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Royal Tank Corps in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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World War 2 Two II WW2 WWII

Royal Tank Corps




15th Oct 1939 Officers Join

23rd Oct 1939 Decision Made

26th Feb 1940 Appointments

10th May 1940 Anti Tank Obstacles

May 1940 Enemy Engaged

27th May 1940 In Action

4th March 1942 Demonstration & Lectures

20th Jul 1942 Change of Command

21st Jul 1942 On the Move

22nd Jul 1942 In Support

23rd Jul 1942 In Action

25th Jul 1942 Intelligence

26th Jul 1942 Orders

27th Jul 1942 In Action

27th Jul 1942 In Action

29th Jul 1942 Intelligence

1st Sep 1942 In Action

3rd Sep 1942 In Action

4th Sep 1942 In Action

8th Sep 1942 Maintenance

11th Sep 1942 In Position

12th Sep 1942 In Action

13th Sep 1942 In Position

24th Sep 1942 Excerise

1st Oct 1942 Training

2nd Oct 1942 Excerise

15th Oct 1942 Reorganisation

22nd Oct 1942 On the Move

23rd Oct 1942 On the Move

24th Oct 1942 Advance

25th Oct 1942 In Action

26th Oct 1942 In Action

27th Oct 1942 In Action

28th Oct 1942 Targets Engaged

Jan 1945 Tank crews train


If you can provide any additional information, especially on actions and locations at specific dates, please add it here.



Those known to have served with

Royal Tank Corps

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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There are 21 pages in our library tagged Royal Tank Corps   These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Second World War.

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2nd Lieutenant Basil Holland Pope seconded to Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Royal Tank Regiment (d.15th Dec 1941)

Basil Holland Pope died Tobruk 15/12/1941 aged 21 - does anybody have any information as to how he died or know anything about him? He was my uncle and I am trying to research his life.

Angela Johnston



John Douglas Divall BEM 7th Btn. Royal Tank Regiment.

My father John Douglas Divall was a POW in Stalag 18C at Markt Pongau. He escaped several times (and was awarded the BEM for doing so ) but was always recaptured! He'd been in the Royal Tank Corps. Don't suppose there's anyone out there who remembers him?.

Doreen Devalle



Tpr. Andrew Jeffrey Evinou 4th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment (d. )

My father, Andrew Jeffrey Evinou, died on in October 2006 at age 86. He carried with him to his grave, all of his sad, unspoken memories of the six years he was involved in the horrors of World War 2.

The little that we do know, we found out in the last ten years of my father's life, when we were able to get him to open up a little. I am convinced that my father suffered, during all of his post war years, from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. After that war, soldiers were expected to go home and get back to work. There was no help for the psychological problems of the returning soldiers.

Andrew joined the army in 1938 at age eighteen. He went to war in 1939 when he was sent to France. He was one of the British troops who was rescued off the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940. While he went below deck on the rescue ship, Messerschmitz planes riddled the deck where he had been sitting. Many men returning home, were killed on the deck. When the ship arrived in Dover, England, my dad had to lift his rucksack, from under the bloody head of a dead, young soldier.

After a brief leave of absence, three days I believe, Andrew's regiment was sent to North Africa, as part of the Expeditionary Army. My dad was captured in the Battle of Tobruk, June 1942, when the tank he was driving took a hit. The shrapnel from that hit almost blew dad's finger off. He eventually had it removed after the war.

Dad, like most of his regiment who survived, was taken prisoner by the Italians. He was handed over to the Germans when Italy capitulated and was a POW at Stalag V111B. He worked for fourteen hours a day, in the German Mines. He took part in the Death March at the end of the war.

When he got home, Andrew weighed less than a hundred pounds. The rest of his life and his family's, was affected by his experiences in the war. He was a good husband and father, never violent, never drunk, never swore. But he displayed most of the nervous symptoms of PTSD in non-violent ways.

Dad like all of the WW2 Veterans, sacrificed his youth, from eighteen to twenty six, in the service of his country. He lost so much more than that. We never should be allowed to forget what our soldiers have suffered in the name of peace, so that we didn't have to.

I salute my Dad and all like him. I am his proud daughter. Lest We Forget.

Janet Thompson



Capt. Gilbert Andrew Smith 4th Btn, C Squadron Royal Tank Regiment

My father, Gilbert Smith was a POW in PG21 at Chieti, he escaped from the hospital. He reached Rome where he remained until the Allies relieved the city.

He is mentioned in a couple of books, one by Dennis Rendell and another about a fellow escapee who lived with an Italian couple in Rome in a cupboard. They did not let him out of the apartment until the Alliies arrived. I would love to trace the titles of these two books and any others which mentioned my father.

Andrew Lynam-Smith



Cpl. Harrison Oughton "Harry" Jones 1st Btn. Durham Light Infantry

Harry started off # 4451283 in Aisne Squad D Coy machine gun Coy after his eighteenth birthday (just under 8 stone in weight). He learned how to drive Bren Gun Carriers, and was the number1 shot out of 1000 hand picked troops at an Army competition at Bisley Ranges which gained him a pay increase and a Medal awarded. Hand picked and sent to Chatham Naval Base (School of Military Engineering) Harry was taught the trade of Plumbing. He was transferred to A Coy as Battalion Plumber and given badge of two crossed axes then transferred to HQ for trip to China in 1937. They stopped in at India to take on more DLI troops, water and fresh fruit, and finally rrived in China at Shanghai to see the place on fire after the recent Japanese bombing. The men transferred to the docks in small boats with main troop ship at anchor in middle of river. They were initally based in a school on Nankin Road in Shanghai then moved north to Peking / Tientsin to “nice barracks”. Harry Taught ice skating to Officers on frozen over Tennis Courts with fellow solider Frank Chapman.

