Update Search About Me Facebook Email

Robert Elliott Urquhart

Servicenumber : 17550
Rank : Brigadier General
Regiment :
Unit : Headquarters 1st Airborne Division
Date of Death : 13 december 1988
Age : 87
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 Company.  
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 Stirling.
Urquhart at the Hartenstein Hotel on 22 september 1944
 
Sources: wikipedia, website www.pegasusarchive.org, website www.ospreypublishing.com, website www.chudleighhistorygroup.com and the book "Arnhem".    

Back


The men Sources Home