79th Armoured division, Flail/Crab tank driver history search

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by Craig Adams, Feb 20, 2018.

  1. Craig Adams

    Craig Adams Member

    Hi, my names Craig,

    I'm beginning my search for information about my grandfather who drove flail tanks in Normandy and i believe may have seen action in North Africa (TBC).

    Sadly we lost nearly all of his documentation / slides and other things when he remarried later in life. So i don't have much to go on at the moment.


    Chris C likes this.
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Hi Craig and welcome to the forum. Have you considered obtaining a copy of his service records from the MOD? This is generally a good place to start as a foundation for your research.
  3. Craig Adams

    Craig Adams Member

    HI Drew,

    Yes i have looked at this today actually, my cousin as all his medals and some other elements of information that we are pooling. I've identified his service number and googled the heck out of what little i know so far. Your service record suggestion is something i will apply for today though :)
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  4. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Hi Craig,

    Welcome to the forum

  5. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  6. Hello Craig,

    Welcome aboard! Your grandfather's service record is definitely the way to go. In the meantime, I suggest that you post here as much information as you have been able to gather so far, starting with the obvious: his full name, rank if known, unit and whatever info you used for your googling. We can't help you much if you don't provide us with a minimum amount of information :D

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  7. Craig Adams

    Craig Adams Member

    So after some digging at my parents house today, i have unearthed quite a bit of new information in the form of a part written diary....

    After war was declared he had his medical and was grades A.1 and received papers for call up and was told to report to the royal Tank Regiment Training Centre, Bovington Camp, Dorset.
    Initial training for 6 weeks including marching drills,P.T and Weapons Training. First lessons on CWT Truck? at the driving school. Then posted to the Gunnery school at Lulworth cove for advanced armourment training on stationary and moving ranges. then went back toBovington for pass out.
    On passing out he was posted to First Lothian and Border Yeomanry at Tidworth Hants Barracks.

    Unit was then posted to Helmsley Yorkshire for initial squadron training which included 15CWT truck driving? Tank Driving and an advanced PT course.
    Tank Training took place on the yorkshire moors.
    He had alot of dealings with Major DeVigors during a family tradegy and was given some compassionate leave. The Major then helped him bring his wife up to live nearby.
    He did some close work for Corporal Cameron then returned to squadron duties but undertook an advanced wireless course for 6 weeks in Scarborough.
    Foloowing his course he had advanced Squadron trining in prep for D-Day landings. Flail tanks were supplied to the unit and then they carried out advanced tank training on the yorkshire moors. This completed, the Squadron moved to Whitby.

    The squadron were taken into the 30th Armoured Division for specified regiments, including flame throwers, mine clearing, bridge laying and port installation units. he then added.. "Freddie Bricker was lucky to become Batman to the Agident, being excused all parades and guard duties"

    "The folk at Whitby really felt secure by the four guns on the promenade facing into the north sea - these guns really being four enormous camouflaged tree trunks"

    at some point he then went to Pembroke dock and the gower coast (bernard castle) for advanced tank firing on the ranges. Land and Sea firing undertaken. Then they had first aid training and training for water proofing the tanks. Then they went back to Whitby and then onto Gosport/Portsmouth where all regiments were placed into transit camps awaiting D-Day invasion.
    22nd Dragoons and Westminster Dragoons sailed with the initial landings and the first Lothian and Boarders held back as reserves being the junior unit of the three flail regiments.
    First Lothians sailed for the continent on D-Day + 6 and relieved the 22nd Dragoons at the beach head as they required replacement.
    Landing on the beaches they came up against heavy concrete obstacles and the beaches were heavily mined. The Promenade was heavily fortified with heavy German guns and also concrete pillbox's and gun emplacements.

    Advanced from the sea towards Cannes and bayeaux which were both heavily fortified. Cannes eventually taken after heavy naval gunfire and tank units going in, The shopping centre was devastated and the only thing left was the cathedral. Most of the damage was done by Germans on retreat from Cannes. Tanks were driving over the rubble and about 300 german prisioners were captured in the centre. Then they advanced towards Cap Grenaiz towards the gun site that had been firing over the Dover Straight. The site was really huge, consisting of four large guns sites, recreation rooms, theatre, dining rooms and a large room containing charts showing the number of rounds fired over the Dover Straight. Americans had heavy losses, they were told to retreat but kept put.
    The nazi flag at Cap Grenaiz was taken down and by the consent of Major DeVigors was eventually given to the Dover Museum. "A site never to be forgotten, we were able to slide down the breach of the guns"

    So thats what i now have to work on. i also came across a few photos, one of what seemed like a Nazi medal ceremony with several Nazi officers..my mother said that he used to pick up photos along his journey, some from the side of the road or from homes that were destroyed. He then apparently went into Belgium and Holland... but i guess my research should uncover this!
  8. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Craig

    One small point - dont confuse Cannes (on the south coast of France) with Caen (major town in Normandy - Caen - Wikipedia)

  9. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Agident = Adjutant

    Barnard Castle is in County Durham. There was a RAC Training Regiment there in WW2.

