Cpl Henry Charles Larner and Sgt Dennis Joseph Fitzpatrick

19/07 Updated: 07/11 08:15

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11th Hussars (Prince Albert's Own) "Cherrypickers"

1939-1947

Roll of Honour

Corporal Henry Charles LARNER

American Field Service Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Corporal, LARNER, Henry (Sonny) Charles;

American Field Service Volunteer (Civilian) Ambulance Corps, previously attached to the 11th Hussars (P.A.O)

Died of shrapnel wounds on the 27th January 1944 in the 3rd New Zealand Military Hospital in Bari, Italy aged 28 received at 10pm on the 8th December 1943 in Italy.

Born in 1916 Albany, New York U.S.A

Son of Samuel Henry and Sarah Larner, of 2 Hawthorne Avenue, Albany in New York

Father of Edward (Lt-U.S.Army-1989) Irene (-1989) and Helen (-1989)

Brother in Law of Mrs Shirley Larner

Uncle of Andrea and Lucy Larner

Henry was educated at the Albany Academy before attending Harvard University from September 1933 to June 1937 where he received a SB degree in History on the 24th June 1937.

After graduating from Harvard Henry was employed at the Paramount Pictures Inc in their Publicity Department as a writer

It is unclear when Henry left Paramount Pictures but during Rommels advance across the Desert in early 1942 Henry was working with Harvard University on an archaeological dig in Egypt among their discoveries were the burial chambers of the Cheops Royal Family (American Journal of Archaeology, Apr-Jun 1943)

It is also unclear when Henry enlisted after the summer of 1942 but in Henry's obituary published on the 1st February 1944 in the New York Times it reports that Henry had enlisted a year and a half ago.

Also from a newspaper clipping in "A Mother's Scrapbook: John Newlin Hobbs and the American Field Service, 1942-1945" it records that Henry served from El Alamein to the Rome front.

In a letter home Henry wrote;

"My car - mate at the time, Joe Jarrell and i received the privilege of being the first Americans to enter fallen Sfax (Tunisia). Like many of our AFS predecessors in this game, we had the honor bestowed on us ex officio, simply by being the ambulance attached to the 11th Hussars".

('A' Squadron had entered Sfax on the 10th April 1943)

The American Field Service Volunteer Ambulance Units (AFS) began in France with the French during WWI, volunteer ambulance drivers joined up at their own expense until the Americans came into the war and began to pay them.

Again in 1939 it began with the French until the fall of France when after and at their own free will and expense they made their way to the Middle East and again it was the Americans who began to pay them from 1942.

Amongst those who volunteered were writers, religious workers, artists, sons of those who had served in the AFS during WWI, college students and those who were too old or disabled to be drafted.

Taking care of the wounded the AFS would supply 500 drivers and ambulances to the 8th Army the later was distinctive as they used the U.S Dodge with the even more distinctive 'Cocky Eagle' emblem painted on the doors.

During the Battle of El Alamein the AFS moved 7,000 casualties doing the job of an entire Corps for the 8th Army.

Their own losses were 36 dead, 68 wounded and 13 prisoners of war.

Through these volunteers' bravery, courage, unselfishness and humanity shown, tens of thousands were saved and returned home.

In the "History of the American Field Service 1920-1955" the author George Rock records the incident which resulted in Henry being wounded;

"Well, about 10 that night (08/12/1943) i was pretty tired, so i got up and went across the street to the room where we slept. Jim Andrews and Henry (Larner), along with the Colonel, walked past me to go down to the MI room to see whether there were any patients to be evacuated. No sooner had i entered the house than crash down came a shell no more than 10 yards away. I don't want to go into any details of what happened after that.... Jim was struck by a piece of shrapnel in the back of the neck and died instantly.

Henry was very severely wounded".

Henry was initially buried in Italy before his father Samuel brought him home, Henry rests in the Larner family plot in Beth Emeth Cemetery in Albany, New York, where on each Memorial Day in May a small US flag, is posted at Henry's grave.

Henry is commemorated at Harvard College, American Field Service Roll of Honour, the US Archaeological Society and on the American Field Service Memorial.

My gratitude to Lucy, Andrea and Shirley Larner, Dave Greenslit-Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Joy Hennig-Worcester Public Library,

New York State Museum, Jane Collins-Harvard College, Allen Raney- New York State Library, Thomas M Jones- the Department of the US Army, Martha Sell-American Battle Monuments Commission, New York State Archives, the New York Times newspaper and the Times Union newspaper, for their help and kindness shown.

