Incredible story of British soldier who sacrificed himself to save a mother and son is revealed.

Black and white picture of Albert Willingham

The story of a British soldier who gave his life while shielding a mother and son from the blast of a grenade during the Battle of Arnhem has been revealed 75 years later. 

 Private Albert Willingham has been recognised as the hero that saved Bertje Voskil and her nine year old son Henri. Albert was one of 10,000 paratroopers involved in the Battle of Arnhem’s Operation Market Garden in 1944.

Along with two fellow injured soldiers and around 20 Dutch civilians, Albert was in a cellar when a grenade was thrown in. Realising the implication of this he dived for the grenade taking the full impact and saving those around him.

Albert will be honoured in a ceremony in Oosterbeek later this year for making the ultimate sacrifice. This will be the first time has been formally recognised for his heroism.

His remarkable story, is told by historian Dilik Sarkar MBE historian in his new book, Arnhem 1944: The Human Tragedy of the Bridge Too Far. Dilik spoke to the family at length.

Dr Voskuil was born in 1946, two years after  his family was saved in the cellar, and says he 'owes his life' to him. This book is a means to make sure his story is not forgotten. 

There were many acts of bravery at Arnhem which have not been recognised 'This is our last chance to remember them before their stories are lost forever.'


Who was Private Albert Willingham

Albert was the son of George and Rose Willingham, of Drayton, Hampshire. He enlisted in the Dorsetshire Regiment, and completed his parachute training at RAF Kabrit, Egypt.

Fighting in North Africa, Sicily and Italy before was dropped behind enemy lines in the Netherlands with the 4th Parachute Brigade on September 18, 1944.


The day later remembered by Mrs Voskuil.

She said: 'The door burst open and the Germans came in.

'A British soldier jumped in front of Peter Warr and I, with his back to the Germans.

'Then there were two terrific explosions - German grenades.

'The British soldier was hit in the back and fell forward, over me: He was dead.

'Many of the people in the cellar were wounded.

'The candle was blown out by the explosions.

'I felt down for my nine-year old son; I felt his body; he didn't move, and there was a lot of blood.

'I thought he was dead, but he was still alive, hit by splinters in his stomach and face.

'He regained consciousness the next morning and made a full recovery.'


Pte Willingham was killed on September 21, 1944 aged 29.

Of the 10,000 men who landed at Arnhem, just under 2,400 would make


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