17th/21st Lancers in North Africa and Italy

Discussion in 'RAC & RTR' started by Mark99, Jan 18, 2016.

  1. Mark99

    Mark99 Junior Member

    Hello. I am researching a relative of mine (another!) who served with the 17th/21st Lancers.

    Trooper Harry Leonard Lunnon
    17th/21st Lancers, RAC

    Sadly, he was killed in Italy on 19th June 1944.

    I have contacted the QRLNY musuem (whom they eventually became in 1993) and await there reply.

    Can anyone recommend any books or publications to aid my research.

    Regards Mark
  2. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    The then Colonel of the 17/21L R L V ffrech-Blake wrote The History of the 17th/21st Lancers 1923-1962 - Macmillan London 1962
  3. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Mark 99

    Lt. Col. FRENCH- BLAKE wrote the only account of the 17/21st History as far as I am aware - in both North Africa and Italy - they were second to 16/5th

    Lancers in 26th bde of the 6th AD - finishing up in Austria for a short period until detached as Escorts to VIP's at Milan Rail Station - eventually joined with

    16/5th in later life to become the Queen's Lancers…….try " Mailed fist " as well

  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  5. Mark99

    Mark99 Junior Member

    Many thanks for the replies and Information. I have ordered a copy of The History of the 17th/21st Lancers 1923-1962 by Ffrench-Blake.
    Reading the war diary, it says that the lead tank of 'C' Sqn. was hit five times!. The three who died, I assume are my relative Harry Leonard Lunnon, and N.W.S Leach and W.R. Sharp.
    Their remains are buried together. I have obtained a photograph of the Graves at Assisi War Cemetery. I must pay a visit, especially as Harry's Cousin Edwin Gordon Hinton of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry is also buried there. He was wounded the day after Harry at Vaiano, and died from his wounds on the 25th.
    That April, their cousin( my Dad's brother) Edwin Arthur Lunnon, serving with 45th Recce( Chindits) was killed at "White City", Burma.
    So in all, my Grandfather lost a son. His Brother lost a son. And his sister lost a son. all within two months.
    I cannot imagine how they coped as a family. Must have been made of sterner stuff than myself.
  6. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    If he was killed on 19 Jun 44, that would place him at Cassino for the Fourth Battle that started on 11 May 44. It was a 17/21L tank that finally allowed the Amazon Bridge to be launched on the morning of 13 May 44 after the engineer bulldozer broke down. A 17/21L tank that was waiting patiently to cross was called forward and ordered to push the bridge into place. Without the 17/21L, the bridge launch would have been significantly delayed - it should have gone in 24 hours earlier, and momentum would have been lost. Even more importantly, without the 17/21L armour that pushed across the new bridge, 2 DCLI, 2 Beds and Herts and 1/6 E Surreys would have been up a gumtree.

    The Amazon crossing is immortalised in Terence Cuneo's oil painting entitled 'Crossing the Rapido'. It shows the engineer bulldozer pushing the bridge into place but before it broke down and the 17/21L was called forward.


  7. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    If the man was killed on 19th June '44 - then he was nearer to Orvieto than Cassino as the fourth battle at Cassino finished with the "liberation" (sic) of Rome

    then Xiii corps including 6th AD ad and 26thBde with 17/21st moved over to assist 5th US army to head towards Florence around th 6th June …..


    PS - probably buried at Assisi being the only cemetery open at that time
  8. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Not adding much here, but Drew's war diary excerpt tells the story of the approach of 17/21 Lancers from the south west/west towards Perugia. (other units' details are described in Ken Ford's book). Trooper Lunnon is buried with two other Troopers in a collective grave at Assisi (one of whom is stated as being in 'B' Squadron) so perhaps these words may convey some precise relevant detail:

    ".... C Squadron were ordered to cover B Squadron, who were ordered into Fontivegge (near Perugia train station). Just by the level crossing (676921), the leading tank was hit five times. B Squadron therefore withdrew...."

    If you place wW676921 (on the Northern Italy Grid) would give the exact spot here:

  9. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    What I meant was that if he was still alive on 19 Jun 44 then he would, in all likelihood given the lack of replacements, have been at Cassino for the breakout on 13 May 44 onwards.


  10. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Frank -
    After Rome 4th june - we had our last big reinforcement into Xiii corps as they finished off the 8th Army gig and moved over to US 5th Army - after that the

    D Day wallahs took every man they could get hold of and we started to suffer as the Gothic Line opened August 25th - with the first disbandment of 1st

    Armoured Div in early October followed by the AA units et al - so anything could happen - and it did - both 21st and 25th Tank Bdes were wiped out in the

    December of '44……for spares...

  11. Steve Kemble

    Steve Kemble Junior Member

    Hi All
    My apologies firstly if I have put this in the wrong place but I am trying to continue with the search for information on Sgt Melling DCM. Drew kindly supplied Sgt Melling's commendation which mentions that he was involved in the Norwegian Campaign.We have so far not been able to find any other info on this part of his service although his wife confirmed that he had spent some time in Norway.
    If anyone has any info we the family would be most grateful.
    Many thanks in anticipation.
    By the way Drew I picked up my South Atlantic Medal last year.

    Attached Files:

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