- Robert "Roy" Elliott Urquhart was born on 28 november
1901 in Shepperton-on-Thames. He was educated at St. Paul's School in
London. After that he attended the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.
In 1920 he was commissioned into the Highland Light Infantry.
- During the first years of World War II Urquhart was serving in
India. In 1941 he was posted to North Africa and after that he was
appointed as a staff officer in the 3rd Division in the UK. Between 1941
and 1942 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and commanded the 2nd
Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry until 1943. He was then
appointed as a staff officer in the 51st Infantry Division in North
Africa. On 23 september 1943 he was awarded the Distinguished Service
Order for his actions on Sicily.
- On 7 january 1944 Urquhart was given command of the 1st Airborne
Division. He left England from Fairford airfield and landed by glider
near Wolfheze on 17 september 1944. Not long after landing it became
clear that the radio sets were not working correctly and Urquhart
decided to set out in his jeep to verify the 1st Airlanding Brigade was
alright. After that he drove towards Arnhem to find Brigadier Lathbury,
commander of the 1st Parachute Brigade. He found Lathbury at the
positions of the 3rd Battalion. When he wanted to get back to his
headquarters it turned out the area was unsafe for movement and Urquhart
had to stay with Lathbury and the 3rd Battalion.
- By the following morning Urquhart and Lathbury were with the
leading B Company, which had become separated from the rest of the
Battalion. The company was trapped in a few houses on the outskirts of
Arnhem. By the afternoon it became clear to Urquhart that the situation
was getting out of hand and he decided that he must risk returning to
his Headquarters. Together with Lathbury, Captain Taylor and Lieutenant
Cleminson he dashed out of the back door of the house they had been
hiding in. Lathbury was wounded by machine gun fire and the other men
dragged him into a nearby house. There Urquhart shot a German soldier
who appeared at the window. Lathbury had be left behind and the three
other men made it to the Zwarteweg, next to the St. Elizabeth Gasthuis.
Because there were too many Germans in the area Urquhart, Taylor and
Cleminson hid on the attic of Zwarteweg No. 14. The street was filled
with Germans and even a self-propelled gun.
- On the morning of 19 september Urquhart was able to leave the
house. He immediately commandeered a jeep and set out for Divisional HQ.
He arrived at Hartenstein at 07.25 hrs. In his book "Arnhem",
written in 1958, Urquhart wrote it might have been better if he would
have stayed in Arnhem to coordinate the attempts to reach the bridge at
Arnhem. When he left Zwarteweg No. 14 he didn't know two Battalion
commanders (Lea of the 11 Battalion and McCardie of the South
Staffordshires) were only some 100 metres away from his position.
- During the fighting at Oosterbeek Urquhart visited his men as often
as possible. During one of those visits, to the 21st Independent
Company, he arrived during a fierce gun battle and had to take cover in
a trench. He then made a dash to the HQ of the Independent
- Urquhart was evacuated over the Rhine during Operation Berlin.
- For his handling of the Airborne Division throughout the battle
Urquhart was awarded the Dutch Bronze Lion.
- After the war Urquhart served in several staff positions until he
retired from the army in 1955. After leaving the army he became an
executive in the heavy engineering industry, retiring in 1970.
- Robert Elliott Urquhart died at his home in Port of Menteith near