Next they were sent to Hong Kong, then to Egypt and landed at Port Said, where they were rushed to Mersa Matruh and should have been awarded Military Medal for acts of courage during an enemy bombing raid on a rail head but the reporting Indian Officer confused the surnames of Jones and Owens and Private Owens was awarded the Medal in error. They advanced to Fort Cappuzo where after brutal battle, Harry requested permission to return and pick up his truck that had the front end blown off from a shell, or mortar round. The Officer agreed and one truck was made from two blown up trucks. Harry was then transferred to B Coy and made a fitter for the rest of the Battalion trucks.

He was promoted and transferred to 10th RTR (Royal Tank Regiment) “Ghost Battalion” and advanced to unchartered desert to set up dummy tanks to confuse the enemy. He moved to Tobruk then to to Syria and fought Vichy French and pushed them through Palastine to the Turkish border, until the surrender at Aleppo.

The battalion was sent back to Egypt to camps in Port Said, then on to Alexandria, from where they sailed on Friday 13th to Malta onboard the Brackenshire captained by Colin Hutchinson who recommended extra pay and recognition for Harry and other DLI men for relieving the ships crew on the machine guns during air raids. This request declined as this action was just expected of a soldier in the D.L.I.! The ship behind Brackenshire was bombed and sank in about 4 minutes. The next raid brought a stick of bombs which exploded a hole in the side of the Brackenshire, the order to abandon ship was given. A destroyer pulled alongside to save the crew but it hit a mine and sank. Ocean going tugs rescued the survivors and took them into Valetta Harbour, eventually the Brackenshire was run aground to save the cargo.

Harry Was on guard duty in Rabbat the story goes that he shot the seat pole out of a bike riden by Major Croxwright who was returning from a night on the town and had refused to stop after the first checkpoint. The Major commended Harry for his action and advised he wouldn’t have to go on guard duty again. The Major also advised he wouldn’t go out drinking again!

Harry relieved a Bren Gun position on a hillside above the camp where he shot down an enemy bomber and was promoted to Corporal in the field for this action. On another occasion he shot down an enemy craft after going on an unauthorised test flight after assisting in the repair of an aircraft. Before leaving Malta Captain May requested Harry to be promoted and join the paratroopers. This offer was declined.

Harry was sent from Malta to Egypt, then from Egypt to Kos where he was in charge of a platoon looking after an air strip near the Coast. He was wounded in the leg and reported to a Medical Station, where he was advised by the medical orderly to prepare for surrender.Harry advised him that he would never surrender and asked the medical orderly to give him some rations to make good his escape. Harry met up with an 18 year old RAF private named Jack Harrison and tried to get the Coast, but they were captured, interrogated and marched off to German HQ by two Italian guards. Harry was able to escape with Jack Harrison after an English Beaufighter strafed the Italian guards. They were given a boat by a Greek fisherman on the proviso that they took his wife and two kids to Turkey, which he agreed to do. Once the boat was uncovered eight fully armed and kitted out South African Air Force personnel (including a Sergeant and a Colonel) jumped from the bush and commandeered the boat but didn’t know how to sail it. Harry said he would sail it as long as Jack and the Greek family were allowed on. This was agreed. Once at sea, the boat was strafed by a Messerschmidt, who came back for another pass but another Beaufighter came to the rescue and engaged.

They arrived in Turkey and were escorted by a Turkish soldier to a village in the Mountains, after a nights rest and a good feed walked through the mountains for approximately ninety miles. At one part the journey went though a gap in the mountain approx 50 – 60 yards across which the Turkish guide said was caused by an earthquake many years earlier. They finally arrived at a seaport called Boderum. The South Africans were led in one direction whilst Jack and Harry were put on a small craft with several SAS commandoes returning from a mission and sent to Cyprus. The Turkish soldier made Harry sign a form which was sent to Constantinople requesting reimbursement for the journey. Harry sailed by boat to Syria and arrived in a Harbour and was then sent to hospital for two weeks to treat his infected leg wound. When he was released from hospital Harry was arrested as he had no identification, but this was soon resolved.

Eventually Harry was made a Police Corporal on the main gate of the military base but he wanted to get back to England, so he got a job as a cook for an Indian Officer who was escorting prisoners to Palastine by boat. On arrival Harry was sent to barracks in Hifa, and was put in charge of a group of soldiers guarding the gate to the base. He managed to get a ride, as an assistant driver of a truck carrying two Royal Artillery personnel, to El-ta-hag near Port Said. The journey took Harry through the Sinai Desert. On arrival he was greeted by a Major Nickelson Who had been Harry’s Sergeant in B Coy in China. His nickname I believe was “Hands” or "Feet" due to his extraordinarily sized hands or feet. Harry got a new Pay Book & AB64 from the Sergeant Major looking after the records of the 1st DLI in Cairo.

Harry Left Port Said on an unknown boat bound for Liverpool with an escort of 3 to 5 naval craft, a German submarine attacked just outside Liverpool. The Navy depth charged the sub and about 2 miles from Harry’s boat it rose up to almost halfway out of the water then sank. Back in England Harry was sent by train to Brancepeth Castle where he trained a squad of recruits preparing for D-Day.

