Calling All tankmen.

Discussion on the tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles, which participated in World War 2.
2nd.Dragoon
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Calling All tankmen.

Postby 2nd.Dragoon » Fri Feb 13, 2009 11:12 am

"Calling All Tankmen" was a project started by the tank Museum some years ago, the idea was to collate stories from anyone involved with tanks.
This did mean 'anyone' not just tank crew personel, designers, builders any one in any capacity, by phone, letter, tape or personal visits.
If you wish I will try to post a few of the comments now stored on computer in the Museum Library, maybe keep the 'Tank Theme' alive on this Forum.
Here is one from a member of the Northants Yeomanry.(now what are they known for?)
"Going into action in a tank was like seeing the war through a letter box .
When we closed down and the hatches were secured, all you had to look through was a periscope the size of a letter box with a pad above it to press your forehead against, and the top of your head touched a pad inside the hatch.
This kept your head steady in relation to the periscope so that you could see clearly.
It took a bit of practice to drive like this without help, because if you had to ask the commanderfor directions to get through a narrow place it was yet another thingfor him to think about; and he had plenty on his plate, directing the guns and receiving orders from the Troop Leader.
If a lot of firing was done the tank filled with fumes, but the large fan on the engine cooling system pulled air through the turret and it soon cleared the air.
One day we fired our Browning machine gun so much that it overheated and the bag under the gun that collected the spent cartridges caught fire and had to be hastely thrown out of the turret.
Then when the gun was fired all the spent cartridges flew all over the place hitting myself and the co-driver in the back of the neck!"
.............................More tales if you wish later.

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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby SturmTiger » Fri Feb 13, 2009 2:01 pm

Sounds like a plan to me.Go for it.
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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby JCalhoun » Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:56 pm

I agree. Go for it. :)
Professionals built the Titanic, amatuers built the Ark.

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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby David W » Sat Feb 14, 2009 8:37 pm

Keep 'em coming Merlin.

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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby 2nd.Dragoon » Sat Feb 14, 2009 9:24 pm

Got nothing better to do tonight, so..................
Story from officer of 40 RTR..
My regiment,40 RTR, were in the El Alamein line at the end of August 1942 and I had joined them about three days before Rommel had attacked at the Battle of Alam Halfa, on the first evening there was a dogfight overhead.
As we watched I saw a German ME 109 hit in the nose by a Bofors Ack-Ack shell.
The pilot bailed out but hit the ground before his parachute opened and was killed about 30 or 40 yards in front of my tank.
The regiment moved into leaguer shortly after but we were in the same position at first light the next day.
For obvious reasons we did not leave bodies lying about in the hot sun and very soon came an order to get the dead airman buried.
I knew that most of my troop were as 'green' as I and,worse still I hardly knew any of them, so I decided to do the job myself with my Troop Sergeant, Sgt Jack Paul.
We completed the job with difficulty- the ground was hard bare rock.
On returning to my tank I was strapping the pick and shovel on the turret, when my gunner, one Trooper Peffers, a broad Cockney, turned to me and said "You aint made a bad job of that Sir"
I said "Thanks very much. Why do you say that?"
He replyed "Oh, I'm an undertaker in Civvy Street. 'Screw em Down Peff' they call me".
To which I asked why he did not get out and help me bury the corpse.
"I wouldn't have liked that Sir" he said.
"They are all in one bit when I have em".

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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby Christian Ankerstjerne » Tue Feb 17, 2009 7:57 pm

Excellent stories, Merlin! Keep'em coming!

To illustrate the first story, here are a couple of photographs of what the view from the driver's seat of a tank looks like:

Image
Image

Compare that to the commander's view:
Image

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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby 2nd.Dragoon » Tue Feb 17, 2009 8:34 pm

Tape recording made by Alan Woolaston of 3RTR.
"War came and 22nd of May 1940, off to Calais with 3RTR to help cover the retreat from Dunkirk.
We sailed on the 'Maid of Orleans" from Dover with the Queen Victoria Rifles.
our tanks were delivered on the 'City of Christchurch' which arrived at Calais docks a few hours after us.
The first reaction of the captain of the ship carrying our vehicles was to sail back to England without unloading; a captain from our regiment went on board and threatened to shoot the skipper if our tanks were not unloaded.
Bit of a mix up. As we came off the ship we were allocated to them piecemeal. I was put in a cruiser tank as a gunner. Lt.Ginger Moir as commander and Tich Newman as driver. Hence the episode recalled by Airey Neave in "Flames over Calais" where we were engaging in the "3 o'clock' position whilst running down a road - a crash of the turret - my left wrist smashed - we had struck a tree.
When Newman was asked why, knowing we were firing at 3 o'clock he had driven on the right hand side of the road, he replied "Well we have to we are in France."

