Gunner Robert Sheridan, 918527
A Troop. 227 Battery, 66 Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery

Serious Injuries sustained in action on Tuesday 5th October 1943

After a brief leave to see his wife, Ellen, and new-born son, Peter, born in Stoke-on-Trent on 9th January 1943, Bob was shipped out with his regiment to North Africa, from where they were one of the first waves of troops to invade and liberate Sicily. They landed at Avola near Syracusa in Sicily, then worked their way up the eastern seaboard to Messina. They crossed the Straits of Messina to take part in the invasion of the Italian mainland, landing near Reggio di Calabria on 3rd September 1943.

On Tuesday 5th October, Gnr Sheridan was deployed to drive Captain Cooper and three other soldiers, Gnrs Roberts, Wilkins and Buckley in an armoured vehicle near the town of Foggia. Capt Cooper travelled in the front with Gnr Sheridan, and the remaining three soldiers travelled in the rear. The vehicle struck and detonated a land mine. Gnr Roberts died at the scene. Gnrs Wilkins and Buckley died on their way to the field hospital. Gnr Gunner Sheridan received a fractured skull and other injuries, and remained in a coma for a fortnight in hospital. Capt Peter Cooper, who originated from North Berwick, received multiple fractures, from which he made a complete recovery.

In the weeks that followed, Captain Cooper’s mother was in touch with Bob’s mother in Haddington and the two shared news of their recovery.

Gnr Sheridan recalls: “Having spent a period in the 98th General Hospital during my recovery, after having spent a short time for an operation in Sicily, to where I was flown from Italy (near Foggia), I was then sent by Hospital Ship to Italy for a full recovery.”

Following his recovery, Bob returned to active service with his regiment, but two weeks later, after suffering a nervous breakdown, was down-graded to B1 in March 1944, taken away from front-line duties and was deployed into the bakery because of his pre-war working experience in Laidlaw’s Bakery in Haddington. He was based for some time in Taranto and for some time at Castellammare, near Naples, where he witnessed the 1944 eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

One day, whilst in Taranto, he was going down the stairs when he recognised one of a group of soldiers coming in the opposite direction – it was his only brother, George, six years his junior, who had joined the Cheshire Regiment as soon as he was old enough! Bob didn’t even know that George was in Italy and it had been at least three years since they had seen each other. At that time, Bob was 24 and George 18.

The Regiment remained in Italy when the war had finished. Bob learned in late September of 1945 that his brother-in-law, Jack Beamish, was seriously ill with TB in Rome. He obtained leave to visit him. His commanding officer was expecting orders for the Regiment to return to England at any time, so he provided Bob with transport to Rome, with strict orders to return to base immediately if he received such an order. Bob and his driver travelled to the hospital in Rome, and on approaching the ward in the evening, Bob saw that Jack was talking to a Priest, so he decided to come and visit the next morning instead.

However, within the hour he received the order to return to base. Without hesitation he went back to the hospital immediately and managed to speak with Jack, who was optimistic about coming home, but realistic about his state of health. After talking to each other for about an hour, Bob and his driver went straight back to their base, from where they spent the next few weeks in transit.

By the time Bob arrived home in early November, Jack had died (26th October). Bob was the last family member to see him alive, and his memories of that last conversation were a great source of comfort to the grieving family. Bob was demobbed in April 1946.