New history book reveals last known moments of Heysham parachutist

Lt Edward Mason Bibby, who served with the 13th Lancashire Parachute Battalion.
Lt Edward Mason Bibby, who served with the 13th Lancashire Parachute Battalion.

A book which unearths some of the untold stories from the Second World War features details about a Heysham man killed at the age of just 24.

Lt Edward Mason Bibby went missing in action in Normandy, France, on August 19 1944, and his last days are told through war diaries and eye-witness reports.

Andrew Woolhouse, who lives in Scunthorpe, has written 13 – Lucky For Some: The History of the 13th (Lancashire) Parachute Battalion.

In his own words, “This is not an in-depth, flawless, military strategic book, but an easy reading perspective from the veterans themselves.”

The 600-page history book cross-references war diaries with reports and eye-witness accounts and various documents.

“I do not profess to be an author,” Andrew said. “I have merely pieced the story together for the veterans, tried to fill in the blanks and correct a few errors.

“This unit lost 215 men killed and left somewhere in the region of 1,000 wounded, it is my tribute to these brave men.”

The book covers the battalion’s formation/conversion from the 2/4th South Lancashire Regiment in 1943 and follows their exploits from dropping on D-Day through the war and their time in the Far East until disbandment after the messy “mutiny”.

It is told by 50 veterans themselves in their own words and experiences.

There are hundreds of maps, diagrams, photographs (then and now) and documents to aid the reader to visualise or even use as a battlefield guide for visiting the areas involved.

The book includes an interesting section regarding Lt Bibby from Heysham, who was captured after a vicious battle and never found.

“Lieutenant Bibby, OC No.6 Platoon, who had fought gallantly and at times hand to hand in the German positions on Hill 13, was listed as missing in action at the close of August 19th,” the book reports.

“Sergeant Wilfred Tickell of 4 Platoon ‘B’ Company stopped by Lieutenant Bibby who had bad wounds to the head and face and addressed his wounds; he himself was wounded and was later picked up by the Germans along with Lt Bibby.

“They were eventually transported to the hospital at Château de Gassard, where Sgt Tickell was liberated 22nd August, after the Germans

abandoned the hospital leaving four German medics and one member of the British RAMC to care for six German and six British wounded.”

A letter to Sgt Tickell from Lt Bibby’s mother, dated June 10th 1945, said:

“Dear Sir, I have had word from the War office that my son, Lt Bibby, an officer with you, who was wounded and taken prisoner along with you on Aug 19th, must now be presumed to have died of wounds.

They inform me that you dressed his wounds and then had to leave him lying. I feel I would like to thank you for what you did for him and should feel very grateful if you would write to me and give me any information about him.

Was he badly wounded and did he give you any message. The War Office have kindly permitted to send on this letter to you.

Could you put me in touch with anyone who could give me any information? I feel so dreadful not to be able to find any news about him.

Will you please write to me as soon as you are able.

If you are anywhere near me would it be possible for me to see you. I’ve been hoping all this time that he was a POW and it has come as a very great shock to me to hear he is dead.

Yours sincerely,

Florence Bibby”

Lt Bibby’s dental records were later used to confirm that the remains of an unknown missing soldier buried in Pont L’Évêque Town Cemetery in France were not those of Lt Bibby’s as had been thought a possibility.

The book reveals how Lieutenant Ellis “Dixie” Dean (MMG Platoon) later told how information came to light about the last known whereabouts of Lt Bibby.

“The letter then continues with information not previously revealed even to his next of kin,” the book reports Lt Dean as saying.

“In addition Lt Bibby’s ‘P’ File was found to contain contemporary eye-witness accounts from people who had served with him.

“These stated that he had been severely wounded in the attack, taken prisoner by the Germans, and transferred to hospital in Rouen.

“These accounts state that he was then sent by rail to Lille, via Amiens and Albert, and that he was not seen after Amiens.

“And there the story ends...”

* The book, 13 – Lucky For Some: The History of the 13th (Lancashire) Parachute Battalion, is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.