FROM A BOY TO A MAN

Bill Thompson

 

This account of Bill Thompson’s wartime experiences is based on a talk he gave in 1999 to a Probus Club in Maidstone.

 

I was born in Maidstone on 15th February 1924. Both my parents were also born in Maidstone, with their knowledge of the town from their early days I grew up knowing a lot about what had happened in Maidstone since the turn of the century.

 

My father had been educated at the Blue Coat School for Boys in Knightrider Street, Maidstone. At the time, his father (my grandfather) had a haulage business in Mote Road, Maidstone. In the time of no motor vehicles, goods had to be transported by horse and cart over long distances. Edam cheese from Holland was one of the commodities that was carried from London Docks to Charles Arkcoll in Stone Street, Maidstone, Arckoll's being the number one importer of cheese from Holland at that time. I don't think Percy Akers, the Managing Director of  Arckoll’s, knew that.

 

So much for my ancestors, although I must tell you one thing. Due to the fairly early death of my grandfather and the subsequent failure of his business, my father left home to enlist in the Army where he stayed for twelve years. He was only sixteen years of age at the time of joining the Army and was thought to be underage for service. However, there he stayed and landed in France on 5th August 1914 as a member of the Old Contemptibles. He lasted out the war, being wounded twice and finally severely gassed in 1918.

Now for me. I started school at Union Street School which later became East Borough and then Vinters. At twelve years of age I passed the examinations for the Junior Technical School for Boys which later became the Grammar School for Boys at Oakwood Park, Maidstone. The school was then in St Faith's Street on the site of the Maidstone library. In those days at any one time there would be about one hundred and eighty boys making up six classes, and we had nine masters including the Principal, Harry Collins. He was a strict disciplinarian and the cane was quite common, not a bad thing in those days.

 

At the end of my three years at the Tech, much to Harry Collins' disappointment, I chose to go into commercial life rather than engineering which was the norm for Tech boys at that time.

 

1 joined the staff of Fremlins Pale Ale Brewery in Earl Street, Maidstone as a junior clerk in July 1939. The war was looming and within a matter of a few weeks at Fremlins there was a mass exodus of young men who were serving in the Territorial Army. The newly joined lads were given senior positions, so at sixteen years of age I became Assistant Transport Manager. The pay did not go with the job though!

 

I remember quite clearly 3 September 1939, listening to the wireless when the announcement was made that Great Britain was at war with Germany. At fifteen and a half years I remember thinking ‘it will be all over before I am old enough to serve my country’. On that day my father, being in the TA, was away with his unit, 16th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. Being the only man of the house, and having two older sisters, I decided that 1 should take care of the home, my mother and sisters. My first move was to prepare an Air Raid Shelter which I did by filling some sacks with earth from the garden and placing them over the cellar grill. We were fortunate to have a cellar under our house which made a first class air raid shelter. Time soon passed and we suffered the air raids of 1940 and happily survived. Dunkirk came and went and as we all know, our country stood alone. At that time I was doing my bit as a member of the local Home Guard.

 

Once I had had my 18th birthday I decided that I should join the Army and not wait for call up, which at the time was 19 years of age. With some of my best pals I volunteered. For some reason I wanted to be involved with tanks and not my father's old regiment, the Royal Horse Artillery, so in consequence I joined the Royal Armoured Corps for my basic training.

 

During the early summer of 1942 I presented myself at the local recruiting office at the bottom of High Street, Maidstone and signed my Attestation Paper swearing allegiance to the Crown. A couple of months or so passed and I received notice to report to the 58th Training Regt RAC at Bovington. The depot still remains in the same spot at Bovington where the young leaders are trained for all Armoured Regiments .

 

I remember on one cold morning in early October 1942 leaving Maidstone East station with a pal of mine from school to join the Army. We had both volunteered some time earlier that year and were both called to the Colours on the same day. My pal had chosen the Royal Corps of Signals and I the Royal Armoured Corps.

 

We parted at Victoria Station with a firm hand shake, not to meet again until the war was over, and both continued on our respective journeys. Arthur Relf, my old school pal went on to Catterick, North Yorkshire for his training and I travelled to Bovington Camp, Dorset to join the 58th Training Regt. RAC.

 

At the time I felt that the end of the world had come and I suppose had some regrets. The time soon passed and I, like many young soldiers of that time, made many friends and those friends became comrades. Among them was the now well known Murray Walker who later joined the Scots Greys. After the first six weeks of Infantry Training I received my black beret and was a member of the Royal Armoured Corps. Was I proud! I sure was, for now I was a young tankie, still only eighteen years of age, still wet behind the ears and a virgin soldier.

