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Veteran who fought at Arnhem dies at 93
A SECOND World War veteran who was evacuated from Dunkirk, fought at Arnhem and twice escaped from a German prisoner of war camp has died.
The family of Bill Gibbard, 93, of Woodstock, have given the Oxford Mail exclusive access to his account of his time in uniform.
Mr Gibbard was born in Sandford St Martin, near Middle Barton, in 1919, the son of a farm worker and one of 11 children.
After leaving school aged 14, he worked for Oxfordshire County Council maintaining roads until he was called up by the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1939.
As a member of the British Expeditionary Force, he was evacuated from Dunkirk after Germany invaded France and Belgium in May 1940.
He later joined the Parachute Regiment and was involved in Operation Market Garden, an attempt to seize bridges over the River Rhine in the Netherlands in 1944.
He was captured by German forces after British and Polish paratroops were over-run at the bridge at Arnhem.
He twice escaped from prisoner of war camps but was recaptured both times. The Germans put him to work repairing railways and digging bodies from the ruins of the bombed city of Dresden.
He was freed in 1945 and returned home to England. He became a herdsman working with cattle on Oxfordshire farms.
Mr Gibbard retired aged 65 and moved to Woodstock 10 years ago. He died on Wednesday. He leaves his children Margaret and Terrence, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
His wife, Joyce, died in 2006, aged 80.
A solider's life
ESCAPE: Dunkirk, May 1940
When we arrived the beach was already packed with thousands of British troops.
We were continuously under fire, from machine guns on the ground and dive-bombers from above.
On the fourth day the Germans hit the pier, so that the boats and ships were unable to come close to the shore to pick us up.
On May 29, I saw my chance to wade into the sea and get on board the destroyer HMS Anthony.
I could not swim and so, together with three others,
I got on to a large piece of
wood and paddled to the waiting ship.
Capture: Arnhem, 1944
We retreated from the bridge into nearby houses and gardens.
In the cellar of one of the houses there were 60-70 wounded men being tended to.
We dug ourselves a shallow trench in a garden but we were being heavily shelled.
By the second night most buildings around us were on fire.
By the third day our position had become impossible and the order came ‘Every man for himself’.
We got as far as the Eusebius Church, where nine of us sheltered for the night. German troops came into the church at around 2am and we were all taken prisoner.