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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby fritton » Thu Feb 19, 2009 4:39 pm

Just what I'm looking for.... I'm working on a book about Somerleyton Estate in Suffolk and I intend to include a chapter featuring Fritton Lake and the experiments with 'Swimming tanks' ie amphibious duplex drive Shermans and Valentines. Now, I'm not a tank expert, but I specialise in social & oral history, gathering first hand eyewitness accounts wherever poss - so if anyone happens to know anyone who was involved do please let me know!!! BTW there's an excellent book 'Chariots of the Lake' by Robert B Jarvis published 2003 ISBN 1-904413-04-8

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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby 2nd.Dragoon » Thu Feb 19, 2009 9:39 pm

Further to the above request I'll advance this story, from 13/18th Hussars personel before D-Day.
Not at Fritton Lake but at the Submarine Depot at Gosport.
(the 'ATEA' is the Amphibious Tank Escape Apparatus) and these were tank crews training with the secret DD's (Valentines).
"We were led to an area where there was a large pit, lined with concrete , some 40 feet deep. Leading to the bottom was an iron ladder, and on the floor of the pit stood a Valentine tank.
Wearing only denim overalls, gym shoes, and with ATEA strapped to our chests, we climbed down the ladder and into the tank, taking up our normal crew positions.
When we were in place, a sluice gate was opened and water began to gush into the pit.
We had to sit calmly as the level of water rose, and only when it reached chest height were we permitted to apply the mouth piece and nose clip.
Thereafter we sat still,breathing through the ATEA as the water rose above our heads.
When the pit was full we were given a signal, one by one to leave the tank and rise to the surface 40 feet above, controlling the ascent by means of a valve at the side of the bag strapped to our chest.
The theory of this training was that if a DD did sink there should be no panic!
The crew only had to remain in their seats, don the ATEA, wait calmly till the tank had settled on the sea bed and then come to the surface as we had been taught.
Fine in theory but we had grave doubts!
Nobody could guareantee that the tank would sink right way up.
What if it turned turtle as it sank? Panic was not far off, even in the controlled discipline of the exercise and although the idea was to give us confidence in the escape apparatus it also caused us to realise rather more clearly what we were being asked to do".
(As the 27th.Armoured Brigade to which these brave men were in was not expected to have much left by the end of June it shows what the planners thought of the chances of the DD's, incidentally the 13/18th switched to Shermans before DDay.)
I still have 'Our Jack's' much treasured Golden Sea Horse on a Royal Bllue background badge of the 27th.AB.

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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby SturmTiger » Thu Feb 19, 2009 10:14 pm

Would it have been difficult to apply the escape gear in an emergency?
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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby 2nd.Dragoon » Fri Feb 20, 2009 9:51 am

The ATEA was already worn, only the mouth and nose clip needed to be adapted............I can't believe anyone wore these things in landings, I have seen no mention of them.
To help 'fritton' or others who may be interested if you google 'Amphibious tanks in Fritton Lake' there is a wealth of information.

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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby 2nd.Dragoon » Sun Feb 22, 2009 12:32 pm

Another story from 13/18th.Hussars (notice that none of these tales refer to the blood and thunder of tank killing? Shows you how these lads remember)
From tape made at the time of 50th.Anniversary of D-Day.

"my crew and I went foreward to help the wounded.I remember Charlie's driver had a facial wound but could walk. Charlie was minus a boot and had shrapnel in an injury to his heel but could hop along a bit.Reggie Binns had collected some shrapnel in his chest but this was not serious. As we slowly made our way back we passed the Squadron Leader's tank, and then a German Medical Officer and a soldier carrying a black box with a large Red Cross came across a field and joined us.I drew my revolver but the officer spoke perfect English and told me he only wanted to find a building or shelter in which to set up a medical post to treat all soldiers no matter where they came from.Charlie and I accepted this and our now enlarged group went slowly on until we came to a farmhouse. On arrival there the MO stripped off his jacket and while he was washing his hands, shouted "Essen!", I think it was,and the lady of the house held a piece of black-looking bread for him to eat.From then on he was organiser and in control in that house which quickly filled up with wounded, mostly Welshmen. After I'd seen him attend to Charlie, the doctor told him it was only a flesh wound, but I think myself it turned out to be a bit more serious than that; I left with my crew to walk back. WE found our way to A1 echelon where Duffy Hind, the RSM, came to meet me, gave me a drink of rum, and looked after me for a while.
On reflection, I remember the Medical Officer saying, as we walked along together "I'm sure the war is lost for us now. We have not eaten for two days". He must have decided to give up.
Whatever it was he made a great impression on me; he was obviously a leader and a fine figure of a man.
I wish him well.

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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby Hoosier » Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:23 pm

Great stuff there Merlin...
Do continue to share with us please!

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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby 2nd.Dragoon » Tue Apr 07, 2009 4:38 pm

OK, request by Tim 'n Diesel.
This is one of my favourites, written by 'Pat Hennesey' Cpl.DD sherman on D Day landing, 13/18th.Hussars.
(Retired as group Captain RAF, passed away a short time after 60th. DDay Anniversary.)

"Not all soldiers in a Squadron are tank crew.
There are clerks,drivers,storemen, medical and sanitary orderlies
and fitters of the Light Aid Detatchment.

All, however, play their part in the life of the Regiment and are members of the family.
An Armoured Regiment is indeed a family which supports, sustains and occasionally chastises its children, but to belong to it is a much cherished priviledge.
Strangely, the awareness of this increases with the years and the bond of brotherhood forged by service under a particular cap badge lasts a lifetime.
This phenomenon is not generally understood and is at times ridiculed - but, only by those who have not had the great good fortune to have experienced it."

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Re: Calling All tankmen.

Postby Hoosier » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:59 am

Saw this quote at a website for USMC tankers of the Vietnam War...
"OLD TANKERS NEVER DIE... THEY JUST LOSE TRACK."

Gotta love it.
:mrgreen:
Tim


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