This is the story of 9 RTR in WW2 written by one of its officers andÂ including material from many of the survivors and contemporary diaries, including the battalion war diary, the brigade history and at one pointÂ the radio logs. It is packed with a wealth of material, much of whichÂ is directly quoted from a primary source. If you want a feel for whatÂ life was like for a heavy tank battalion then this is the book to read.
The stories told by the survivors and in the diaries don’t pull anyÂ punches, and some of what is described is quite horrific, many of theÂ casualties in the battalion are well documented and the nature of theÂ injuries suffered by tank crews tend to be severe.
The battalion re-formed in [late 1940/l941] and was one of the first toÂ be equipped with Churchills. It trained in the UK until mid to lateÂ June 44 when it went to France. It took part in Goodwood & EpsomÂ and the Falaise battles supporting the Canadians and 43rd WessexÂ Division at various stages. After that they were involved in theÂ capture of Le Havre, Walcheren, and the Reichswald.
Each of the stages of the battalion’s existence and each of its battlesÂ forms a chapter. These are opened by the official account of whatÂ happened followed by personal narratives of events during the sameÂ period. Often the same incident is reported from several sources whichÂ gives you a clearer idea of what might have happened, and the level ofÂ confusion. For example one tank driver reported that he had no ideaÂ where he was during one operation as his vision slits were covered inÂ mud and he was relying on the tank commander to guide him. At the endÂ of the book are several appendices with a wealth of statistics andÂ other information useful to gamers. Amongst other things the casualtiesÂ are very well documented, not only in the usual table of numbers, butÂ it also gives service number, rank, name, trade, appointment (e.g.Â troop leader’s driver), date, place, and sometimes a short descriptionÂ of the incident (e.g. mortar fragment in the face). There are alsoÂ extracts from operational orders and most battles have several mapsÂ showing you the ground and the movements of the troops.
Overall I’d rate the book very highly and strongly recommend it to others that have an interest in WW2 and/or tank operations.
This is a history of 3rd Royal Tank Regiment (a battalion sized unitÂ for those not au fait with UK Armoured regiments). It starts with aÂ chapter of their origins in the First World War and then theirÂ subsequent peacetime evolution. 3RTR fought in the 1940 France campaignÂ at Calais, then in Greece in 1941 followed by the western desert. TheyÂ returned to the UK in late 1943 and took part in the NW Europe campaignÂ eventually meeting up with the Russians in the Baltic.
The Author was an artillery officer (with 13 RHA) who supported 3RTR inÂ the NW Europe campaign and this gives him a connection to those that heÂ has written about, much of the text is based on letters andÂ conversations with the surviving officers and men of 3 RTR.
During the desperate days of May 1940 that ended with the fall ofÂ France, the 3rd Battalion Royal Tank Regiment was sent to Calais whereÂ it played a vital role in the week-long battle. In helping to stem theÂ inexorable German armoured advance, the battalion was praised byÂ Churchill for giving the British Expeditionary Force vital extra timeÂ to effect the crucial evacuation from Dunkirk‘s beaches.
In the spring of 1941, 3 RTR fought the panzers once again in theÂ ill-fated Greek campaign. They fought a costly withdrawal against theÂ Germans, losing all their tanks, but inflicting heavy casualties.Â Hitler was furious: the six week Greek campaign delayed OperationÂ “Barbarossa” which allowed the Soviets time to re-group before theÂ Germans reached Moscow.
Following their evacuation from Greece they re-formed in Egypt andÂ fought in the Gazala battles, Operation Crusader and then in El AlameinÂ and contributed to the subsequent defeat of the Axis forces in NorthÂ Africa.
Taking part in the D-Day invasion in June 1944, 3 RTR was in theÂ thick of all the desperate Normandy battles. They took part in theÂ “Great Swan” to capture Amiens and Antwerp, then provided right flankÂ protection in Operation ‘Market Garden’ and helped halt the panzers inÂ the Ardennes. Equipped with new Comet tanks 3 RTR swept across theÂ Rhine and four other well-defended rivers to meet the Russians on theÂ Baltic.
This book is very well informed, the author was there personally for some of it and was able to speak to those that were directly involved in other parts as well as having access to war diaries etc. The style is very readable and it is an excellent unit history for a tank regiment that was involved in all of the main campaigns in NW Europe and the Med.