 

During the following months I learned how to drive and maintain a tank, operate a No. 19 wireless set and load and fire the six pounder gun. Finally, there was Collective Training, how to command a tank in battle. The training took me to most parts of the county of Dorset. Gunnery training was then, as still it is, in the camp at Lulworth Cove, one of the most beautiful parts of the county.

 

By this time, I had learned what is meant by comradeship and that, combined with discipline that my training regiment had taught me, was going to stand me in good stead for the rest of my Army life.

 

During the Spring of 1943 I joined my Service Unit which was to be a heavy tank battalion, the 9th Royal Tank Regiment, who at the time were stationed in the Charing area of Kent. I arrived at Charing station, all alone once again, for my training regiment pals had postings to other tank or cavalry regiments. I reported to the HQ Squadron at Pett Place and stayed overnight in one of the large houses that had been taken over by the regiment as billets in the High Street, Charing.

 

           

 

The next day I learned that I was to join 11 Troop, C Squadron, who were stationed at the top of Charing Hill in the Longbeech area immediately opposite the regimental Tank Park where some sixty Churchill tanks were hidden in the woods.

 

When I arrived and was taken to 11 Troup Nissen hut I couldn't help noticing the eyes of the lads falling on my well blancoed equipment and polished brasses. I soon found out that the bullshit had now finished and I was a proper tank soldier. The discipline still continued but in a more friendly way. I was now a crew member and part of a troop of fifteen men. We were one of five troops in the Squadron, and with the tanks of squadron headquarters that made up a total of eighteen tanks; we were one of the three fighting squadrons of the 9th Royal Tank Regt.

 

After about a year of special training, going on exercises, schemes and manoeuvres all over the country it was late spring of 1944 and we were ready for the Second Front. The regiment moved by rail to Farnborough in Hampshire where the necessary work was carried out to make our tanks ready for the Invasion of Normandy. The tanks were sealed in order that they could come off the tank landing craft in six foot of water if they had to. There was an air of excitement and being young most of us were looking forward to the days ahead. Operation OVERLORD was about to start.

 

A further move was made to the marshalling area at Gosport and there we waited until our turn came. It took a couple of days at sea, which was very rough at the time. We landed on the coast of Normandy in tempestuous weather between the 18th and 21st June as part of 31Tank Brigade (the Green Diabolo Brigade). The rough sea in the Channel had already claimed some of the tanks of our sister unit, the 7th Royal Tank Regt. They had broken their shackles and slipped into the sea.

 We were part of the British VIII Corps (the White Knight Corps), and our Corps Commander was the well known Major‑General Richard O'Connor. The Corps included the 15th Scottish Infantry Division, the 11th Armoured Division, the 43rd Wessex Infantry Division and the 4th Independent Armoured Brigade plus various other units. We were now ready and waiting.

 

                                   

 

'O'Connor is the only General who makes me nervous'. These words attributed to Rommel, true or not, are a measure of O'Connor's fine reputation. In Britain's darkest hour in the North African desert with 31,000 Australian, New Zealand, Indian and United Kingdom troops he had shattered an Italian army of a quarter of a million men, taking 130,000 prisoners and capturing hundreds of guns and tanks. When later he was taken prisoner by a motorised German patrol, Churchill is said to have offered six Italian Generals to get him back. He had however, by then, escaped at the second attempt in time to command VIII Corps in Normandy. The Divisions of O'Connor's 'White Knight Corps' were made up predominantly of peacetime week‑end soldiers, the territorials and conscripts, green troops in the main.

 

Operation 'Epsom' was to commence on 26th June with the object of encircling Caen. A two mile wide gap was to be punched through the German defences and was to be known as the Scottish Corridor. It was not an easy job and quickly the Germans drew six of their finest Panzer Divisions from various parts of their front to hold their lines. One of these Divisions was 12 SS Panzer Division commanded by Kurt 'Panzer' Meyer and made up of Hitler Youth soldiers, young and fanatical, many only eighteen years old, young men who were prepared to die for the Fatherland.

 

What was at first thought to be a matters of days to complete was to take over six weeks. It was said that seventy percent of the casualties during these battles were from shells, mortars and, of course, snipers. When not fighting, the infantry would remain in their slit trenches and we in tank units dug large trenches and drove our tanks over them, banking up earth over the bogey wheels for protection.