Also in memory of and in gratitude to all of those who served with the American Field Service Volunteer Ambulance Corps,

15/06/2011

D.J.E

SGT, DENNIS JOESPH FITZPATRICK, MM 11TH HUSSARS (P.A.O) 7TH ARMOURED DIVISION;

At approximately 1600 hrs on the afternoon of the 9th September 1944 my troop (2nd Troop 'A' Squadron) had orders to recce a cross roads at St Paul.

Our strength was one armoured car, D.S.C and a scout car under my command.

About 1-1/2 kls from the cross roads my troop was halted on the main road St Nicolas-Hulst, the D.S.C halting on the left hand side of the road and the armoured car on the right close to some farm buildings. We were facing in the direction of Hulst.

My orders were to deploy to the West of the road, and make a recce of the crossroads at St Paul. Two men and a wireless operator were to accompany me.

While i was waiting for Troopers Kirkham and Fowler for the wireless operator to join us i was warned by numerous excited civilians that a German tank was moving towards us down the road.

I thought that the crew was bound to see the scout cars and so i decided to ambush them when the enemy descended from the tank to inspect our cars.

Accordingly i instructed Kirkham and Fowler to take defensive positions with their sten guns behind piles of logs in the immediate vicinity. My two men were ordered to hold their fire until i opened against the enemy.

In the meantime the remainder of the personnel from the D.S.C. and the armoured car had all made off on foot and we three were left to deal with the enemy alone.

At the time i considered that if i had been given the support from the car crews we could have disposed of the whole of the enemy tank crew.

Three men from the enemy tank obliged us by descending and examining our scout cars. I raised my sten and pulled the trigger but the gun jammed. I tried firing a second time but the click of my gun which again did not fire attracted the attention of the enemy and gave away my location.

I was ordered to come out but managed to signal behind my back to the others to lie doggo. I then saw that the tank was carrying Infantry. I was taken P/W and was later joined by Kirkham and Fowler who had been "Winkled" out from their hiding places. A member of the German tank crew then took me off to look for an Officer, an O/R and a member of the Maquis who traveled with us, whom they had seen run away from their armoured cars.

I was ordered to shout "Komrade" and to tell the others to come out. I shouted this and in addition called out and told them not to shoot as i was being made to act as cover to the Germans. I found Lt Sutton and Tpr Harris in a slit trench and the Marquis man lying on the ground with a wound in his seat some 30 yards away. We dressed the wounds of the Marquis and he was taken back to the farmhouse where he was taken care of by civilians. The Germans handed him over to them, he being dressed in Khaki uniform, and they did not guess that he was French.

The remainder of our party of five was then put on the front of the tank and we moved forward down the road. A Sherman tank which was waiting down the road opened fire on use. The first shot went between use and the house and hit the side of the house. It blew Fowler and me off the side of the tank on to the road.

All of us P/Ws climbed off the tank and sought shelter at the back of the house. We carried Fowler with us who had been knocked unconscious. I was very dazed and temporarily blinded. Six of the Germans accompanied us leaving only the tank Comd and driver in the tank to engage the Sherman. After the third shot from the Sherman the Ferdinand was knocked out and the driver killed.

The Germans indicated to us to start the armoured car so that we could back. We informed them though that the Driver had escaped and none of us knew how to handle it. The driver was actually present. On this a German soldier attempted to start it himself. He however turned the side lights on in error which automatically set off the smoke discharger. They could not understand this and thought we had set a booby trap and were trying to escape in the smoke, whereon they opened fire with their automatic weapons around the whole area.

I told a German soldier who was armed with a slung rifle and Mr Suttons revolver that there were some more British soldiers hiding in the field to the right of the road. I told him because i thought he could be disarmed and some of us make our escape. He accepted my statement, and Mr Sutton, Harris and I set off accompanied by the German. I warned the other two while we were walking of my intentions and we all agreed upon a plan to disarm him.

The plan was briefly this. As we negotiated a wire fence, i would lift up the wire and allow the German to go through. At the same time i would hit him on the back of the neck and the other two would disarm him. The German however saw a better way through the fence and negotiated it himself.

He abandoned the search and took us back to the car which was waiting for us on the road.

After about a mile and a half the car stopped as Kirkham had in the meanwhile turned off the petrol. As we all denied any knowledge of how the car worked we were made to march back, leaving one German with the car.