Harry told the Officer in charge of Northern Command the banns for his marriage had come back and as he would be on leave he wouldn’t be attending the D-Day landings. After his honeymoon Harry crossed the Channel in a boat with about 150 – 200 other soldiers and arrived in France. After drying out on the beach Major Croxwright recognised Harry and seconded him into a nearby bombed out house which was Montgmery’s temporary HQ. Harry moved to the Officers Mess and moved to Caen & Falaise and on through many places (I have yet to decipher the diaries, photos and post cards) but one place named was Stag Diesl in Belgium and later Borg Leopold where Harry was in charge of driving a Canadian photograher to record the horror of Belsen. Harry was in charge of a truck to load up survivors and transport them to Luneburg Hospital and was on guard and observed when Montgomery accepted the surrender of the Germans.

While based at Luneburg Barracks he was in charge of four German prisoners cleaning out the sheds. One morning there were five prisoners and heated debate broke out. The extra prisoner was complaining about a fellow German prisoner making the younger one do all the work and they suspected him to be Heinrich Himmler. Harry with an officer and another rank confronted the man on the second floor of block #2. He was standing between the fourth bed along the right hand side wall wearing a German Sergeant uniform with a patch over one eye. He was accused of being Himmler and ordered to confirm or deny the accusation. He told them he wouldn’t say anything to a lowly ranking officer and requested to be taken to their highest ranking officer. Harry motioned toward him to escort him away but before he came close he popped a pill into his mouth and dropped to the ground and began shaking. They thought he was acting but after a minute or two he was pronounced dead. Harry was ordered to stand guard overnight whilst the Officers decided what to do. The next day he was part of the burial party. A small hole had already been dug and a short time later a truck arrived with an Officer driving and 4 officers in the back with an unmarked coffin. They lowered the coffin into the hole, covered it over and drove the truck over it several times to “disappear” the grave site. Harry was forced to sign secrecy documents regarding this affair and other details. Harry resumed his duty transported inmates away from the Belsen Camps. Later he travelled around Germany, Belgium, Holland, Paris, over the Haartz mountains to the Swiss border with an Officer picking up watches, perfume, chess sets, etc. to put into the Luneburg gift house for troops to buy and send home. Harry stayed in Germany until 1946 when he was demobilised He was discharged from the Army in 1952

His friend and fellow D.L.I. soldier Frank Chapman # 4451284 eventually married Harry’s sister.

Harry’s father, Thomas Edward Jones, born in 1889, was a Sergeant Drum Major in the 16th (2nd Reserve) Battalion Durham Light Infantry in World War One. He served for 1 year 11 months before medical discharge. -

Jason Renshaw



Cpl. James Benjamin Johnson

My Grandad, James Benjamin Johnson, always known as Jim, he joined the Army on 7th February 1920, at the age of nineteen, enlisting at Lincoln Inn to the Queens Own 7th Hussars Cavalry Division "The Hussars Of The Line". He had always had a love of horses and had worked as a Groom, Gardener and Chauffeur before joining up. Here are some comments in his service book, keen reliable NCO, in charge of Troop, very fair horseman, good at anything he does, reliable and trustworthy, his Military conduct was "exemplary". Grandad spent around three or four years in India, which must have been a huge culture shock, having spent all of his previous life in rural Lincolnshire!

After passing his exams for promotion in Mhow, India 1925, Grandad was transferred to the Reserves at the rank of Corporal, on 6th February 1936 he was discharged at Canterbury.

At the start of the Second World war he enlisted in the Territorial Army, under the provisions of the National Service Armed Service Act 1939. Grandad was then sent to Bovingdon Camp in Dorset, where he became a Tank Driving Instructor, a natural progression from the horses I suppose!

Marion Wright



Tpr. Andrew Jeffrey Evinou 4th Btn. Royal Tank Regiment

He Will Get On With It

My father, Andrew Jeffrey Evinou, served as a tank driver with the Fourth Royal Tank Regiment during WW2. He served with the British Eighth army in France and was one of the soldiers rescued off the beaches at Dunkirk. He told of how the ship he was on was hit by Messerschmitz and many were killed on deck. He was saved because he went below deck where tea was being served. After a very short leave during which time he married my mum, he was sent to North Africa. He fought with the Fourth armoured division at Tobruk where he was captured when his tank was hit. Dad lost a finger in that incident. He was a POW with the Italians for a year and a half then handed over to the Germans. He was a POW at stalag V111b and stalag V111a. He worked in the mines fourteen hours a day. He participated in the great march, but luckily survived it. He was ninety pounds in weight when he got home. I will always be my dad's proud daughter. He was eighty seven when he died in October of 2005. LEST WE FORGET.

Janet Thompson



Frank Esdale Royal Tank Regiment

Our grandad Frank Esdale served with Monty in Italy driving a tank as far as we know. We know that he had a Polish friend who served with him. This gentleman took photos and also painted. The Corps also had a football team which Frank played for. We think that he may have got into some sort of trouble with his CO and was reduced to the ranks. Any info about this would be great as it is a mystery and we would like to get to the bottom of it.

Sharon Bond



James Fisher Royal Tank Regiment

My uncle died at Tobruk his name was James Fisher, I think he was in the Tank Regiment would love to here from anyone who knew him.

Brian Houliston



Trooper Dennis Elliott 1st Battalion

Wartime Memories of Dennis William Elliott 1939 – The War began on September 34th, which was at the end of the school summer holidays, but as my school had no Air Raid Shelters our school holidays were extended until they were built.

