Gordon Johnston (Jock) Walker
One of the three Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU)
Cameramen at Arnhem 1944
At the time of his involvement in Operation Market Garden Jock Walker was a Sergeant
with the Army Film and Photographic Unit. He first joined the Royal Signals at Catterick in
1934, became a despatch rider and was selected for the Royal Signals Display Team. He
was sent to India and returned from there in time for the war.
Having joined the British Expedition Force, he was sent to France, saw service there and
was one of the soldiers taken off the beach at Dunkirk. After this he saw service in North
Africa with the 8th Army, and applied and was accepted for parachute training at Kebrit.
After Alamein he joined a Para Unit and took part in an ill-fated drop in Sicily before finally
receiving home leave.
This is a shortened part of his story:
A period of intensive training took place, plus a couple of jumps to get back into the way of things,
and, as I was now with a Para Unit, a rise in pay of 2/- per day, plus a red beret, which was a
proud moment for me; the Para, in Tunisia, had literally covered themselves with glory, taking on
action after action and decimating the enemy wherever they fought, and it was here that they
earned the title of the ‘Rote Teufel - the Red Devils’ - from the Germans, a name that they were
proud to accept.
The buzz was that we were to invade Sicily and this was what happened. The briefing was that
three bridges were to be secured. The Air Landing Brigade and the Commandos would secure the
two nearest the landing by sea, and the Para would secure the third one furthest away, called the
Primosole Bridge; the operation was called ‘Marston’ and a right shambles it turned out to be for
us; the sea-borne invasion took place in the early hours of the l0th July with the glider troops and
they were successful, and later also the Commandoes, and about four days later we got the
message ‘Marston is on’. I believe several airfields were used to get us all into the air, about a
hundred aircraft, plus a score or so gliders, with airborne artillery. All went well until we turned
towards Sicily after Malta, which was marked by searchlights pointing towards the sky, a very
eerie experience. After a while we got close to the Sicilian coast where our troops were still being
disembarked, when suddenly the shit hit the fan - we were being fired on by the Navy!
All this was learned later as it wasn’t possible to see anything much from a Dakota in darkness,
but we could hear plenty and our Dakota got hit, which put the wind up me, vertically. The
dispatcher, a Yank, (it was an American crew flying us) came back and said ‘Holy Cow, the
Limeys are shooting at us; get hooked up quick and get ready to go.’
Well, by this time we were past the firing but the aircraft had been crippled and we got the order to
bail out. It was pitch dark, the terrain was unknown; we didn’t know our height (this was important
as we normally jumped between 400-600 feet, so as to get down quickly and not hang about in the
sky, presenting an easy target) and of course we could have been jumping into a German garrison
for all we knew.
However, out we went. My position in the stick was fifth, and after the ’chute opened I adopted an
‘about to hit a tree position’ as, in the circumstances it gave the best protection to my mind. After
what seemed hours a very frightened parachutist was deposited on a corn-field.
I couldn’t believe my luck, truly a parachutist should be a fatalist because if your number is on it,
you’ll get it; if it isn’t you’ll survive. Terrified, I laid still for a moment or two, then my training
asserted itself; hit the buckle, get out of the harness quick and see what is around you, cautiously.
Nothing but corn. Gather in the ‘chute and make it into a small bundle, pick up my haversack and