In A Nutshell
Major Allison Digby Tatham-Warter was a British officer who led “A” Company, Second Parachute Battalion during the failed World War II operation known as “Market Garden.” Tatham-Warter was known for his eccentric behavior and his trademark umbrella. The major used his umbrella as a countersign, to boost morale, and to take out enemy vehicles.
The Whole Bushel
The umbrella is a British stereotype, but in the hands of the right Englishman, it can do some serious damage. Major Allison Digby Tatham-Warter, commander of “A” Company, Second Parachute Battalion, was such a man. Besides having a great name, Tatham-Warter was also a classic eccentric. For example, he distrusted military radios so he trained his men to communicate with bugles. But his greatest claim to both eccentricity and heroism was the umbrella that he took with him wherever he went. The major carried the umbrella because he had trouble remembering passwords, and he figured everyone knew that only an Englishman would carry an umbrella on the battlefield. When sentries saw the forgetful major’s personal countersign, they knew to stand down.
During the Allied military operation known as “Market Garden,” Tatham-Warter was ordered to take and hold the Arnhem Bridge. During the battle, he led a bayonet charge, wielding a pistol in one hand and swinging his umbrella wildly around his head with the other, all the while wearing a bowler derby. Later, Tatham-Warter calmly escorted a chaplain through a barrage of mortar fire, holding his open umbrella over the priest’s head for “protection.” When a lieutenant pointed out the umbrella wasn’t going to do much good in a fight, Tatham-Warter responded, “What if it rains?”
However, the lieutenant had no idea how dangerous Tatham-Warter could be with his parasol. During an intense battle, the major saw an armored car rolling his way. Even light armored cars were covered in heavy metal plating and sported either a machine gun or an anti-tank gun. But that didn’t slow down the major. Instead, he ran up to the car’s observation slit and poked his umbrella inside, blinding the driver and stopping the car in its tracks. For his actions on the bridge (as well as leading a massive escape from behind enemy lines), Tatham-Warter was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and his umbrella became a symbol of British pride and bravery.