After a while the car caught us up and we were taken to Hulst where we were interrogated. We were interrogated separately and Fowler (a Lad of about 19) was ordered to be interrogated first. He was followed by Lieut Sutton, myself, Kirkham and Harris in that order. The Interrogation Officer was charming throughout, and asked me sit down and smoke. The well known friendly approach was adopted, but he did not take offence at my refusal to give information regarding the movement of my Corps, and how and when we crossed the Orne (18th July 1944) and the Seine (28th August 1944) He asked the usual questions regarding the establishment of my troop.

All the others had more or less the same interrogation. The interrogation officer did ask Mr Sutton, who was wearing brown corduroy trousers why he was dressed in civilian trousers. He appeared satisfied with the answer that they were worn in the British army.

We were then shifted over to a column of Lorries where we joined seven other British P/Ws, a tank crew who had previously been captured. Just before dawn we all moved off North together in a lorry. We arrived at a pier on the Scheldt estuary and were made to load a barge with saddlery and horse equipment.

During the afternoon of the 10th we were taken by barge across the Scheldt to Hoedekenskerke. We were taken off the boat and marched to Nisse.

We were given our first meal consisting of stew and some straw and were shown to a garage where we were locked in for the night.

About 2030 hrs the following evening Harris, Kirkham, Fowler and I were placed on one truck, the remainder with the exception of Mr Sutton put in another. By now the party had been joined by two captured Canadian War Correspondents and they moved off in a half track vehicle with Mr Sutton. I did not see him again.

After some five miles our lorry broke down and we and those in the other lorry were all orded to continue on foot. We continued to march throughout the night and early the next morning arrived in Bergen Op Zoom.

From Bergen Op Zoom we continued on foot to Roosendaal where we arrived just before dark. Throughout the whole of this march the only food we received was fruit given to us by the civilians.

We moved off during the night and arrived in Prinsenhague early on the morning of the 13th. The household of a Doctor (Edwin Terwiel, was actually a Dentist his Daughter Marie and son still remembers Dennis arriving at the house) was aroused and we were all placed upstairs where we slept until 1330 hrs.

I was the first up and went downstairs with a guard to the lavatory. The Doctor, who could speak English, gave me some coffee in the kitchen and told me that if ever i succeeded in escaping he would help me. He supplied me with his name and address on a piece of paper. The guard was waiting in the hall. He supplied me with coffee and bread and butter for the others upstairs.

We lounged about until 1730 hrs when we were marched to the Dutch Academy (Breda Beeldcollectie) in Breda and placed under guard in an empty room.

At approximately 2030 hrs we were taken to the railway station (Breda). After talking with some Germans who were to travel on the same train as ourselves we learnt that we were to go to Germany.

The train arrived in the station at 0030 hrs. I had previously arranged with Kirkham whilst we were lying down on the platform that i meant to make an attempt to escape. There was an elderly civilian German guarding us and i arranged with Kirkham that he should give him a cigarette when the train came in and to distract his attention from me.

There were about 300-400 German troops waiting on the platform and when the train arrived there was a general surge forward. Kirkham gave the guard his cigarette and when he turned his back on me i managed to slip away in the crowed and mingled with the crowd. My escape was not noticed and i walked down the street for some 400 yards. I then heard shouts from the direction of the station and gathered that my absence had been noticed.

I continued walking and got well on the outskirts of Breda and continued to walk in the direction of Antwerp, which i knew was in our hands.

After a quarter of an hour i saw a lighted window and so i decided to take a chance and ask for help.

A Party appeared to be going on in the house. I announced that i was an escaped British P/W and the people of the house took me in and gave me civilian clothes immediately. I do not know the name of the people but they are known by Dr Terweil.

I remained awake playing cards the whole of the night and the next morning at 0630 hrs i was taken to Dr Terweil, Prisenhague, Breda. He was the Doctor (Dentist) who had previously supplied his name while i was a P/W. I stayed outside on the pavement in case there were any Germans in the house (14th Sept 44).

The doctor supplied my friends with a suit of civilian clothes and 50 Dutch guildon for me. We were also given the name and address of a farm where i would be able to hide.

Having arrived at the farm i changed into my new suit and handed the other one back. The farmers name and address was Marinos Gommers, Riesdyk H.31, Beek N.B, Holland (Marinos 1916-1954, Piet Gommers was Marinos son and his Granddaughter still remembers Dennis staying with them at the farm) I stayed in this farm for a week working in the fields. During this period the doctor used to visit me every other day bringing me news etc.

On the afternoon of the 21st while i was working in the fields two members of the Dutch underground came for me. They wanted me to meet another English Captain who was hiding in Beek. I agreed to do this and met the officer who, however, turned out to be a Czechoslovak airman in the R.A.F.His first name was Otto that is all I remember. He accompanied me to the Police Station at Breda where i met five Americans, including an American Air Force Colonel, an American Air Force major, one Canadian Pilot officer and four British aircrew.

