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Roll Call Colonel John Waddy, OBE

Colonel Waddy had a distinguished career in the British Army spanning 35 years.

Descended from a long line of Army officers it was natural that he joined his family’s regiment - the Somerset Light Infantry, and was posted in July 1939 to the 2nd Battalion then serving in India. After nearly two years soldiering in the Raj, and keen for more adventure, he volunteered for the 151 British Parachute Battalion (later renumbered as 156) which was established in India in 1941.

Parachuting was rather rudimentary in India in these early days. Shortly after qualifying he was seriously injured while exiting an aircraft on a parachuting exercise which resulted in him being in a coma for 3 days.

After relocation to the Middle East and then Tunisia, 156 Battalion and Brigade HQ formed the lead elements in the capture of the port of Taranto in September 1943. Facing a skilful German rearguard action they spent several weeks advancing north east, first to Bari and then Foggia.

In October ’43 he was promoted as Major and commanded B Coy 156 Bn at Arnhem, where he was wounded in fighting at Johanna Hoeve woods (September ’44). He was subsequently wounded twice more while at a Main Dressing Station and eventually taken prisoner. In Spring 1945 he was liberated by General Patton’s army from Stalag VIIA in Bavaria and was able to return to the UK to marry Ann.

John then spent nearly three years in Palestine combating the Jewish terrorist threat where he was wounded again (July 1947). After some routine postings in the UK, Libya and Egypt he rejoined the Somerset Light Infantry in Malaya (1952). Lengthy spells patrolling in the Selangor Jungles earned him a Mention in Dispatches.

In 1958 the Parachute Regiment was allowed to have a permanent cadre of officers; he volunteered to rejoin, was accepted and posted as 2i/c of 2 Para, serving with them in Cyprus, Jordan and the UK.

As Lt. Colonel he commanded the Parachute Regiment’s Depot and then the Small Arms School at Hythe; he was awarded the OBE in 1962. 

In 1964 he was appointed Colonel SAS and commander of the SAS Group (comprising all 3 SAS Regiments). Subsequently in 1967 he was posted to Washington DC on the Army liaison staff spending the last 5 months of the posting at Fort Benning Infantry School. He was able to renew contact with the Americans in September 1970 when he was posted as Defence Adviser in the British Embassy (Saigon) at the height of the Vietnam War.

He returned to the UK to work at the Joint Warfare Establishment before retiring from the Army in 1974 and subsequently worked for Westland Helicopters for 15 years until 1989 as a military adviser.

In 1976 he took 6 months leave from the Westland post to act as military adviser for the film ‘A Bridge Too Far’ directed by Richard Attenborough. While the film broadly portrays the events correctly there are historical inaccuracies. There was little John Waddy, John Frost or Richard Attenborough could do about this since the film was primarily intended for US consumption and major changes to the script were not permitted.

He is a published author (Tour of the Arnhem Battlefields) and a recognised authority on Arnhem. From 1982 to 1996 he led a team of Arnhem veterans to talk to the students of the Army Staff College on their battlefield tours at Arnhem. Along with Major Tony Hibbert, he continued this role when the tours were restarted by the Army Division of the Defence Academy in 2008.

By Harvey Grenville with the kind assistance of John Waddy

Personal account of Col John Waddy's time at Arnhem

Read the personal account of Col John Waddy of his experiences at Arnhem

Find out more about Personal account of Col John Waddy's time at Arnhem

by Col John Waddy

Extended biography of John Waddy

Read an extended military career and personal biography for John Waddy produced following a series of interviews and meetings with Harvey Grenville.

Find out more about Extended biography of John Waddy

Compiled by Harvey Grenville

A Tribute to Tim

The eulogy given at John Timothy's funeral service Thursday 3rd November 2011.

Find out more about A Tribute to Tim

By Harvey Grenville

Letter to widow of Colonel H N Barlow from Col John Waddy returning cigarette case, 4 Nov 1954.

A transcription of a letter to the wife of Col Hilaro Barlow from John Waddy.

Find out more about Letter to widow of Colonel H N Barlow from Col John Waddy returning cigarette case, 4 Nov 1954.

Submitted by Stefanie Buell


1954 , Malaya
Thumbnail image of OBE1962 OBE

Listed Operations

09/09/1943 – 01/05/1944 Italy
1955 – 1957 Malaya
01/09/1945 – 30/06/1948 Palestine
17/09/1944 – 25/09/1944 Arnhem (Operation Market Garden)

Airborne Forces service history

1939 1st Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, (Second Lieutenant)
1939-1941 1st Somerset Light Infantry, India, (Lieutenant)
1941-1943 151 Parachute Battalion, (Lieutenant)
1943 HQ 4th Parachute Brigade, (Major)
1943-1945 156 Parachute Battalion, (Major)
1945 HQ 3rd Parachute Brigade, (Major)
1945-1948 9th (Essex) Parachute Battalion, (Major)
1948-1949 HQ 43 (Wessex) Division, (Captain)
1950 Staff College Camberley, (Captain)
1951-1952 HQ 1st Infantry Division, (Captain)
1952-1953 1st Somerset Light Infantry, (Major)
1954 RAF Staff College, (Major)
1955-1956 4/5 Bn Somerset Light Infantry, (Major)
1956-1958 Canadian Joint Air Training Centre, Canadian Airborne Forces, (Major)
1958-1960 Second In Command (2-i-c), The 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA), (Major)
1960-1962 Depot The Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces, (Lieutenant-Colonel)
1960-1962 Parachute Regiment Battle School Brecon Wales, (Lieutenant-Colonel)
1962-1964 Chief Instructor Small Arms School, (Lieutenant-Colonel)
1968-1969 Army Liaison Staff, Washington DC, (Colonel)
1969-1970 Senior Officers War Course, Greenwich Naval College, (Colonel)
1970-1972 Defence Advisor, British Embassy Saigon, (Colonel)
1973-1974 Joint Warfare Establishment, Old Sarum, (Colonel)

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