The British Major And His Trusty Umbrella

“Let a smile be your umbrella, and you’ll end up with a face full of rain. ” —George Carlin

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.

Show Me The Proof

Sydney Morning Herald: Arnhem hero took his umbrella
Major Allison Digby Tatham-Warter

  • Arjan Hut

    All a man really needs is an umbrella, and a towel.

    • Phil_42

      If a man has a towel others will also automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc.

      • Arjan Hut

        A recipe for robbery. A man with a towel would then need shelter and a weapon. An umbrella could be both. Problem solved?

        • lbatfish

          Well, solved up until the Earth gets demolished to make room for a hyperspatial express route. At that point, he’d need a much larger umbrella.

    • Hadeskabir

      I would do just fine with a rubber band.

  • Kaydot Mcdiamonds

    Lol cute story

  • Jen

    Incredible story. Enjoyed it, thanks!

  • pronto

    John Steed could be deadly with his umbrella on The Avengers. Maybe this story was the inspiration for it?