Preparations for the invasion of occupied France
In 1939 my Father was called up from the Army Reserve and held in a holding battalion, then based in Tower of London, from where each man would be allocated to an operational battalion. Whilst at the Tower he was engaged in the words of Charles Farrell, Scots Guards officer “in support of the civil power” which was to assist the fire services during the blitz of London. He was in time allocated to the newly formed Third Battalion , initially based in Chigwell in Essex.
The Guards Armoured Division was formed in 1941 and 3rd Battalion was to become a part of this Division as an element of 6th Guards Armoured Brigade. 3rd Battalion then became 3rd Tank Battalion joining 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards and 4th Battalion Coldstream Guards in the Brigade.
Tank crew members woud be trained in certain roles and my Father trained as a driver/mechanic initially at Bovington (now the home of the Tank Museum). The Brigade moved to Codford St Mary on Salisbury Plain and then to Thoresby Park in Nottinghamshire for joint infantry and tank training with several prominent infantry divisions. Training initially took place in Covenantor tanks but these were soon superseded by Churchill tanks, a product of the Vauxhall Motor Company in Luton.
In 1943, following a Divisional restructure 6th Armoured Brigade became an independent tank brigade (it was military policy at the time to have only one armoured brigade in each Division and Guards Armoured at that time contained two – 5th and 6th). The remaining 5th Amoured Brigade, with Sherman tanks, later famously tried to relieve the British airborne forces at Arnhem in Holland (later depicted in the film “A Bridge too Far”).
Initially the 6th Guards Tank Brigade, as it was renamed, came under the command of 15th Scottish Division, with which it worked closely for most of the NW Europe Campaign, but at different stages of the Campaign it was also under the command of 43rd Wessex Division, 51st Highland Division and US 17th Airborne Division.
Training as driver/mechanics – location not known – possibly Caterham or Pirbright !
My Father was assigned to “S” Squadron within the Battalion. In this 1942 photograph he is featured in the second row from the bottom second from the left. Willie Whitelaw (who was later to become deputy Prime Minister to Margaret Thatcher) is sat to the left of the Commanding Officer. Muir Findlay (who features later on in this site I believe is in the top row last man on the right)
Sadly a lot of these men would perish in a single encounter with German armour on 30th July 1944.
Inspection of 3rd Tank Battalion by King George VI prior to posting to NW Europe (photo courtesy of Mary Treadgold)