The story of Stanley Mathews and John Thorogood KIA 21-9-1944

This is the short story of the death of two young tankers in 4 troop, C-squadron, 44th Royal Tank Regiment. They are named Stan Matthews and John Thorogood, both were killed during Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands.

Stanley Matthews (left) and Jack Thorogood (right)

On September 21st, 1944 between 16:00h and 17:00h they were driving in their Sherman Firefly under the command of Lieutenant David Cohen towards the tiny hamlet of Olland. Together with a second tank, they advanced without infantry, this was due to a misunderstanding or bad communications between the Americans and British.

They were supposed to be supported by American paratroopers from B- Company 502nd PIR, 101st Airborne but they had no orders to move along with the tanks.

They ran into the blocking position of the German 59th Infanterie Division which had positioned a 75mm or 88mm anti-tank gun in a field next to the road.

A current day map depicting the events. 1. Location where the tank was hit. 2. Location of the German Anti-Tank gun. 3. Approximate location where John Thorogood was killed.

After driving a couple of 100 yards their Sherman Firefly was hit by anti-tank fire, the driver Stanley Matthews was killed instantly. The tank rolled on uncontrollable until it hit a tree and stopped, for good.

Lieutenant David Cohen tried to lift the wounded John Thorogood out of the tank but was blown off it when the next shell hit the tank.

Somehow John managed to escape from the burning tank and started to make his way back to the allied lines. He made it some 100 yards from the tank when was killed by a German sniper or machine gun fire (this is unclear).

The other two crew members, lieutenant David Cohen and the wireless operator (name unknown) escaped but were severely wounded.  The second tank was also hit but made it back to Sint Oedenrode.

After the action, Jack and John were buried in the field next to the tank by the Germans with the help of local boys.

The final resting place of the Sherman Firefly, you can clearly see both holes in the frontal armor and the tree that was taken a few machine gu

John’s brother, George, wrote a book about it: “Proven beyond doubt”, it tells the history of this event in more detail and the help he got from the local Dutch people who helped him in his search for the truth.

A while ago I went to the same location and took the following photos:

The approximate location where the tank was hit, the house has been modernized, the road widened and the ditch has made way for a bicycle path.

Looking towards Olland, the tank would have made it a few yards further before being fatally hit by a German Anti-Tank gun.

In 1994 a small monument was erected to the memory of these soldiers.


It says:

John Thorogood
Stanley Mathews
Hun jonge leven hier gegeven
(Their young lives given here)

On June 11th, 1946 their bodies were exhumed and they were moved to the Uden War Cemetery, they still lie side by side, Stanley Matthews on the left and Jack Thorogood on the right.

By Joris Nieuwint, for War History Online.

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.