Demise of the Dorsets - book looks at battalion's losses

A BOOK follows Dorset soldiers as they suffer ‘appalling losses’ with the 43rd Wessex Wyvern division.

Author Patrick Delaforce used veterans memories of the division’s progress through north west Europe in 1944 to 1945 in the Second World War.

He said: “The 4th and 5th Dorset Battalions were in the division – the 4th had 266 killed in action and the 5th had 218 killed action.”

His work, ‘The Fighting Wessex Wyverns’, has been republished by Fontmill Media. There are diaries, recollections and letters from more than 60 veterans. The Wyvern division landed in Normandy after D-Day and was about 15,500 men strong, including nine infantry battalions.

It fought through Normandy, Arnhem, the Siegfried Line, the Rhine and many other brutal battles, including against the Waffen SS.

Lt Colonel Gerald Tilley, commanding 5th Dorsets, wrote to this wife on 24 July: “Poor old Johnny Hiscocks got his eyes blasted by a shell from a Tiger tank.

“Paul Gornich, the little major with glasses, went mad. I did not lose too many men compared to some.”

Mr Delaforce, a veteran of the campaign himself and now a full time author, said: “The stories are quite harrowing as the Wyverns had a terrible time in Normandy and the Arnhem landings during Operation Market Garden.

“It was a disaster.

“Of the 420 Dorsets only 17 officers and 298 other ranks reached the northern bank.

“Only 75 returned, the rest including Lt Colonel Tilley and Major Roper were casualties, killed in action, wounded or captured.”

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