Operation Market Garden veteran marks 100th birthday

·3-min read
WWII veteran Alec Hall (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Wire)
WWII veteran Alec Hall (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Wire)

A Second World War medic who helped save lives during Operation Market Garden has described reaching his 100th birthday as a “wonderful occasion” but said there are not many of his division left.

Alec Hall, of Southend in Essex, was 18 when he was called up to serve as an Army nurse.

When he was 22 he was among about 35,000 British, American and Polish troops who were dropped behind enemy lines at Arnhem, in the Netherlands, to try to open up a route into Germany.

The aim of the operation, in 1944, was to secure eight bridges.

WWII veteran Alec Hall celebrating his 100th birthday (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Wire)
WWII veteran Alec Hall celebrating his 100th birthday (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Wire)

But what was then the largest airborne operation in history ended in failure, with soldiers trapped in house-to-house fighting.

Mr Hall’s medical knowledge was immediately put to the test when he landed, administering a tourniquet and donating three pints of his own blood to save a fellow soldier who landed with him and injured his leg.

Mr Hall then ran a field hospital in the town of Oosterbeek, near the city of Arnhem, going out under gunfire to collect those who needed his help.

He recalled treating wounded soldiers in hotel buildings in the town.

“I think I was a very good nurse and saved an awful lot of lives,” said Mr Hall.

He said that he has returned to the Netherlands “about five times” with the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, most recently in May this year.

This was to take part in the liberation parade in the city of Wageningen, where Dutch people thank those who fought for their freedom.

“Every time I’m overwhelmed by the people of Arnhem,” said Mr Hall.

“They’re very friendly.”

WWII veteran Alec Hall celebrating his 100th birthday (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Wire)
WWII veteran Alec Hall celebrating his 100th birthday (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Wire)

Asked how he feels to turn 100, Mr Hall joked: “I should be glad when it’s over.”

Mr Hall, who was sent to the Netherlands as part of the 1st Airborne Division, continued: “It’s a wonderful occasion because there are not many left.

“The last time I heard there were just four members of the Airborne Division left and I’m one of them.

“I feel really honoured that some people want to talk to me.

“I’ve been to these reunions and quite often I’ve been swamped with people asking me questions and all things like that and it’s been very good.”

He marked his birthday, on Friday June 3, with a tea party with his daughters and grandchildren.

Mr Hall said it was “lovely” to have his 100th birthday during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, adding: “I’ve always loved the Queen, I admire her a lot.”

Mr Hall worked for the Co-op all his working life, making deliveries by bicycle aged 14 and being promoted to shop manager after the war.

His wife Margaret, whom he married in 1954, died in 2019.

His daughters Anne and Sue described him as the “most wonderful dad”.

They said: “We are so, so proud of him and what he represents – we love him to bits.”

Dick Goodwin, vice president of Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, said: “I have known Alec for many years, and he has joined us on many trips.

“He is great company, and you would never think he was nearing 100.

“I love hearing his wartime stories from Africa, Italy and The Netherlands and in May it was our pleasure to take him and 24 other veterans to the Arnhem area for the Dutch liberation celebrations.

“Happy 100th Alec, and don’t worry, your place is booked for our next trip to The Netherlands in September.”

For details about Taxi Charity, which is run by volunteer London black taxi drivers and has been supporting thousands of veterans since 1948, see www.taxicharity.org.

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