    Cap Grenaiz = Cap Gris Nez Cap Gris-Nez - Wikipedia

    Wouldn't have been Americans but would have been Canadians
    see Operation Undergo - Wikipedia
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
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  10. Do you know when the diary was written? During WW2 or after you grandfather returned home?

    T/Major Richard de Cliffe VIGORS (63557) was the Officer Commanding 'C' Squadron, 1st Lothians and Border Yeomanry until 13 October 1944 when he left the Regiment on posting to 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, as Second in Command of the Regiment.

    Therefore, your still unnamed grandfather probably was in 'C' Sqn, maybe even in Sqn HQ, since the word "squadron" comes backs a lot in your account, when "regiment" or "troop" would have been expected. Or is it your own wording?

    Did your grandfather actually use the phrase "squadron training" in his diary?

    1 LOTHIANS was the second regiment in the brigade, not the junior one which was the W DGNS.

    This is what must have been the official version then, but is unfortunately not the truth. Most of the damage was done by Allied bombers. See Les bombardements à partir du D Day

    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
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  11. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    The Regimental War diary says the Regiment arrived in France on 13/14th July, so about D+38/39 (something my father, who was in B Sqn Lothians, kept quiet about!;))

    BTW I've looked through the War Diary and can't find any mention of an Adams (I'm assuming that was your Grandfather's name ?)
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
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  12. Craig Adams

    Craig Adams Member

    Ah yes, i thought it might be that, i essentially just copied what he wrote.

    He was in his mid 80's when he wrote it, so i'm taking things with a pinch of salt at this point, the general guide is there though by the looks of it.

    Yes, its popped up a few times

    thanks Michael, its good to get more information in relation to my grandfathers records.

    HI John, sorry, thats quite a critical part of information to have really isnt it, his full name was Leslie George James Harris
  13. Craig Adams

    Craig Adams Member

    I caught up with some family over the weekend, i was told a story about my grandfather Leslie George James Harris.

    He used to tell my older cousin about how he got a severe telling off for rolling a tank while loading it onto some form of transport vehicle, sounds like it was a truck but there's no detail.

    Apparently he was loading it up when a track slipped off the side, sending the tank over the edge and it ended up on the roof. As he sat there upside down, his commanding officer ran over and shouted "Harris, you're going to be reprimanded for this". perhaps its something that he told my cousin for fun, i will never know, but its interesting for me none the less.

    I also spoke with my mother about it and she was convinced that my grandfather saw action in North Africa so that's something i would love to know if its accurate or not.
    i'll see if i can scan the photos that he had collected along his journey. If nothing else they might be interesting to others.
    Tolbooth likes this.
  14. Craig Adams

    Craig Adams Member

    Searching on Forces War records (limited as they really try to restrict you, but you can get additional information from search pages by inspecting the code behind it) there is some information on a single Leslie Harris (Border Regiment), service Number= 1866313, rank = Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, service = British Army..

    it might be a lead worth looking into, i'm sure i'll head down many dead ends on this search
  15. Hello Craig,

    Did you get your grandfather's Service Records? They would certainly help confirming some of the dates and postings, and give you his Service Number too.

  16. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian

    These are generally referred to as "tank transporters" - effectively, big trucks with a large trailer on the back. They were used for moving tanks without putting wear and tear on the tank's engine, tracks, etc.

    e.g. This one in the desert. Having some trouble finding pictures from NWE

    Craig Adams likes this.
  17. Craig Adams

    Craig Adams Member

    no, i did request that my mother send off but i will fill out the forms and get her to counter sign where appropriate so that might be a few weeks wait.

    oh, that looks like quite a fall inside a tank!
  18. Craig Adams likes this.
  19. Craig Adams

    Craig Adams Member

    Thought i'd upload a few of my grandfathers photos, i thought there were more but i couldn't locate them.





    One that he must have picked up along the way:
    Chris C likes this.
  20. Craig Adams

    Craig Adams Member

    im not sure if the second and third photos are just bad light/angle or if he had put on a bit of weight in those photos

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