Airborne Engineers Association

Syd Briton

 

 

Syd Briton

 

Syd Briton

Corporal Syd Briton, formerly of 261 Airborne Park Sqn and the last survivor to complete Operation Freshman training, has passed away. His funeral took place at Holy Trinity Church, Coleford, Somerset on Friday 15th October. In early 1942 Syd underwent parachute training as an Airborne Engineer.

But it was in Gliders in which he flew to War. Serving in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and finally to Norway in 1945. Syd had volunteered with 34 other Airborne Sappers for what was, and became a suicide mission. The mission was to carry in 2 Gliders, 35 Airborne Engineers to Telemark in Norway to destroy the stocks of Heavy Water, the vital ingredient the Germans were using to make Atom Bombs. Two days prior to departure from Skitten for Norway, he badly twisted his ankle and was declared medically unfit for the operation. Syd was instructed to stay with the unit and travelled to Scotland and assist loading the Gliders. He had his final meal with his mates at Skitten airfield from a canteen van. Looking inside the Helleland Glider seeing his OC Lt Alec Allen and all his friends, he later described the scene, "They all looked like young boys". The Gliders flew off in the gloomy November sky bound for Norway, without Syd.

Most of those that survived the Glider crashes were later shot on Hitler's specific orders. Four of them were interrogated and later shot and their bodies thrown into the Norwegian fjords.

Syd returned to his unit, keeping all he knew secret, even from the rest of the Squadron. He said nothing to anyone for years until a REA Reunion in Bath during the 80's he reluctantly told his story.

In 1985 a memorial to those four who had no grave was constructed. Syd with his 1942 CRE Brigadier Sir Mark Henniker and Princess Astrid of Norway unveiled that Memorial. Syd took a Silver Football Cup called the Washington Cup, for that was the original secret cover name of Operation Freshman and presented this to the Football League of Stavanger, Norway, it is still being played for by the youngsters in Norway.

He never forgot the friends he lost in November 1942, but now he is going to have his reunion with them as his cremated remains are to be taken to Norway. Representatives from 9 Squadron, Royal Mons, Bristol REA, and South West Branch AEA attended the funeral and formed an Honour Guard.

 

 

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