Aubrey J FINCH
AUBREY J FINCH
Private 2nd (Airborne) The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. Army no. 5388610
He died in action on 24 March 1945. He was 28 He is buried in grave 36 B 9 Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
The 2nd (Airborne) The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (2 OBLI) were once again involved in a glider-borne air assault landing, known as Operation Varsity, the objective of which was to cross the Rhine. The Germans were defending their last great natural barrier in the West and Operation Varsity which began on 24 March 1945 was the last major battle on the Western Front during WW2. 2 OBLI landed further east than any other British Army unit to capture bridges from the Germans. The battalion, like many others during the assault, suffered heavily as the Germans met the landing gliders with ferocious fire, suffering hundreds of casualties. The battalion's objective was to capture the line of the River Issel northwest of Hamminkeln. This included the Hamminkeln-Ringenburg road bridge, the railway bridge, Hamminkeln railway station and the road junction to the west. On 19 March the battalion moved to Birch camp, RAF Birch, near Colchester. 2 OBLI took off from Birch and Gosfield airfields at 06.30hrs on 24 March and the gliders moved southwards over the North Sea, then east over Brussels and landed in Hamminkeln area at about 10.00hrs. Each company was designated a landing zone in the area of its objective. At Hamminkeln the gliders flew into a barrage of anti-aircraft fire; there were 4 enemy anti-aircraft guns gun-pits positioned near Hamminkeln station. During the landing which took only 10 minutes to complete there was thick smoke and dust from the area of Wesel and many of the gliders were on fire and there were many casualties. 2 OBLI casualties included 103 killed during the battle of the landing area. The battalion had lost half its strength, the 4 rifle companies were severely depleted and non-commissioned officers were frequently required to act as platoon commanders. The battalion saw very heavy fighting at Hamminkeln, where its objectives were the railway station and bridges over the River Issel between Hamminkeln and Ringenburg. Lieutenant Hugh Clark led a bayonet charge to take a road bridge for which he was awarded a Military Cross. CSM John Stevenson was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for defeating several enemy attacks with a platoon he commanded on the east bank of the River Issel. 2 OBLI captured and held all its objectives. The Germans launched a number of counter-attacks, all of which were repelled. At midnight on 25 March the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) relieved the battalion and by 06.00hrs on 26 March the unit was based in a farm on the west side of Hamminkeln. Later that morning 2 OBLI were informed that 6th Airborne Division would lead the advance across Germany.