Sergeant John James Caves (7020145) served in the 1st Glider Pilot Regiment of the Army Air Corps during World War Two. He was the son of Jack Harry Caves and Ann Ray Caves of Lisburn, Co. Antrim.
Sergeant Caves took part in the airborne assault on D-Day. Part of the second wave of Operation Mallard, he would have landed in LZ “N” to the east of the Orne River near Ranville. The operation began around 2100hrs on 6th June 1944. Sappers cleared the area of obstacles allowing gliders to bring equipment and firepower to isolated troops.
Landing Zone “N” saw the arrival of 112 Horsa gliders and 30 Hamilcar gliders. Among the troops in the area were 6th Airlanding Brigade, 6th Airborne Division Armored Reconnaissance Regiment, and 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles.
The landing zone was a hive of activity and eleven of the thirty units deployed were quickly immobilised. Parachutes littered the field and caught in the caterpillar tracks of light tanks. Soon, the entire landing zone filled with gliders who struggled to find space to land.
Caves also took part in Operation Varsity. This was a successful Allied operation that began on 24th March 1945. More than 16,000 paratroopers and several thousand aircraft took part.
The operation was part of Operation Plunder, the assault to cross the Rhine. British, American, and Canadian troops pushed into northern Germany spearheaded by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. Varsity’s aim was to assist troops in securing a foothold across the Rhine. Airborne divisions were to land on the eastern bank near the village of Hamminkeln and the town of Wesel.
British 6th Airborne Division captured the villages of Schnappenberg and Hamminkeln. It cleared parts of the Diersfordt Forest and secured three bridges of the Issel River. The operation was a success although casualties were heavy. The two divisions combined incurred around 2,000 casualties. Reports indicate they captured around 3,500 German soldiers.
Capture In Germany
By the end of 24th March 1945, 6th Airborne Division had lost around 1,400 men out of 7,220 who landed. Men had either been killed, wounded, or taken a prisoner of war. German troops captured Sergeant John James Caves in late March 1945. His squadron listed him as a prisoner of war. He died in captivity. He died on 31st March 1945 aged 22 years old, while a prisoner of war in Germany.
Private John James Caves’ grave is in Section 10, Row A, Plot 14 of the 1939-1945 War Cemetery, Charlottenburg, Berlin, Germany. His headstone bears the inscription:
Always remembered by mother, father, brother & sisters. He died that we might live.