I will always remember my first taste of combat when on the 26th June our squadron of 18 tanks moved into the village of Cheux which was part of the Scottish Corridor. The countryside was ideal for the Germans in defence; this part of Normandy was made up of sunken roads and hedges, snipers would pick off tank commanders who had to remain head and shoulders out of the turrets of their tanks to observe. There was no way to turn left or right and it was almost certain that ahead would be a Tiger Tank or SP gun which would mount a dreaded German 88mm gun. Head‑on at short range there would be no hope.

                       

         

 

That first day, my "Baptism of Fire", so to speak, my squadron had thirteen of its eighteen tanks knocked out. Fortunately, a number of the tanks were recoverable and the loss of crews was not too great. The first killed in our regiment was Sidney Chapman, who was our troop Corporal. I remember thinking that he was married with two children and it seemed so sad that a husband and a father had to be killed in battle. At least those younger soldiers in the regiment had no dependents.

 

In the first action my squadron, C squadron, supported the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders of the 15th Scottish Division. Being quarter Scot (my maternal grandfather was named Gordon and he had served with a highland regiment in the Boer War) I was proud to be fighting with the Gordons.

 

On the first night in the still of the night I remember quite clearly the sound of the bag‑pipes of the Gordons and other Scottish regiments in the nearby orchards around Cheux playing laments to honour. their fallen, ‘The Flowers of the Forest" and other “Tunes of Glory". So stirring, it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, this was war and I then understood the well known Battlefield Philosophy of kill or be killed".

 

         

 

Then came Hill 112 and Maltot in Operation Jupiter, probably our fiercest fighting of the whole campaign. C squadron was supporting the 4th Dorsets of the 43 Wessex Division. Around this area near Caen it was attack and counterattack all the time with heavy shelling and the dreaded Nebelwerfer Multiple Mortars, generally known as “moaning minnies” because of the terrible noise they made before landing.

 

 

Eventually, the British and Canadians pushed the Germans back and the operation 'Cobra' was launched by the Americans at St Lo. This operation was preceded by a bombardment of German positions by 3,000 aircraft and itself was on a 6,000 yard front.

 

At this point I would like to give a few details of casualties. On 11 August when the battle of Normandy was nearing its end the Allies had 37 Divisions in France.

 

The 12th US Army Group, 21 Divisions

The 21st British and Canadian Army Group, 16 Divisions

 

Casualties:  British and Canadian             68,000

                   American                             102,000

 

Enemy losses in Battle of Normandy 6th June to 19th August

Divisions eliminated or savagely mauled, about 40.

 

Total enemy losses probably                300,000

Guns captured and destroyed                   3,000

Tanks destroyed                                over 1,000

 

There was not a lot of love lost between the British and Americans. The Americans thought that the British and Canadians were not moving fast enough but the fact was on our front we had against us seven and a half Panzer Divisions, and the Americans were only facing one and a half  Panzer Divisions.

 

As a point of interest and to let you know how good the German Panzer Troops were, I must relate the story of Michael Wittman.

 

The greatest tank ace of World War II was the German, Michael Wittman. He was born in 1914 and joined the German army in 1934. In 1937 he joined the SS Liebstandarte, originally formed as Hitler's personal bodyguard which was to expand into an armoured division in 1941. Wittman's meteoric rise began in the Russian Campaign. During the battle for Rostov in the autumn of 1941 he destroyed six Red Army tanks in a single engagement. Wittman possessed in Belthessaer Wol was a gunner who had almost supernatural ability to fire accurately while on the move. Wittman's tally on the eastern front was 117, when in January 1944 he was placed in command of 2 Company in the newly formed Heavy SS Panzer Abteilung 101, which was equipped with Tiger tanks. That summer Wittman was to wreck havoc on Allied armour in Normandy.

 

Whilst concealed in woods north‑east Villers Bocage, the first thing he saw was a British armoured column proceeding unconcernedly up the road from Villers Bocage outside of which it stopped for a brew‑up. Wittman's Tiger then moved its way into Villers Bocage to discover four Yeomanry Cromwells parked in the main street. He knocked out three in quick succession machine gunning the crews as they ran for cover. Wittman then hurried back to his unit which was lurking in the woods and proceeded to shoot up the British column halted outside the village. In less than ten minutes the British Armoured spearhead had been reduced to a line of gutted tanks.

