This is the original Victorian weathervane from All Saints Church, Somerby. During restoration work in 1989, the vane was replaced, atop the spire, by the present version. At that time it was presented to the 10th TA Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. For a number of years it was the battalion’s shooting trophy. The cockerel was re-gilded and restored to it’s former glory (complete with bullet holes) and presented back to The Church during the 70th Commemoration of The Battle of Arnhem in September 2014.
Lieutenant Joseph Winston (Pat) Glover
The Tenth Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, was born in the heat of the desert in 1943 and died in the woods and houses of Oosterbeek near to Arnhem in September 1944. During 1944, before being emplaned to Arnhem for Operation Market garden ('A Bridge too Far') their home was in and around the small Leicestershire village of Somerby. This village has become the spiritual home of the battalion and since 1946 an annual commemoration has been held in Somerby to remember and honour those brave young men of the battalion who never returned from their own 'foreign field'.
It was during those hot summer months of 1944, when soldiers of the 1st Airborne Division were stood to and then stood down for so many airborne operations in Europe, that Lieutenant (Quarter Master) Pat Glover of the 10th Parachute Battalion billeted in the village of Somerby, relieved his frustrations by firing his .22 rifle from his office window at birds. Pat was billeted close to All Saints Church and on windy nights the old Victorian weathercock would squeak and groan, keeping him awake. In true Para fashion, Pat decided to take a few pot shots at the noisy bird and from a range of 60 yards he put two or three rounds through the unfortunate cockerel.
Later that evening in the Mess there was a heated and booze-fuelled debate as to whether he could have hit the bird from that range. The argument moved on and before long, Glover was vigorously arguing that chickens could fly. Determined to prove himself right, Pat ‘acquired’ a small reddish brown hen from a nearby farm which he christened Myrtle, named after a popular Land Army girl!
Not long after the battalion carried out a parachute exercise in which Myrtle took part. On the day of the jump Glover put Myrtle inside a zip-up canvas bag attached to his left shoulder, and once he had jumped (from 600 feet) and his parachute had deployed he opened the bag to let the chicken out. Myrtle put her head out, saw where she was, and promptly retreated back into the bag.
When Glover was down to approximately 50 feet, he reached for Myrtle and released her. Much squawking and a frenzied and utterly artless flapping of wings followed, however Myrtle was definitely flying and landed safely. When Glover landed he was so concerned about preventing Myrtle from running away that he completely forgot to collapse his chute, and so holding on to a chicken with one hand and trying desperately to attend to his parachute with the other, he was dragged across the ground and before he came to a halt he had dislocated a thumb.
Pat kept Myrtle perched on an iron bar on the desk in his office, and if a superior office ever demanded an explanation he had a prepared excuse to pass his pet off as living rations, reasoning that he wouldn't be a very good quartermaster if he didn't plan ahead for food shortages.
Over the summer Myrtle made six more jumps and became an expert flier, being released at higher altitudes each time. Eventually she jumped from 300 feet. As she had completed the regulation number of drops, she was awarded her parachute wings which she wore around her neck secured by an elastic band. Myrtle the Parachick had become an accomplished flyer through this training, and by the time of Arnhem she could safely be released from 300 feet and would patiently wait on the ground for her master to collect her.
Finally on the 17th September 1944, the battalion left the village driving to RAF Spanhoe to emplane the following day for the second lift to Arnhem. In Myrtle’s best interests as this was an operational jump, Pat decided to keep Myrtle in her canvas bag. The formation ran into flak short of Arnhem and a few bursts hit Glover's C-47, the noise of which he described as being similar to someone battering the aircraft with a sledgehammer. Glover was to be the first man to jump from the plane, and as the flak grew worse he recalled a few men behind him urging him jump, but naturally the officer preferred to wait for the drop zone to be beneath his feet first. Like everyone else in the 4th Para Brigade, Glover did not expect that the drop would be opposed, but as he was out the door and gliding down he could see that a battle raged beneath his feet and that shots were coming up at them, for a moment he wondered if they had been dropped in the wrong place. As he landed Glover deliberately rolled onto his right shoulder to avoid injury to Myrtle, and once he had found his batman, Joe Scott, he trusted Myrtle to his care as they both headed toward the yellow smoke that marked the rendezvous point. Mortars and shells were exploding everywhere and Ginkel Heath had been set ablaze; fires that some paratroopers fell into. Moving off the zone he ran into a very badly wounded 20 year old Lieutenant of the 156th Battalion, hit with incendiary rounds in his legs and chest. The man was in a great deal of pain and so Glover administered morphia and left to locate a medic.
On the following day as the Polish lift was coming down, Glover tried to replenish dwindling water supplies and sent a Sergeant away in a Jeep loaded with dozens of water bottles to try and find some, however he never saw the man again. As the 10th Battalion withdrew across the railway line near Wolfheze at dusk, where they were holding the Brigade's left flank, Glover recalled that the whole area was covered by German machine-gunners and so in the poor light men minimized their chances of being seen by going up the railway embankment, lying down, and then rolling themselves over the top. Just as Glover was about to go over a determined German attack came in and the paratroopers dug themselves in at a pace. Once this skirmish had ended, Glover turned to Scott and suggested they have a brew-up. It was only then that he thought of Myrtle and asked Scott where she was.
When the attack came and he began to dig in he remembered he had left her in her bag on the edge of the trench, and as Glover felt for the bag and brought it in he noticed that it had been riddled with bullets. Inside it Myrtle lay dead, on her back with her feet in the air. The two men left her in the bag and buried her beneath a hedge a few yards from where she fell. Glover wondered if he should remove her parachute wings, but as she had been Killed in Action he decided to leave them on. With the grave filled in Scott rose to his feet, dusted himself off, and delivered the following eulogy, "Well, she was game to the last, sir."
Pat Glover fought on with the dwindling remnants of the battalion being reduced to small pockets of men fighting then withdrawing. The battalion of nearly 600 was now down to 60 desperate men. On Wednesday 20th, now in Oosterbeek, he attempted to start a German self propelled gun (tank by any other name) that had been knocked out by the battalion. His brave efforts resulted in the disabled gun becoming a target for both sides. On Thursday his ‘cockerel’ target practise paid off when he hit three or four enemy snipers in houses close to the Schoonord Hotel. However his position was spotted and a shell directed at his building, exploding and sending Glover through the floor to the level below. He continued in the desperate fight until he was wounded in both his hand and right calf. He made his way back to the Schoonord dressing station where his wounds were dressed but then he was unfortunately taken prisoner. However, Pat Glover’s tenacity endured and on 15th October he managed to escape and after making contact with the Dutch Resistance, on the 22nd October, with another 140 airborne men, he was ferried safely across the Rhine. Pat Glover died in 1996.