I took this photo when we visited Freddie Friend in 2014. In my recording of our meeting Freddie remarked that Lt Gray is the only officer not wearing the peaked hat. The image has been resized and flattened to fit this page.
This photo and others remain with Freddie’s family. Unfortunately I didn’t feel it was appropriate on the day to spend time getting better photos of his collection.
It’s St George’s Day today and a good day to write about Freddie Friend, as it’s his birthday.
I was lucky to meet Freddie in 2014, two years before he passed. In his role as secretary of the Torbay branch of the Devonshire & Dorset Regimental Association and 87th Anti-Tank, he communicated with many people enquiring about relatives and I’ve stumbled across a few of them in setting up this site. All pay tribute to Freddie’s knowledge and kindness. He was very proud of his regiment as he was his rugby, his flowers and his family.
I’m currently working with Peter Marsh, grandson of Harry Marsh, to transcribe some of Freddie’s letters to the Marsh family before Freddie passed.
A photo of me and Freddie in 2014 is below.
This is a link to his obituary in the Regimental newsletter:
I’ve been meaning to tackle this for a while. The Imperial War Museum (IWM) photo library contains two images that purport to show 269 Battery, 87th Anti-Tank Regiment in Italy at the Foglia River.
The photos are below. 87th Anti-Tank did not deploy to Italy as a combat unit. The band stayed together on disbandment and did go to Italy but these photos, showing 17-Pdr guns under tow, are not of 87th Anti-Tank Regiment.
87th Anti-Tank disbanded in Constantine, Algeria in July 1944. The disbandment date is supported by the service records of at least three personnel and the book “The Devons” by Jeremy Taylor. Freddie Friend stated the disbandment occurred in June 1944.
Other sources state the regiment disbanded in July 43 but this is incorrect. This site records Christmas cards sent by members of the unit in December 1943 from North Africa.
Update: WW2Talk forum member Michel Sabarly has identified the unit as 268 Battery, 67th Anti-Tank Regiment of 56 Division. There appear to be errors in the IWM caption (269 Battery from 268 Battery on the record card) and an error made when the record card was created (87th ATR written instead of 67th ATR). I have inserted Michel’s annotated ID graphic below. The cat is the 56 Division formation sign.
WW2Talk is an excellent forum with lots of helpful members.
(IWM Caption) A 17-pdr anti-tank gun of 269 Battery, 87th Anti-Tank Regiment is towed across the River Foglia during the assault on the Gothic Line, 1 September 1944.
(IWM Caption) A 17pdr anti-tank gun and half-track of 269/87th Anti-Tank Regiment approaches the River Foglia, 1 September 1944.
This post is long overdue as I’ve been sat on a treasure trove of information sent by Paul Walker. His father, Frederick George Walker and Fred’s two brothers, Herbert Walker and John William (Billy) Walker all served with 87th Anti-Tank. All survived the war.
This post will be updated but firstly here’s another excellent photo sent by Paul. This is part of the Chagford series but this time it’s a whole battery! The Walker Brothers are circled. Freddie Friend and Harry Marsh (holding the dog) are also visible.
Lin Sharland kindly sent me these cuttings from her Dad’s collection describing the unit’s time in Chagford.
There’s some great little insight, not least the reference to 87th using French 75mm guns in North Africa. I’m not sure this is correct as my understanding is they were using 6-pdr guns only. They trained on 2-pdrs after conversion from their MG role.
This is the first time I’ve posted from my phone so anything could happen…
When Freddie Friend first recounted the story of Harry Marsh’s death I was slow to react. It was only after meeting him at his home that I decided I could do something to help him and in that sense I was lucky everything came together, with a lot of help from the excellent folk on WW2Talk and the Liverpool Echo.
I think it’s important to note that the Echo appears to have written a simplified story of the air attack that led to Harry’s death. Freddie was always quite clear to me that Harry was wounded by fire from a Bofors gun that had been hurriedly brought into action during maintenance, thus preventing it being elevated correctly. The war diary similarly records the cause as “AA Shell” which I wrongly assumed meant an enemy 88mm, until Freddie declared otherwise.
Freddie Friend passed away in May 2016. You got the feeling he thought of Harry every day.
It’s been a bit quiet on the site for a while as I try and work out how to be a father to two children and manage to do anything else.
Recently I’ve been contacted by Paul Walker who has kindly sent me a DVD of his research into “The Walker Brothers” which I will add to the blog as soon as possible. Paul’s tribute to his father and his brothers (who all served with 87th) will be a great addition to these pages. Thank you Paul!
I’ve also been contacted via the site by Tom in Australia who is researching a Gunner Foster who served with the regiment. More to come on that one I hope.
Occasionally I google 87th/7th Devons to see what else may have appeared online and I was surprised to learn I hadn’t captured all of the regiment’s casualties. The regimental history fails to clearly list the men from 7th Devons lost in the period before they became 87th Anti-Tank. The Arandora Star incident on 2nd July 1940, which appears to have killed eleven members of 7th Battalion, isn’t mentioned.
If anyone else is reading these pages and has a family member or any material relating to 7th Battalion or 87th ATR please get in touch via the contact page. I will endeavour to make use of it all!
I’ve now paid a subscription to WordPress in the hope of improving the look of the site and taking a first step to securing its future.
The regiment had a series of photos taken during it’s time in Devon. It’s clear a number of men held copies of these and I’ve featured the ones sent to me on this site.
It wasn’t until I received the band photo (below) from Lin Sharland that I had could place the images.
All of the photos are taken on the green outside the entrance to St Michael’s (The Church of St Michael the Archangel), Chagford. The surrounding trees have grown considerably since and one tree has clearly been felled, however the buildings are the same.
The green outside St Michael’s, Chagford. All of the images were taken next to the thatched building in the centre of this image. (Graphic via Google Streetview)
Via Stephen Corcoran
B Troop Photo from the collection of the late Freddie Friend