After 4 weeks we returned to school for 1 hour each day to collect homework and to return the previous days lessons. It was getting close to Christmas before the Air Raid Shelters were all built and we were able to go back to school all day.

During these first months of the war we had to get used to the black out, all houses, shops, offices and factories had to make sure that no lights could be seen after dark and there were no street lights, so on a foggy night it was very difficult to find your way around.

1940 – I left school during this year and started work at the Accounts Offices of the N.A.A.F.I. Although the Air Raid Sirens went quite often, only one raid was made on the barracks up the road one Saturday afternoon where Canadian soldiers were stationed. There was also a raid on a train at Tongham which was hit with ammunition on board. Quite a firework display at night.

1941 - With my friends I joined the Air Training Corp, with an idea of eventually to the R.A.F., during the next 2 years I got 3 flights in wartime aircraft.

1942 – All offices and factories had to protect their property from fire during Air Raids so the staff had to do what was called Fire Watching, all men over the age of 18 had to take their turn but when you were 16 years you could volunteer, for this you were paid 2/6 (12.5 p) which meant I could go to the cinema twice that week.

1943 – The services accepted volunteers from the age of 17.5 and you could choose which one to join but at 18 you were conscripted and you had no choice of service you joined. So with my friends we decided that driving a tank would be far better than anything else so we volunteered for the Royal Armoured Corps. A few weeks later we received our call up papers and travelled to Bovington Camp to start our training.

1944 – Soldiers at this time had to wait until they were 18.5 before being sent abroad so I was too young to take part in D-Day. It wasn’t until near the end of the year before I went to Ostend in Belgium and then onto Brussels.

1945 – In Belgium I joined the 1st Royal Tank Regiment and went onto Holland, after a few weeks on patrol we returned to Belgium and then back to Holland again to a village near Eindhoven, a few days later we crossed the Rhine. At the end of March I was in the lead tank advancing to Osnabruck when the tank was hit twice. Fortunately I was halfway out of the tank when the second shell hit so was blown out by the blast. At this point I was taken prisoner and sent to Stalag 10B, which was at a place called San Bostel, this is a few miles east of the German Naval Base at Bremerhaven in the far North of Germany.

I was liberated by the Grenadiers Guards and flown to Brussels and from there in a Lancaster Bomber to R.A.F. Wing in Buckinghamshire; V.E. Day came the day after I got home.

Janis Harris



George Edward "Popeye" Wells Royal Tank Regiment

My Father, George Wells was in the Desert Rats, in the Tank Regiment. He got his nickname as he lost his right eye out there. He had seven operations to try and save it, but sadly it was not successful and he ended up having it removed and having a glass one. Much to our amusment he could take his eye out when we were young children. After he had recovered from this ordeal he was not sent to the front line again but taught other Troopers to drive Tanks. I too am afraid my Dad did not talk about the War either, my brothers may know more. The one thing he did tell us was, Richard Green, the Actor lived in his street when he was young in London, I am not sure if he was in Dad's Regiment as well.

Valerie Ruane



Trooper Thomas Randall Royal Tank Reginment

Just received my father's prisoner of war record from the Red Cross.He never spoke about his imprisonment much,so this is our first record of his war years... Thomas Randall was in the Royal Tank Regiment, taken in Tobruk in August 1942, to Italy then moved to a few camps in Italy, until he was moved to Stalag IV/B in April 1943. He was then moved to Stalag IV/C in October 1943 until 1945. Loved reading all the stories of the brave men from this camp, anyone who knew of my dad or any other details,I would love to hear from them.

Carole Newman



Trp. Arthur "Tats" Lee 48th A Royal Tank Regiment

My father, Arthur Lee, was captured in Italy on the 4th September 1944. He was with the 48th A Royal Tank regiment. He was the driver of his tank and it was blown up. Only him and his co driver were alive, even though they both had burns on their bodies. The others were killed outright.

They were taken to a Italian Dulag first and then onto German Prison camps. My father was in Stalag X1A and Stalag V11A until they were freed by the Americans. They had to walk for many miles through different German villages until they reached the British who gave them food which had been in short supply whilst a guest with the Germans. He never spoke much about the camps but did say they had to share one loaf between six people sometimes and that he was put out to work on the railway. He was always light hearted about it but never told us the real truth. Dad suffered with his health for the rest of his life. He came home very much under weight and not very healthy. He always said his health had suffered due to being a POW.

Janice Lee



Sgt. Arthur Hoyle 7th Btn. Royal Tank Regiment (d.17th June 1941)

My father, Arthur Hoyle, was a regular with the Royal Tank Corps after TA service with the KOYLI's. He was killed in action on the 17th June 1941 with the 7th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment while helping to save some Guards Regiments during Operation Battleaxe. As it happens one of the regiments was the 3rd Coldstreams, the regiment my Grandfather had served with in the Great War.

Robert Hoyle



Tpr. Dennis Skinner Amphibious Wing 7th Royal Tank Regiment

My father, Dennis Skinner, served in the Amphibious Wing of the 7th Royal Tank Regiment in Burma, Italy, North Africa and North West Europe. He died in 1952 when crushed by a tank in Gosport, Hampshire. I have recently found a picture of him playing for a league football team season 1949-50 with his army friends. names as listed:
  • Tpr.R. Corner,
  • Tpr D Collins,
  • Sgt. J Macdonald,
  • L/Cpl T Mcneill,
  • Dvr R Curnock,
  • L/Cpl R Garrity,
  • Sgt T Bransby,
  • Tpr O Lyon,
  • Sgt A Carlile,
  • Major D H D Courtenay OBE,
  • CSM L Underwood,
  • Cpl D Patterson,
  • Tpr S Jowett,
  • Cpl G Dent.




