Staff Sergeant Peter Clarke G Squadron The Glider Pilot Regiment


Staff Sergeant Peter Clarke G Squadron The Glider Pilot Regiment

SSgt Peter Clarke had been a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps since he was eighteen, serving in the Field Ambulance. Clarke had provided medical services to anti-aircraft batteries in Gravesend before being assigned as medical staff at RAF Manston. Realising his desire to fly, Clarke applied to become Air Crew for the RAF. Although he was successful, the Army no longer allowed transfers.

Instead, Clarke joined the Glider Pilot Regiment in July 1942. Clarke received his Army Flying Wings in March 1943. He was briefed for the D-Day landings, but the day before take-off, Clarke’s co-pilot was taken ill with glandular fever and there was no replacement.

With the first wave of Operation Market Garden, Clarke flew to Arnhem in a Horsa glider with his co-pilot Sgt Arnold Philips. Their load consisted of a mortar platoon of the Border Regiment complete with a jeep trailer packed with mortars and mortar bombs. 

Four days into the battle, Clarke started running a regimental aid post in the part of the line which his regiment was holding. Clarke’s previous medical training was essential as he patched up casualties as they waited to be evacuated to makeshift hospitals.

On 25 September, Clarke’s co-pilot, Sgt Arnold Phillips was killed. The circumstances are unknown.

As the order was given to retreat across the river, Clarke chose to stay with four injured soldiers who could not be evacuated.

He was taken prisoner of war (POW) by German forces on 26 September. On the night of 30 September, Clarke and two other GPR members attempted to escape. However, they were recaptured the following evening, 13 miles north west of their point of departure by Germans who were hunting deer. Clarke was moved between various POW camps across Germany and Poland before finally being liberated by the American 2nd Army in April. In total he had been forced marched in captivity for over 330 miles.

Peter Clarke was demobilised in 1946 and studied to become a solicitor. He died in 2018 at the age of 96. 

                 

SSgt Clarke kept a diary during his time as a POW, below is an extract from March 1945.