1st Edition PB 1956
Paperback. First published in the UK in 1956 by "William Kimber & Co. Ltd.".
Printed by "Purnell & Sons Ltd.". Written by Jack Smyth. No ISBN number.
Jack Smyth was a war correspondent attached to the 1st British Airborne Division
when it went to Holland during Operation Market Garden. This book is Smyth's own
story of the days he spent with the Division fighting for it's survival in the
streets of Arnhem and Oosterbeek. Smyth was eventually wounded and taken prisoner
by the Germans and then interrogated as a spy because he was a native Irishman
and claimed neutrality.
He was Jack Smyth, a softly spoken Irishman with such a nose for news he found
it difficult to cross the road without falling over a front-page story. We met in 1944.
I was a 14-year-old messenger and Jack a frontline war correspondent.
Five of Jack's fellow war correspondents at Reuters news agency were killed in
the Second World War. War reporters have the toughest job of any in our profession,
constantly running the risk of death by bomb, shell or bullet. All were heroes to
us messengers. With his red hair, easy charm and obvious bravado, Jack was our favourite.
In September 1944, after secret training as a paratrooper, he dropped with British
airborne forces in the abortive Arnhem landings. In the thick of battle, Jack filed
the only dispatches from the frontline. "On this fifth day our force is still being
heavily mortared, sniped, machine-gunned and shelled," he wrote, "When the Second Army
arrives and relieves this crowd, then may be told one of the epics of the war.
In the meantime, they go on fighting their hearts out." Sadly, the Second Army never
made it in time. Most of the airborne force was wiped out. Jack finished among the
injured and captured. For 17 days he was tortured under Gestapo interrogation.
Time and again they threatened him with death, refusing to understand what a supposedly
neutral Irishman was doing in a paratrooper's uniform. It was nine months before
the war ended and Jack came back to tell some of us the full story.
"Jaysus, they beat the s*** out of me," he said. "There was I, in British Army
officer's uniform, telling 'em I was a neutral and demanding to see the nearest
Irish ambassador. Well, they were having none of that." Still carrying his scars
and just out of captivity, Jack volunteered to go the Far East to see out the war
against the Japanese. It wasn't long before he was giving the world first news
of the atom bomb on Hiroshima. With the war over, Jack came back to work in the
London newsroom. By then Reuters had made me a junior reporter and Jack took it
upon himself to teach me the business of reporting. Eventually he went back home
to his beloved Dublin, where once again he lived up to his reputation by finding
the kidnapped child of a wealthy businessman. Sad to say, fate had other plans.
On a stormy night just before Christmas in 1956, his car ran into the River Liffey,
drowning himself and his wife. Jack Smyth. A true journalist. My dear friend.
Best man at my first wedding. I miss him still.