Liuetenant Jack Reynolds has died aged 97. He joined the Army aged just 17 and served all across Europe during the conflict
A war hero who was famously photographed flicking a V-sign at the Germans after being taken prisoner at Battle of Arnhem 75 years ago has died.
Lieutenant Jack Reynolds’ plucky act of defiance towards his captors provided one of the most iconic images of doomed Operation Market Garden.
The officer and his men were overrun by the Germans several days after 10,000 British airborne troops landed behind enemy lines in Holland in September 1944.
As they were being marched away Lt Reynolds spotted a grinning German cameraman shooting a video of the vanquished Brits.
Out of a combination of anger and frustration, he gave the two-fingered salute at the camera.
‘I was so angry at the loss of fine young men and the carnage. Down the road I saw a German chap with a camera and a huge grin on his face and I thought what a b****** and gave him the opposite ‘V’ sign,’ he later said.
‘It was an act of defiance but a momentary lapse of military discipline, which given the circumstance seemed totally justifiable!’
Lt Reynolds, who had lied about his age to join the army, spent the rest of the war in a PoW camp in Brunswick, Germany, alongside his commanding officer, Captain AH Willcocks.
After being freed when the camp was liberated by US forces in April 1945, he returned home and met and married Eulalie Willcocks – the younger sister of his commanding officer.
The couple lived in Pulborough, West Sussex, where he remained until his recent death aged 97. His wife died 13 years ago.
Friends and historians have now paid tribute to the decorated war veteran.
He was famously photographed flicking a V-sign at the Germans after being taken prisoner at Battle of Arnhem 75 years ago. Liuetenant Jack Reynolds’ plucky act of defiance towards his captors provided one of the most iconic images of doomed Operation Market Garden
Historian Steve Penticost interviewed Lt Reynolds for the book ‘Military Voices; West Sussex Veterans in the 20th Century.’
He said: ‘Men like Jack Reynolds seemed to have an indomitable spirit and rarely showed any signs of frailty.
‘People today talk about World War Two veterans being heroes but Jack didn’t have any truck with that – he was just doing what he had to.
‘He went to just one Arnhem reunion and that was the first one.
‘He felt they had let down the people of Arnhem terribly because they suffered reprisals at the hands of the Nazis for helping the British.
‘He felt partly responsible and couldn’t face those people.
‘Some years after the war a German newspaper contacted him out of the blue and sent him this framed photograph of him giving the V-sign.
He was posted to Dover to man a 12 pound gun aimed at German E-Boats in the English Channel. Frustrated by the lack of action he joined the 1st Airborne Division and took part in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943
Picture taken in Eindhoven showing gliders heading on towards Nijmegen and Arnhem during Operation Market Garden
‘It was an iconic image of Arnhem and one that he was very proud of because it summed up exactly what men like him felt, even though it wasn’t the conduct you’d expect of an officer.
‘When I visited him he had this photo hung up on the wall of his lounge.’
Lt Reynolds was aged 17 at the start of the Second World War – a year below the legal age to join the army.
He had wanted to follow his older brother Arthur into the armed forces and so lied about his age. managing to join the Sussex Yeomanry and trained as a signaller.
But when his real age was discovered he was sent off to South Wales for more training rather than France and the thick of the action.
While there he was recommended for a commission and joined the Royal Artillery.
He was posted to Dover to man a 12 pound gun aimed at German E-Boats in the English Channel.
Frustrated by the lack of action he joined the 1st Airborne Division and took part in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943.
He was awarded the Military Cross for his part in seizing and defending a bridge in Sicily while under heavy enemy fire.
For Arnhem, Lt Reynolds was in the first wave of glider borne troops, landing on September 17.
He was sent off on a reconnaissance mission on the back of a motorbike but encountered German sniper-fire which disabled their vehicle.
He continued on foot until he saw German infantry and Panzer tanks when he retreated and reported back to battalion HQ.
The next day the men marched towards Oosterbeek, near Arnhem, and came under heavy talk fire. Lt Reynolds went forward alone to find out the strength of the opposition.
But he became cut off and spent several days behind enemy lines. When he finally made it back battalion HQ it was completely overrun by the Germans and the men were forced to surrender.
It is understood Chichester-born Mr Reynolds died in his sleep in West Sussex on 22 August.