Sgt George Henry James Holmes 6th.Royal Tank Regt

My father, George Holmes, served in the 6th.RTR in the Middle East through the North African campaign, Palestine and thence into Italy. He saw action at Sidi Rezegh where his closest friend John 'Nip' Friar was killed.He was also at Tobruk and El Alamein. When Dad came home he spoke little about his experiences through the war and my Mother always said he was not the same man who went away in 1940.He suffered mood swings and was often an angry man and it was until 1957 when I went into the RAF that he actually started to speak of what he had seen and done. I realise now that he, like so many of our fathers and grandfathers was suffering what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Having read a number of letters in the Wartime Memories Project entries for a number of Regimenrs this has become a very noticeable symptom described by many of the letter writers. My hope is that there will be an end to wars and the terrible affect to families of those serving soldiers when they return home.

Alan Holmes



Trooper Joseph McEntee 41st Btn. Royal Tank Regiment

My dad, Trooper Joseph McEntee, was born in the cotton mill town of Oldham, in December, 1921. He was brought up by his mother, after his father had died when he was just two years old, and he was one of eleven children. He joined up, according to his enlistment papers, on the 6th June, 1939, when he was 17 yrs and 6 months old. His regiment, at the time, was the 41st Royal Regiment. He went on to be a tank driver, with the 41st/47th RTR. He was at Spalding, Lincolnshire for some of his training. In 1940 he was sent to Louth, and posted to the 4th battalion, he was also with the 11th RTR.

He was at the battle of El Alamein in 1942, and served for two years in North Africa. I can remember him telling me, as a small child, that it was so hot that you could fry an egg on the tank, also that the flies would accumulate on a cup, making it impossible to drink anything, but he never told me about his experiences there, and, unfortunately, I never asked.

He went on to Normandy, and was at the Battle of Epsom, he did tell me that when he was driving the tank, the person who was directing him, must have had his head out of the turret, was shot and killed instantly. Also, of losing his way, when driving an officer in a scout car, and realising they had crossed into enemy lines, and quickly reversed. I also recall him telling me about crossing the Rhine into Germany, and the sights he saw there, of the Russians killing civilians, if only I had the foresight to ask him more questions, I am sure he would have told me lots of stories, but I thought he would live forever. I am now tracing his military history and have his medals, and framed photograph. I love reading the stories of these war heroes, they are truly inspiring.




Lt. Ronald Hugh Eastman Royal Tank Regiment

Postcard from Oflag 5b - Ronald Hugh Eastman

I have a few letters from a Lt. Ronald Eastman of the Royal Tank Regt, he was a prisoner in Oflag Vb. He corresponded with a calligraphy teacher in London and I believe he used to forge documents for prisoners to escape. I also have a photo showing 9 officers in the camp dated 8th August 1941. The names on the rear of the photo: Pat Cambell, Harrold Hopper, Hugh Mundy, Reed, David Ross, Patrick, Stan Hardy and the last one looks like, Robin Saele-Matiner.

Len Perry



Arthur Johnstone 46th Royal Tank Regiment

On the 20th May 1939, I signed up with the Liverpool Welsh Territorials (46th Royal Tank Regiment) declaring a Welsh grandmother and went to Low Hill Barracks. I was based there until September 1939 when the Regiment left. We were all thinking that we were going to Egypt. All the shawl women were crying outside saying goodbye ‘to the boys’.

The coach headed up to Gladstone Dock but passed the dock and went onto Blundellsands where the barracks were in a large house. There were no beds and the food was awful. There were also no tanks, and we had to train using commercial vans. Such was the state of things at the start of the war.

In the winter of 1939/1940 there was very heavy snow and the soldiers were volunteered to help the farmers dig out alongside a group of unemployed folk (who got paid more!). Afterwards we were given a hot pot supper organized by the council.

On the 21st Jan 1940 I was sent on a wireless course in Bovington Camp in Dorset which is the HQ of the Tank Corps.

Summer camp 1940 was at Caernarvon we lived in tents for about a month. On returning to Liverpool we were under canvas at Lord Derby’s estate in Knowsley. I used to hide to avoid early morning PT. At some point we had a mock battle with the home guard and there was an invasion alarm.

During the winter of 40/41, I remember snow and manoeuvres on the moors at Whitby where we were billeted in the Metropole Hotel

Firing range in South Wales – north of Tenby: My ‘war injury’ was sustained here. I fractured my collarbone when a truck backed into me. I was sent to Haverford West Hospital.

At the end of l941 I sailed from Liverpool to Capetown where we stayed for two days. Then we proceeded on to Cairo where we were under canvas. Here a tent was stolen from around the six men asleep in it at the time! Finally we were sent into the desert towards the front line. There was no sight of anything or anyone and then out of nowhere Egyptians arrived selling ‘eggs-a-bread’ from cinema sweet-selling trays.

The Defence Line of El Alamein was not straight and the Tank Corps was sent to straighten it out. We were followed by Indian foot soldiers. The Intelligence said there were no German artillery in that part of the front. However, as the tanks went into the wadi (dried up river bed), the Germans opened fire with 88mm guns. Our tank turret got hit and was immobilized. White fluid starting dripping onto our heads. As lead tank we did not have a Bren gun and so the ammunition box was used for storage of other things, including evaporated milk.

