Veterans

'Such a delightful day': WWII glider pilot Ron Johnson marks 100th birthday

Ron Johnson was held in reserve on D-Day, and his first operational flight was in Operation Market Garden.

A Second World War glider pilot has celebrated his 100th birthday with a special party.

Ron Johnson, from Swindon, reached the milestone on Saturday and marked it with a celebration arranged by the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, saying it was "such a delightful day".

Mr Johnson's first operational flight of WWII was during Operation Market Garden, the Battle of Arnhem, in September 1944.

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Ron was injured by mortar and hit by a sniper, whose bullet went through his back and out his shoulder. He went to hospital but was taken prisoner by German personnel.

Ron, along with many other wounded soldiers, spent four days in a cattle truck being transported to Germany where he was held for six months in a Prisoner of War camp.

In April 1945, Ron and fellow glider pilot Bob Garnett escaped into the countryside where they remained hidden for eight nights with very little sleep and just some biscuits to eat. 

On the ninth day, American troops arrived, and they were flown back to the UK.

Ron has received many birthday wishes from around the world, including from Richard Piso, Dutch Military and Air Attaché, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, who said: "A 100th birthday is such a huge milestone; however, we should remember it in conjunction with your contribution to the liberation of the Netherlands, 77 years ago at Arnhem.

"As you celebrate your birthday, we will ensure that everyone in the Netherlands, is remembering and respecting the memory of what you did for our country and people.

"With huge congratulations and thanks, Happy Birthday."

Roger de Beets, chairman of the Airborne Commemorations Foundation Oosterbeek, said: "Ron always amazes me with his witty comments, but mostly with his great stories about his experiences during the Battle of Arnhem.

"On several occasions, he told his audience about the days in September 1944, whereby the history of 'those men in their flying machines' very much came alive."