 

Having re‑armed and re‑fuelled, Wittman re‑entered the rubble strewn village with two Tigers and a Mark IV Panther. He fell straight into a trap that had been set for him sustaining a direct hit from a six pounder anti‑tank gun brought in to support the Cromwells. Wittman's left track flew off, sending the Tiger careering into a building while the following German tank blew up the house hiding the anti‑tank weapon and its brave gunners. Then the Cromwells launched a co‑ordinated attack disabling the second Tiger with a single shot and placing a shell in the vulnerable engine compartment of the third. The German crews escaped on foot leaving their tanks to be set ablaze.

 

Wittman's company had inflicted 100 casualties and destroyed 20 Cromwells, four Sherman Fireflies, three light tanks, three Scout Cars and a half track. Not a bad day's work. As night fell, the British pulled back. The Germans rushed in reinforcements, including units from 2nd Panzer Division and a task force detached from Panzer Lehr Division to secure Villers Bocage which was subsequently levelled by Allied bombers.

 

Wittman did not long survive his triumph of Villers Bocage for which he was awarded the Swords to his Knights Cross and promoted to the Command of Abteilung 101.

 

On August 9th in fighting on the Caen‑Falaise road, the tank ace was ambushed by a Sherman Firefly of the Ist Northamptonshire Yeomanry which blew his Tiger apart at virtually point blank range. Wittman's body lay buried at the side of the road until 1983 when it was re‑interred in a German War Cemetery at Le Carmile. His final victory tally achieved in less than three years stood at 138 tank and assault guns and 132 anti‑tank guns.

 

There were some less horrific things that happened in Normandy, one of which was a 'pet rescue' operation. One of the crews of our 9 troop B squadron moved back round Caen and entered the village of La Hogue which had been heavily bombed. This had literally erased the whole place. Out of the rubble came a very distressed black and while kitten. The wee thing was taken on board to be attended to later.

 

 

After bivouacking for the night, the puss was examined and found to be a tom. He was too young to take any solid food and had to be given liquid through a rubber tube, consequently he was named Titti‑La Hogue and signed on as spare crew. The little kitten become a great inspiration to the crew in the art of survival. He would never leave the vicinity of the tank and it was felt he may have lost his sense of hearing because noise never bothered him. Titti went through many battles. His place was on the toolbox behind the driver or in the pannier next to the co‑driver. Only once did he get in the way, near to the clutch pedal by the driver's foot, but fortunately squawked a warning in time.

 

One morning in a flax field in Belgium Titti was missing and it was felt he had been taken prisoner by either friend or foe. He was found later but he wasn't put on a charge, instead he had a double ration of sardines and machonachy's soup with a good rollicking.

 

Unfortunately, some weeks later it became Titti's turn to enter the 'green fields beyond'. His eyes became badly infected with some type of liquid, possibly acid, giving him great pain. He was administered an overdose of chloroform and buried at the side of a road in Holland. His ninth life ended as a tankie. SUCH COMPASSION!

 

The next job for the 9th Royal Tanks was to assist the 51st Highland Division in closing the Falaise Gap and then to the Battle of the Bridges, 17th to 26th August. This time our squadron supported the Hallams of the 49th Infantry Division, the Polar Bear Division.

 

Moving on we were to help in the capture of Le Havre in Operation 'Astonia' which was expected to be a hard task but we survived without casualties. This time we were supporting the 1st/4th KOYLI of the 49th West Riding Division.

 

Almost certainly part of the reason for the rapid capitulation of Le Havre was the personality and philosophy of the German Commandant Colonel Eberhard Wildemuth. He had served in the First World War and between the wars had been a banker. As a Reservist Officer he was recalled on the outbreak of World War H and served on the Eastern Front. However, his views on fighting to the last man were more those of a banker than a soldier, and for this his troops, the civilian population and the attacking Allies should be grateful. He considered that it was futile to fight tanks without anti‑tank weapons and instructed his men that if they found themselves fighting tanks without the appropriate weapons they were at liberty to surrender. Colonel Wildemuth surrendered to Lt Kit Bland of B Squadron the 7th Royal Tanks from his bed, which also contained his mistress, and a nice touch of formality was added to the proceedings by the Colonel having pinned his medals to his pyjamas!

 

October found us crossing into Holland and approaching the town of Roosendaal for Operation 'Thruster' which was probably our most memorable battle of the whole campaign. Roosendaal, a town in the south west of Holland, a little smaller than Maidstone, was important to the final capture of Holland and so into Germany proper.