In June/July l942, I was taken prisoner of war and handed to the Italians by the Germans. I was taken with only the clothes I wore and a fine pair of binoculars which I had to trade with the Italian soldiers for water to drink. Then we were taken to Tobruk by truck. Here we came across South Africans who had been captured in a retreat prior to El Alamein. They were in situ, as it were, so their personal possessions were greater than those of the Tank Corps. They were in an adjoining camp and I was given a blanket by one of them.

We were taken to Benghazi until ‘the big push’. We had very meagre rations so we slept all day. The ration of water was one pint a day for everything. Eventually I got dysentry and when I reported sick, I was offered Epsom Salts. I got desert sores on my leg and I was in hospital. There was a Siekh soldier in the next bed who was ‘away with the fairies’, chanting, standing on one leg, and who had his eye fixed on the Italian soldier on guard. Suddenly he attacked the guard.

The German soldiers would visit a brothel opposite the hospital and they would pass cigarettes up in baskets to the patients on the first floor. I met the captain of my own regiment who suggested that the next time the camp moved that an escape could be made by hiding in the open latrines. However the Italian guards were wise to this and shot into the latrines as the camp moved on.

The POWs were put on a ship and packed like sardines, this was in Septemner 1943. There were no toilets except big drums and there were always long queues. Eventually some POWs found another hold lower down. They found uniforms of the Italian soldiers in the hold and wore these until they were spotted. As a result in the Corinth Canal in Greece all the POWs were taken off the ship. Six were chosen, including me, and taken back on board to stand outside the Captain’s room. We were told we were going to be shot as punishment for wearing the uniforms. This did not happen! Everyone was put back on board and taken to Brindisi where we disembarked.

At another camp we must have been issued with sheets because the Italians, in order to count the POWs, would hold a blanket parade where each prisoner had to place his blanket on the ground. Friend Reg had used his to make socks from and put out the remains in the size of a handerchief. The Italians were not impressed. The POWs were lent to a farmer for harvest and had to share sleeping quarters with rats. At this time I also remember being entertained by a group of four POWs hanging up a sheet and acting behind it as if it were a radio programme.

Then I heard from a previous girlfriend who had been transferred with her department to Bermuda and had met and was to be married to an American, it was sad news. She lived happily ever after and had eight children.

After a spell I was taken near to Porto San Giorgio on the Adriatic Coast. Camp No 85DM 3450

When Italy capitulated, my friends and I escaped from camp and went to local town where we were plied with drinks. The women were always welcoming to escaped POWs. However we were soon rounded up by the Germans and put on train in cattle trucks for Germany. The train stopped in Austria and then went on into Germany. At one stop we were issued with food by the Red Cross which was soup and bread (made in l937 said the date stamp!). As the level of soup fell the nurse just added more water.

On the journey we were put in a concentration camp for Russian prisoners where we had bunks – two above and two below. Those below complained of something falling on their faces. It turned out that these bits were bed bugs. There was a lime pit at this camp.

I met an Italian brought up in Liverpool who went to Italy on holiday and got caught up into the war and was sent to fight on the Russian front for Italy. He was in the camp on his way back from the Russian front to Italy.

Finally we arrived in Dresden in December 1943 and were put to work in a factory making reinforced concrete for housing. We lived in the factory on the industrial estate. I had found a light blue crepe dress on the train and threw it to a Russian woman in a neighbouring camp. To this day I remember her wearing it. There were many nationalities such as the Dutchman (forced labour) who said ‘B******s’ to a German guard and was put in prison for three weeks. The guard thought he had said ‘Polack’. The Dutchman lost two stone. One POW was getting out at night and was seeing the wife of a German soldier who was on the Russian front. The guards stood waiting for him and shot him. All the POWs had a funeral service for him, dressing up as best as possible to walk through Dresden. This was camp No N95 Arbeits-Kommando near Dresden. Another POW was caught trying to get from Warsaw to England under a train. He had to come out because it was too cold.

In January l944, we were moved to Chemnitz because the cement factory work was considered war work and were put to work maintaining the railway line, Chemnitz being a railway town. We had to get up at 6 am to walk to the area where we had to work. The POWs were issued with clogs but the snow used to build up underneath them and it was like walking on stilts. The job was to loosen rusted railway couplings (and presumably replace them). It was a long walk to start work and I organized a strike against the sixty-hour week. However everyone eventually abandoned me and I was put on a black list for transfer when one was available.

A POW captured in Crete came new to the camp and heard the guard saying ‘Morgan fruh’ and thought it meant ‘morning free’ (rather than a simple greeting of ‘see you tomorrow’) and that he could stay in bed. He was not spotted missing for a while but when he was, he got into trouble.

Unplaced memories:

Church hall with the stage cordoned off. At curfew time the POWs had to take their trousers off (to prevent escape) and hang them up. The rest of the clothes were locked up. The Commandant there was a young Nazi who had an awful temper and tended, when angry, to foam at the mouth.

Stationed in a building attached to a speedway track, I talked to a lady living nearby who felt unable to speak out about what was going on as her son was a Nazi and would have reported her. The Americans bombed the pit in the middle of the track, killing six POWs sheltering there. The Germans organized funerals for the men.

