW2 campaign stars were claimed in Jan 1949 and GSM Palestine in 1954.

    Attached Files:

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