One incident I will always remember. It was during the last few days of October 1944 as we approached Roosendaal. The weather was atrocious, and  we were fighting our way over bogs and dykes which were plentiful in this part of Holland, most of it being reclaimed land.

 

We came to open country with a few farm buildings, not good ground for advancing tanks and infantry. We moved alongside a farm out‑building with the other two tanks of our troop to our rear. Having been there for only a matter of minutes I spotted a flash in the distance through my periscope, maybe 1500 yards away. Experience told me that we were in the sights of an 88mm gun from a SP or possibly a Tiger Tank. Two shots were fired at us, we were not close enough to engage, so without delay we reversed our tank to take cover behind the farm buildings because the Germans would soon have our range.

 

Over the 'B' set came our troop leader who swore at us to get back into the same position ‑ he was obviously not fully aware of the situation. He then moved his own tank into our track marks which we had made alongside the farm building. Within seconds there was an almighty bang and his tank had taken a direct hit on his gun mantlet, the front of his turret. When the dust had settled and he made a dazed but hurried retreat it was discovered that an AP Shot had penetrated seven and a half inches into his turret; it was as though the turret had been drilled by a great drill.

 

At the point of impact the thickness of our troop leader's tank was nine inches, his tank being a Mark VII Churchill. My tank, on the other hand, was a Mark IV Churchill, and the thickness of our armour at the same point was only six inches. Had we not moved from our position the AP Shot would have holed our turret and most certainly killed the turret crew, and probably blown the tank up completely had the ammunition been struck. I suppose you could say another of my nine lives had been used up. Needless to say, we were forgiven for moving from our original position. The troop leader's tank went back to the REME workshops for repair and was soon returned ready for further actions.

 

         

 

Within a couple of days Roosendaal was liberated thanks to the 9th Royal Tanks and our supporting infantry the 49th Polar Bear infantry division. You can imagine the reception we received from the people of the town that had been under German occupation for four and a half years. The powers that be decided that the regiment was due for a rest and refit so we stayed in Roosendaal for nearly four weeks. It was wonderful to sleep comfortably, eat well and catch up with our laundry, etc.

 

The people of Roosendaal never forgot us, and in 1994 on the 50th anniversary of their freedom those of the 9 RTR who were able returned for five days. Everything was on the town ‑ hotel bills, food, drink, etc. We had nothing to pay.

 

However, back to the war. We left our comfortable billets and the friends we had made in late November 1944 and in December crossed the German border into Germany. Here we were on stand‑by ready to repulse any counter‑attacks. Around this time on another part of the front the Germans made their breakthrough in the American sector, in the Belgium Ardennes and panic was on.

 

           

 

Montgomery was placed in command of the American Divisions in the northern half of the battle-area, and our Brigade with XXX corps (51st Highland, 53rd Welsh and 43rd Wyvern Divisions under command of the well known General Horrocks) were swiftly transferred to this part of the Western Front to defend the line of the River Meuse. We stayed in this counter-attack position for four weeks until the danger was over, and the Germans had been forced to retreat back to their starting line.  After our part in the Ardennes we moved back to Germany again for the final stages of the war in Europe.

 

On February 8th 1945 Operation 'Veritable' was to commence and the 9th Royal Tanks entered the Reichswald Forest just over the Dutch/German border for what was going to be our last major battle of the campaign. The approach to the forest was like I would imagine the Battle of the Somme in 1916 except we did see our Generals occasionally at the front. This was something new for us for the forest was part of the natural defence of the Siegfried Line, full of pine trees of varying heights up to 60 feet and only Churchill tanks of a heavy tank battalion could cope with them. We found it very difficult because we were unable to use our main guns in among the trees. However, we were able by sheer weight of our tanks to snap most of the pines like matchwood, but some tanks were put out of action by the large pieces of tree jamming the turret traversing mechanism rendering the gun useless.

 

We were tank support for the 53rd Welsh Division and the lads from Wales were pleased we were there. Attacking through the forest was slow work and at all times our tanks were vulnerable to the German Panzerfausts (the equivalent to our infantry's PIATs) especially at night.

 

On the second night in the forest a German tank hunting patrol got into our lines and fired on our troop sergeant's tank whilst he was on guard from the turret. He was shot through the head many times from a German machine gunner; they attempted to blow up his tank with a Panzerfaust but it ricocheted off, leaving a large gouge in the front plate. In the pitch black the patrol escaped back to their own lines. Each tank mounted their own guard and the infantry were dug in all around us but at night we were pretty helpless and you didn't open fire at shadows for fear of killing your own troops.

