Over the last few years, our colleague Ruby Olseen has been researching the history of her grandfather, Harry Arnold, to understand more about the role he played in the Allies’ victory in the second world war.
Last year, you read about how Ruby had discovered Harry had served with the SAS in 1944. As part of No. 2 Sqdn 2nd Special Air Services (SAS) regiment he took part in at least two operations – Operation Pistol and Operation Archway – both important steps in the path to the Allied victory.
After we published Harry’s story, Ruby was contacted with more information about her grandfather and his life in the SAS, and some fantastic wartime photographs showing him alongside his comrades.
Read on to find out more about Harry’s amazing story.
Harry’s day-to-day life during Operation Pistol
After we shared Harry’s story in the week of Remembrance Sunday last year, Ruby received an email from an individual who had more information about her grandad when he was in the SAS.
So, armed with these details, Ruby was able to piece together more of what Harry’s time in the SAS looked like. Over to you, Ruby…
Receiving more information about my grandfather’s role in the second world war has been fantastic, and seeing many of the documents and photos from that time has really brought his story to life.
We’ve now discovered that Harry’s “parent group” was the Royal Artillery regiment and his barracks were situated in Woolwich.
Additionally, we were able to get a true understanding of his time on the front line, as we were able to view documents detailing what it was like day-to-day for my grandad.
We already knew that Harry – known as “Arnold” in these documents – had participated in Operation Pistol in the autumn of 1944. This operation was planned with the intention of harassing the enemy’s road and rail communications running eastward from the front between Metz and Nancy and on the approaches to the Rhine plain.
As you can see from the document below, four parties were dropped, splitting into two on landing. Harry was in group B2.
You’ll see from the sheet that Harry was in a group led by Lieutenant Castellain. Another document written by one of “Arnold”’s comrades detailed the group’s activities on 16 September 1944.
We lay up at 0 712321, and at about 17.00 hrs we moved off in two parties towards the lake at 0 690315 where Lieut. Castellain intended to draw water. I had Arnold with me and had orders to avoid everyone, including civilians.
Lieut. Castellain moved off first, but when our time came we found a number of civilians moving along the roads with cattle and we could not cross the road in daylight. The noise we made in moving through the undergrowth and small trees was heard and on two occasions the civilians started shouting.
We lay still until dark and then moved to the lake which we found on the morning of the 17th September. Lieut. Castellain, however, had gone.
Just six weeks later, on 28 October 1944, Harry – again shown as “Arnold” here, was reported missing.
Thankfully he was found soon after as you can see from the report below, showing him as “Previously reported Missing, now reported Not Missing”.
Finally, it was fantastic to see these two photos of Harry during that time. In the first, he is on the right of the photograph, and we have been able to identify his comrades and connect with their families.
Here’s a photo of the entire No. 2 squadron 2nd Special Air Services (SAS) regiment, taken in October 1945 – a month after the end of the war.
Harry is standing far right at the end of the middle row.
We’re so grateful to have seen this information and these images to further piece together the details of Harry’s service during these vital operations.