From a veteran comrade to young children from the local community, tribute was paid to a Dewsbury paratrooper who gave his life to defeat Nazi forces in world war two and at last has a memorial stone bearing his name.
After years of research from the military authorities and historians in two countries, the grave of Lance Corporal William Loney has been rededicated after almost three quraters of a century.
Lance Corporal Loney, born in Westtown, Dewsbury, of the Parachute Regiment, Army Air Corps, was killed soon after landing with comrades at the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944 as the Allies tried to force a passage across the Rhine and shorten the war, being met with fire from a crack SS regiment as they descended from the skies in Operation Market Garden.
The grave of L/Cpl Loney had been marked as “a Lance Corporal” but research in the Netherlands and England finally concluded the burial plot was his.
A new headstone was dedicated to the 26-year-old at a moving service today at Arnhem’s Oosterbeek War Cemetery, arranged by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) and led by the Reverend Dr Brutus Green, Regimental Chaplain, 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment.
L/Cpl Loney was the son of William and Mary Loney. William and his family were devoted Catholics and attended St Paulinus Church regularly. William was a keen footballer and worked as a labourer in Adams Mill, Dewsbury, before serving his country. Rev Dr Green said: “It was an honour to be here in Arnhem during the commemoration week to lead the service for L/Cpl William Loney. Although his family weren’t able to be here today, he was well represented by his regimental family. It is incredibly important for the regiment to remember brave men like William, and the sacrifices they made for us.”
William initially received his training as a gunner, being posted to 17 Field Regiment Royal Artillery, but volunteered to join the Army Air Corps on November 2, 1942, where he was enlisted in C-Coy, 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment. He saw action in North Africa and Italy before being promoted to Lance Corporal in June 1944.
As part of Operation Market Garden, C-Coy, 2nd Battalion was dropped on September 17, 1944, on DZ-X at Heelsum. In the evening while entering Arnhem via the Utrechtsestraat as one of the leaf scouts for his Platoon, L/Cpl Loney was killed together with his comrades, Private Norman Shipley and Private Thomas Pratt. All three were subsequently reported missing.
At the service, Staff Sergeant Laurie Weeden, a Glider Pilot Regiment veteran, read the poem “Death in Oosterbeek” and Dutch schoolchildren placed white flowers L/Cpl Loney’s grave. A new headstone bearing L/Cpl Loney’s name has been provided by the CWGC, who will now care for his final resting place in perpetuity.
Dewsbury historian Peter Bennett, who was at the ceremony representing St Paulinus and L/Cpl Loney’s home town, said he was honoured to be there. “It was very moving and there was a lot of people there, from the Paras to the Dutch media. The most touching parts of the service were when Laurie read the poem and the children lay the white roses on his grave. It was a roller-coaster of emotions. I also visited the house where William was killed and it was fitting to stand on the spot where he died,” said Peter.
Very recently Peter has managed to trace some members of L/Cpl Loney’s family who had been unaware they were related to the Arnhem hero, and he believes they are making their own plans to visit his grave at a later date. And the Reporter was contacted by a Thornhill family whose relative was next to L/Cpl Loney when he was killed. Mr Harry Kerfoot said his wife’s Margaret’s father Jack Oates had landed with William and was next to him when he was killed.