 

Our squadron worked with the 6th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers which was part of the 53rd Welsh Division and we became very close to these guys; we each relied on the help and support of the other. Casualties were high among the infantry from German artillery and mortars and of course the dreaded snipers and mines, etc. Although the war was nearing its end the Germans seemed to fight harder defending their beloved Fatherland and most of those we came up against in the Reichswald were paratroopers, the cream of their army.

 

The 53rd Welsh Division was commanded by Major General Ross. Casualties were high among the division, and during those seven days of fighting the forest took its toll. They had fifty‑eight officers and 1219 Other Ranks among their casualties. During the complete campaign in north west Europe, the Division issued 2,894 gallons of rum; in the seven days of the Reichswald, 1,228 gallons were consumed. DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE, AH!

 

On the matter of rum issue, Dicky Hall has a good tale to tell. Whilst in the forest returning to his tank with a mug of rum for his crew, he tripped and lost the lot. On returning to the quarter‑master's vehicle for a replacement the QM laughed and said he didn't believe him. However, a second issue was given out and all was well.

 

Logistics had a great part to play in this type of fighting for we required not only provisions but more importantly petrol and ammunition. The answer was solved by the 9th Royal Tanks towing sledges and a few turretless Churchill tanks loaded with precious supplies.

 

Although there were many rides criss‑crossing the forest these were not really usable for the Germans covered each one with SPs mounted with their deadly 88mm gun so hence paths had to be made by our tanks through the trees. The approaches to the forest were a sea of mud but once into the forest traction on the forest floor improved a little.

 

With the battle of the Reichswald Forest won the 9th Royal Tanks moved on towards the Rhine and with a few more small battles and skirmishes our war in Europe came to an end. The role of the heavy tanks was no longer required and the lighter armoured divisions went swanning on into Germany proper.

 

Before the 9th Royal Tank Regt was finally disbanded in late 1945, all the young soldiers with high age and service groups were transferred to the 4th Royal  Tanks and as part of the 6th Armoured Division went to North Italy. The war now over, there I stayed for fifteen months until I was demobbed in April 1947.

In August 1947 I was married to Marjorie and in 1959 my son Mark was born,  followed in 1961 with my daughter Andrea; we now had our pigeon pair, so to speak. Seeing that we had lost two full‑term babies (both boys) in 1949 and 1951 we were over the moon. Now fifty two years on Marjorie and I are blessed with seven grand children, six boys and one girl. We are indeed lucky people.

 

         

 

I must hasten to say that the 9th Royal Tanks did not end there. The Qui S’y Frotte Association which was formed in 1944 still exists and each year in June those of us that still remain meet at Charing in Kent for a Church Service, a meal and a chat over a pint.

 

In 1994  we were invited back to Roosendaal on their 50th anniversary of their liberation with which we played a major part. There we stayed for five days at the expense of the townspeople. They were so grateful for what we had done in bringing about their freedom. A young Dutchman who looked rather like a hippy summed it all up by saying "If it had not been for you we would be speaking German now.".

 

Fame was still to follow for the 9th RTR for in 1997 Dicky Hall and I, with a few others from the regiment, were invited to Bovington (the home of the tank regiment) as guests of the 1st and 2nd Royal Tanks who were serving in Germany with their Challengers 1 and 2 (reputed to be the best tanks in the world). The Queen who is the Colonel in Chief of the regiment, like her father, and grandfather before her, was present to see her troops.

 

The opportunity was taken by our Association to present her with a copy of our regimental history in our book 'Tank Tracks'. Dicky Hall presented the book to the Queen, and I was able to take a very good photograph close up. I sent a copy to Her Majesty and received a prompt reply which I have had framed with a copy of the photograph and it remains in my home in a place of honour to remind me of that wonderful day we had at Bovington.

 

         

 

I have really only touched on the many incidents that happened to me in my life in the army but Dicky Hall summed the whole thing up with the quote from Charles Dickens 'Tale of Two Cities' which he wrote in my copy of 'Tank Tracks', "The best of times and the worst of times". This was it.

 

There must be someone up there that watched over me for to come through my war unscathed but with a wealth of knowledge and experiences which I hope I can use to guide my grandchildren in their future lives.