Another escape:

Friends Paul and Trevor and I and up to three more, took off and headed for a Red Cross depot. One of our number calmly walked past the German on guard, saying ‘Guten Morgen’ and collected two parcels for each of us. We stayed in a pub overnight pretending to be French. We offered to work for our keep and were set to chopping wood. German civilians were being bombed out of the area east of where they were. At this time the Russian front was pushing into East Germany and the pub was full of German refugees. We gave the innkeeper the soup from the Red Cross parcels to cook for our meal. Afterwards we bedded down in the hayloft. The next morning we noticed a policeman outside and thought the game was up but found that he had provided breakfast for all in the inn. Our group set out for Floha, walking the contours of the hills to avoid the road. However it was too cold so we came on to the road to go through the town and it was Paul who did the talking to the soldier who stopped us there. We were keeping up the pretence of being French but Paul’s German was so posh that we were taken to the local station for questioning. There the officer in charge decided that they needed to get the French interpreter and at that point we admitted that we were English!

Fortunately (and fortune tended to stay with me) instead of being put on report or being sent to the salt mines, we were sent to the local potato merchant to work and were billeted in a factory that made paper. I was given the job of giving out wood to the local German civilians, replying ‘Heil Churchill’ to their ‘Heil Hitler’.

My Final Escape:

My friends and I heard that the town ten miles west of Floha was under attack so we headed off there. We walked through the town to the west side and encountered no fighting but met a German farmer who informed us that anything that moved after dusk would be shot. We said we were French but he recognized us as British as he employed British POWs. He housed us overnight. He got us up at 4.00 am and showed us the way through the woods towards the front line. We saw a soldier on duty on a bridge. We assumed he was German. However he spoke to us in English. He was an American. We realized we were home and dry. He sent us down to his camp ‘for a feed’.

We were given the task of interpreting when German soldiers were brought in for questioning. There was a small camp of Russian prisoners nearby where the conditions were foul.

Eventually we asked to go to the airport so as to go home. Here we met a high-ranking American who pointed us towards a flight to Paris. It was full of French civilian workers going home and, as we sat along the bench seats inside the plane, they were all very cheerful – until the flight started!

On arrival in Paris we were sent to the equivalent of the ‘Naafi’ for new kit and were kitted out in American uniforms. As we walked up the Rue de la Madeleine we encountered a group of people around a car listening to Churchill’s announcement that ‘for you the war is over’. Everyone went wild and on seeing us cried out ‘Vives les Americans’ which changed to ‘Vives les Anglais’ when we explained.

Having made contact with British HQ we were sent to Le Havre and onto Southampton and home. My brother was living in Prestatyn with his wife and two children and at that time they were getting news of the concentration camps. Much was their relief when, unannounced, I bounced in.

Within weeks I was sent back to Germany, near to Krefeld, to a flame-throwing tank regiment where I worked in an office for six months until my discharge. This was yet another Christmas away from home. Despite a shortage and therefore banned from getting it, I got sent coffee. In Dusseldorf I met Christell, a Red Cross nurse, at a dance. She didn't like ‘Yatz’ (jazz). She told me that the only way to remain sane during the war was to get drunk each night.

Arthur Johnstone



L/Cpl. Thomas George Kelly 48th Royal Tank Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (d.19th Sep 1944)

Thomas Kelly died aged 31, he was born in Kingston in 1913.

Thomas is buried in Gradara War Cemetery and is commemorated on the WW2 Roll of Honour Plaque in the entrance of Jarrow Town Hall.

Vin Mullen



Tpr. George Victor Archer 1st Royal Tank Regiment Royal Armoured Corps

My grandfather George Archer served in WW2 and was captured in North Africa in 1942. Hewas a prisoner of war in Italy PG70, and later in Stalag 4F in Germany. He sadly passed away in 2005, but I was lucky enough for him to tell me stories about his time during the war.

I have a few documents, photos and his medals that I have now displayed in my house, including the original sketch Pow 'Paterson' drew in the camp from memories of them being captured and George digging what he thought was going to be his grave!

George lived in South Australia. Before his death, he wrote this to one day hope get on the internet:

"Seeking Second World War English POWs from Stalag 4F then to Work Camp ARB KDO No. 23 at Chemnitz in Germany.

This is a photo of myself - Trooper George Archer, 77269, 1st Royal Tank Regiment - Captured prior to El Alemain Campaign 1942 I would like to contact anyone who was in this camp with me. I have also included a photo of the lads who were with me in ARB KDO 23. I'd be very pleased to hear from any of the lads in the photo. Some of the names I remember are Patterson, Angel, Bishop & Freeman

A brief history of my experiences prior to and including my capture. I would like to contact anyone who was captured in the Middle East in 1942 and was taken to a camp in Italy named PG70, or was later transferred to Stalag 4F in Germany, when the Italian Army capitulated in 1943. The group photograph was taken at a work Komando camp in Saxony called Schwarzenberg. We were made to load and unload railway trucks under the supervision of a couple of armed civilian employees. There are 18 of us shown in the photo - perhaps you might be one of them or you might be one of the group taken to PG70 in Italy. We were a group known as the 'Tin Bashers', because we were all sheet metal workers and we made lots of tin utensils and rubbish bins out of the Red Cross parcels we sometimes got. As well as keeping us out of mischief, we got extra rations of bread. So if you recognize any of these blokes, please get in contact. I think you will enjoy a bit of nostalgia.

