Chagford Officers Photo

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.

Officers of 87th Anti-Tank Regiment, Chagford, Devon, 1942/43.

Freddie Friend

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:

www.devondorsetregiment.co.uk/uploaded_images/files/Newsletter/Association_Newsletter_2016.pdf

A tribute was also paid to him by Torquay Rugby Club: https://www.brixhamrfc.co.uk/news/freddie-friend-rip-1625880.html

2014_FreddieFriend

The IWM Photo Mystery

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.

20200515_Michael_Sabarly_WW2Tank_IWM_Graphic

 

The Chagford Photos

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.

GoogleStreetview_StMichaels_Chagford

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)

LinSharlandCollection_Band

 

John Green

Some time ago I found a web entry by Stephen Corcoran about his grandfather, John Green, who served in 7th Devons/87th Anti-Tank. Before joining 7th Battalion, he served in 1/9 Manchester Machine Gun Regiment, then after 87th, 60th Anti-tank Regiment.

Stephen sent me the below images. Unfortunately the Troop and Company information is unknown, but the photos are clearly from the same series as those held by other members of 87th.

Stephen believes the Bulford image (with the Vickers Machine Guns) was taken prior to 14th April 1941, as his grandfather was a Lance Corporal from that date.

During the fighting in Tunisia John Green had an interesting experience with the enemy. Having taken a brand new Jeep for a spin one evening with one of his mates, they drove over a ridge right into a small encampment of Italian vehicles and were captured. The Italians were moving out, saying they were to be relived by Germans the next morning.  They decided to let their British prisoners go but not without John losing some excellent desert boots he’d won from a South African in a game of darts! This little incident is likely one of many not to feature in the war diary, however John was one of those soldiers who went on the fruitless visit to the depot to obtain the 17-pdr guns!

John Green is circled in both photos. His WW2 service resembles that of my own grandfather, being a member of the BEF evacuated from France in 1940 and serving all the way through the conflict. He passed away in 2000.

Alfred & Leslie Jones

This little blog is already having some success. I’ve been contacted by two people in the last couple of weeks who had family in 7th Devons/87th Anti-Tank. The first is Lin Sharland.

Lin’s father, Alfred James Jones (1919-2002, from Teignmouth) and his brother Leslie Frank Jones (1921-2002), were in the regimental band. Both played drums. Lin has kindly sent the scanned photos which can be seen below. The main band photo appears to be from the same series of images taken in Chagford, Devon, prior to the regiment deploying to North Africa.

Alfred Jones is middle of the middle row of the football team picture. Les is seated front left. This photo was presumably taken in Italy.

 

The Wilcox Citation

There are few surviving accounts of 87th’s war in Tunisia. The Devons by Jeremy Taylor offers little beyond the content of the War Diary. What I can find, I will share.

The Wilcox citation came from the National Archives. It’s not a great copy, so I will transcribe what I think it says.

The Gazette entry for Wilcox’s medal award states his name was Ernest Wilcox.

5618762 Gunner Charles Wilcox

“Near Pichon at about 1500hrs on April 8th, 1943, Gunner Wilcox volunteered to assist in mopping up an enemy M.G (Machine Gun) post and a small pocket of enemy resistance, which were in the area where the anti-tank guns of his troop were to be sited. Under enemy small arms fire, Gunner Wilcox advanced, firing his L.M.G (Ed: Light Machine Gun – likely Bren) from the hip, showing great courage and lack of regard for his personal danger. As a result of the part Gunner Wilcox played, the M.G post was captured and several prisoners taken. Since 8th April, Gunner Wilcox has continually displayed the greatest keenness and willingness to undertake any task to be accomplished, regardless of his personal safety.”

“Awarded M.M (Ed: Military Medal).”

It appears to say “Previous Awards” but the text isn’t clear.

The war diary doesn’t record Wilcox’s Military Medal. The diary notes that at 1400 that day (8th April) Lt Meredith on recce “surprised an enemy MG post, capturing two prisoners and the machine gun, not to be outdone at 1430 Major Edmunds & DR(Driver?) killed 2 enemy, took one prisoner and another MG.”

8th April was the day of 87th’s first combat. Lt Kent was killed. According to Freddie Friend this was not a result of enemy action.

WilcoxCitation

10 Platoon, C Coy, 7th Battalion, Devons, 1941

10 Platoon, C Coy, 7th Battalion, Royal Devonshire Regiment. Bulford Camp, 1941. (Photo from the collection of the late Mr Freddie Friend)

Back Row Left to Right.

W.Clark,J.Mumby,H.Bower,C.Busby,L.Maxwell,C.Jordan.

4Th Row Left to Right.

R.Webber,W.Locke,R.Tyler,J.Bulley,R.Smerdon,B. Lorraine,D.Gunter,T. Elton.

3rd Row Left to Right.

J.Anderson,E.Pickford,T.Elders,C.Haddrel,L.Locke,E.Uerson(?),D.Jessop,L.Edwards.

2nd Row Left to Right.

Cpl. Elison,G.Walker,J.Mollholand, Henry ‘Harry’ Marsh,T.Merrifield,C. Merrifield,L.Febe(?),T.Tweedle.

Front Row Left to Right.

Cpl.Macmillan,Cpl.Newman,Sgt Friend,Lt.Gordon-Edmunds,Sergt.Ford,Cpl.Stainforth,Cpl.Leigh.