254: Sniper Charles Bolton, 1944

The British attempt to cross several major rivers in the Netherlands and to turn east into Germany in September 1944 was flawed, for the soldiers had to arrive by parachute and glider, and armoured support had to drive up a single road. The bridge at Arnhem was held for days by members of the First Airborne Division, who thwarted German attempts to drive south. The story was told by Irish-born American author Cornelius Ryan in his A Bridge Too Far in 1974, which was turned into a star-studded movie in 1977. The whole campaign was detailed by Antony Beevor in his Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, 1944 (2018; Penguin 2019).

The fighting in Arnhem, with the two dozen armed jeeps of the First Airborne Division’s reconnaissance squadron led by Major Charles ‘Freddie’ Gough has this on page 187 of the paperback edition:

Freddie Gough remembered that one of his best snipers was Corporal Bolton, one of the few black soldiers in the division. Bolton, a ‘tall, languid’ man, took great satisfaction in his work, ‘crawling all over the place, sniping’, and would ‘grin widely after each victory’.

Beevor’s source is the Cornelius Ryan Collection in the Mahn Center for Archives in Ohio University, Athens, Ohio.

The Parachute Regiment has an online archive (www.pegasusarchive.org/arnhem) which has details of Trooper Charles Cecil Bolton, 6105318, noting his birth in April 1923. Captured at Arnhem, he returned to Britain where he served into 1947. His birth registration was in Maidstone, Kent and his death was registered in Luton in the last quarter of 1971, apparently a result of a train accident.

Probate files note his death on 20 December 1971, and the probate estate worth £873 was granted on 11 May 1972 in Oxford. He had been living at 56a Langdale Road in Dunstable (a modern flat above a row of shops).

Trooper Charles Cecil Bolton (image from Pegasus Archive).

Bolton’s life deserves investigation.

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