Terry Archer



L/Cpl. Frank Henry Eli Ballinger 48th Royal Tank Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (d.11th May 1943)

Frank Ballinger went to North Africa with 48th Royal Tank Regiment, RAC in November 1942. He was killed in action on 11 May, 1943 during the final offensive against the Axis force near Medjez-el-Bab, Tunisia. He is memorialized in the Medjez-el-Bab military cemetery SW of Tunis. Frank was killed just 17 days before his son, John Arthur, was born in Cardiff, South Wales.

The 48th RTR was the first unit to capture a German Tiger 131 tank near Medjez-el-Bab in April 1943. The Tiger was apparently abandoned by its crew after being hit three times by Churchill 8pdr shells. The Tiger is now on display at Bovington Tank Museum, Dorset.

Peter Bellamy



Tpr. Dennis Wiliam Elliott 1st Battalion Royal Tank Regiment

My Dad Dennis Elliott was eighteen when he was enlisted in the 1st Battalion, the Royal Tank Regiment. On 31 December 1944 he was blown out of his tank in Belgium with Cpl Frayne and Trooper N Fleetwood. He was taken prisoner and incarcerated in Stalag 10B from where he was liberated on 29 April 1945.

Can anyone give me any information about him as he died very suddenly in 2011, and did not talk about his time in the war. I have found the above information from his service records.

Janis Harris



L/Sgt. Maxwell Cecil Ward 6th Btn. Royal Tank Regiment (d.15th Jun 1941)

I never met my uncle Max Ward but my Mum often talked about him, he sounded like a brilliant bloke. He served with the 6th Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment and was sadly lost at El Alamein on 14th June 1941.

Garry Lea



James "Jock" Robertson Royal Tank Regiment

James Robertson from Dunfermline was badly injured fighting in WW2 and was given a hero's welcome (which he walked out of!) On his return to Scotland. He was my father who, unfortunately, I have never met and I would love to even see a photograph of him or any memories anyone may have. He may have been known as Jock and was possibly in the Tank Regiment.

Jane Richer



Cpl. Robert Donaldson Royal Tank Corps (d.12th Dec 1945)

Prisoner of war group photograph

My father, Robert Donaldson, was taken prisoner on 12th June 1940 and released on 5th May 1945. I have no more information as my father died on 12th December 1945. I have managed to get his army war record can anybody tell me where I can find more information?

John Donaldson



L/Cpl. Geoffrey Hyde 4th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment

The tank crew he served with for a time taken I believe in 1941 near Tobruk

A photo of a group in Stalag 4F Camp PG70 my Dad Geoff Hyde is on the extreme right back row

The map he used during his escape from the Germans.

My Dad, Geoff Hyde served in the 4th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment from February 1940. He has documented his experiences in a War Diary which he compiled shortly before his death in January 2009.

My Dad was captured during the battle for Tobruk in June 1942. He was wounded as a result of an argument with a German guard during a move from a POW camp in Benghazi to a camp in Tripoli and ended up in a military hospital in Caserta. He always said he had good memories of the way the Italian military treated the wounded and POWs. When his condition improved he was sent to a POW camp PG60 near Capua and then to one known as PG70 near to Fermo in a small town called Valtenna. The camp was across the road from a small chemical plant which is still there. When Mussolini surrendered they were all transferred to camps in Germany and he went to Chemnitz and eventually escaped from a cross country march as the Allied forces advanced on the Germans in April 1945 and met up with a group of American forces who he had a hard time persuading to accept he was British.

During his time in Camp PG70 he was involved in the production of a Camp 'magazine' called Lager Life. I have almost the full set of copies of this. Fortunately, he took a Kodak Brownie camera with him when he was posted overseas and somehow this made its way back to his parents home when he was hospitalised in Cairo during the breakout from Tobruk in 1941.

Steve Hyde



L/Cpl. Harry Rose 5 Commando Special Service Battalion

My father Harry Rose died in 1957 when I was 10, so I didn't have a chance to quiz him about his war years. He joined up on the 4th of September 1939 and was discharged on the 27th of December 1945 with. He served with 51st Royal Tank Regiment and served in Africa and Italy. For a period he was in 5 Commando/5 Special Service but was returned to his unit on the 1st of January 1941. Why? Was it because he put a bullet through the Duchess of Argyllshire's windscreen. My Dad would have been 31 in 1941, maybe a bit of a boy!

Jim Rose



Denis Elliott 1st Royal Tank Regiment

My father, Denis Elliott, served with the 1st Royal Tank Regiment in the war. He was taken prisoner on Good Friday, 1945 and was held for six weeks.

Janis Harris



Trpr. Leonard Howden 50th Regiment Royal Tank Corps

I arrived in the Middle East via Bahia Brazil then Durban in December 1942 on Convoy WS.24. I served with the 50th Royal Tank Regiment as a wireless operator in Tunisia, Sicily, Italy and Greece during the Civil War. Demobbed via 17/21st Lancers. After the war I served with West Riding Constabulary retiring as Sergeant. Then became a civilian recruitment officer until final retirement age.

Leonard Howden



Aubrey Lambert 41st Royal Tank Rgt. Royal Armoured Corps (d.15th September 1943)

Aubrey served in the 41st Royal Tank Regiment. He died in North Africa in 1943 and is buried in Tripoli War Cemetery.

Paul Lambert



Robert Park "Mac" McCrobbie 49th Royal Tank Regiment

I am searching for information about my grandad Robert Park(s) McCrobbie (Mac). He served with the 49th Royal Tank Regiment in WWII. I know that he was in the Rhine and that his tank was taken out. He was the driver. Does anyone know anything about him?

Siobhan









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