The underground wanted us to blow up a power station, the where-about of which i don't know. The American Colonel, however, was not enthusiastic about this and pointed out that we had no arms. It was decided to get a decision from Eindhoven and this was to be done by a secret transmitter set.

In the meantime we were billeted out in a large store in Breda. This was managed by Mr Witte, Room Ess Dressman, Breda (Johannes Hendricus Witte, 1893-1964, was Director of Vroom & Dreesmann Departmental Store, his grandson Harman Witte remembers his father telling stories of his Grandfather hiding British servicemen in the store particularly of them being hidden in the lift after the lift was taken in-between floors and the power then switched off) We stayed here together for 19 days until approximately 12 Oct 44. During this period we were looked after and fed by Mr Witte. Our photographs were taken and identity cards supplied.

We had a system of warnings and five of us did guard duty every night. Our arrangement was that if we received the warning from Mr Witte (which was to be the illumination of a certain room and the curtains drawn back) we moved then into the lift, stop it between floors and turn off the power.

In the meantime contact had been made with Eindhoven and instructions received that under no circumstances would we take part in the power station operation.

For some time the Germans had been coming to the store and taking away large numbers of blankets, toothbrushes, etc. In addition a considerable number of German troops had arrived in Breda and it was feared that they might take over the store.

I was taken alone to a house which belonged to Mrs Van Der Minne, Juliana LAN 13 in Breda. I stayed here until the afternoon of 19 Oct when i decided to make my own way through the lines, as the Germans were making house to house search for civilian clothes, shoes, etc. Before going she gave me a map and a typed Dutch phrase sheet for my guidance when asking for help on the journey (Mrs Van Der Minnie; Emma's son Jaap remembered: "a short sinewy young man with bright red hair, a friendly, active person, i know that after he fled he managed to get back to his unit, what i remember best is that after we were liberated he visited us"

I walked along the main road Rijsbergen-Zundert and slept in a slit trench on the Belgium-Holland border.

At first light i moved off in the direction of Wildert. On the way i was stopped by German controls three times and my identity card was examined, but i managed to convince them i was Dutch.

On the outskirts of Wildert i saw two young girls working in the fields. I approached them with a view to finding shelter for the night. They took me into the house and gave me coffee and bread.

When their father returned he finally agreed to let me stay in a nearby dugout for the night. During the evening we were visited by large numbers of aunts and uncles of the family and one man who could speak English. The last mentioned questioned me closely and finally said that he would have to hand me over to the Germans.

I finally managed to persuade him to let me stay until the morning when i said the Canadian forces would be there. He and his friend put me in the dugout but barricaded me in and placed a cart wheel and logs over the entrance and placed stakes in the ground to prevent me getting out.

Whilst i was in the dugout i destroyed my notebook which contained the names of other evaders i had seen and the map references of gun positions, etc. At about 0300 hrs i started to make my escape. It took me fifteen minutes to get clear, after which i hid myself in the wood until daybreak. I then commenced to walk in the direction from which our guns were firing. Some two miles from our positions i hid in a field as there was considerable German movement on the road which ran across my axis of advance. I knew the Germans were retreating and thought it best to wait. At 0630 hrs the Canadian infantry came through and liberated me.

Dennis returned to the Regiment in August 1945, just a few weeks after he was tragically killed in a car accident in Berlin on the 8th September 1945, aged 39.

Dennis is buried at the 1939-1945 Berlin War Cemetery, Germany

Grave Ref: 3.E.20.

Commemorated on the Milford Haven War Memorial

My gratitude to Jaap, Nico & Esther Van Der Minne, Piet & Anne Gommers, Marious , Marco & Barend Jan Terwiel, Harmen Witte, Stadsarchief Breda (city archives of Breda) , Den Haag Museum, The Netherlands Embassy in London and John Gale, for all their help and kindness shown.

D.J.E

02/06/2011.

A photograph Henry had taken of a section of American Field Service Ambulances in Italy during 1943. (s)

Sgt Fitzpatrick's BD Jacket. (s)

Milford Haven War Memorial.

Sgt Fitzpatrick's Cross.

Breda Train Station.

Breda Academy, where Dennis spent the night on his way to Breda Train Station.

Sgt Fitzpatrick

Mr Johannes Hendricus Witte (25/11/1893-12/04/1964) Director of Vroom & Dreesmann Department Store.

Vroom & Dreesmann Department Store, Breda.

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