The last surviving Royal Army Service Corps Air Despatcher to serve in the Arnhem campaign, 94-year-old Sid Sallis joined up in 1942 and first served as driver prior to joining the 1st Airborne Division.
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When he sustained a knee injury in the boxing ring, it put him in bed for a week, thus leaving him out of action for the Normandy landings. Disappointed on missing D-Day, Sid joined the 1st Airborne Division’s 63 Squadron and just a few months later, he found himself flying over Arnhem dropping supplies to the British Paratroops on the ground.
“We lost 19 men just on the first day,” remembers Sid. “I was really lucky – in the RAF Stirlings, there was a big hole in the floor, so it was one false move and you were out!” Referring to the considerable anti-aircraft fire over Arnhem, Sid says: "The Germans were all around us during the drop and although we couldn’t see them, they could see us."
Sid served a total of five years, including a spell in a peace-keeping force in Palestine after the war, but it is his experiences at Arnhem that have stayed most powerfully with him. He and his family return to Arnhem every September and stay with the same Dutch family. “I wouldn’t miss it,” he says with emphasis.
When Sid needed to move into a care home in England following a period of ill health in 2015, his family approached SSAFA. A local SSAFA volunteer caseworker secured funds from the Royal Logistic Corps and from ABF the Soldiers’ Charity to top up his care home fees. Sid’s daughter-in-law says: “We are really very grateful. It has made a huge difference.”
Photo courtesy of Naomi Gabrielle Photography.