Tank Crews

Discussion in 'RAC & RTR' started by Belgian Dave, Aug 20, 2013.

  1. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    I suggest that you read some first hand accounts, along with talking to veterans, this will give you the 'feel' for the life of tank crew and their routines. There have been lots published over the years. Look out for memoirs of other ranks or junior officer's rather than those who may talk about life at HQ or the hunt back home (I have read a lot of those!)

    Amongst my favourites and a good place to start is the fictionalised (Elstob was 'there'): Warriors For The Working Day by Peter Elstob (1960)

    Also essential is George Forty's book - Jake Wardrop's Diary (2009)

    Otherwise: Ken Tout - Tank! (etc.), Keith Jones - Sixty Four Days of A Normandy Summer (1990), Bill Bellamy - Troop Leader (2005), Stephen Dyson - Tank Twins (1993), Andrew Wilson - Flamethrower, John foley- |Mailed Fist, etc.

    Anyone else?
  2. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    This book is actually semi-autobiographical from what I know. My father was in Elstobs real crew from September 1944 to the end of the War when dad was his driver in Sherman and Comet tanks. Although the characters are themselves amalgams, there is a lot in the character 'Taffy' that I recognise and the book describes real incidents albeit with proper fictionalised spin as you would expect in a war novel full of derring-do. Taffy also happened to be Elstobs (sorry Cpl Brooks) driver. The real story of 1st Troop 'A' Squadron 3RTR is described in the recent book, now out of print, 'The Sharp End' by Johnny Langdon. I'm currently comparing both books out of obvious personal interest. You can also find out more about the raft river and Tiger tank incident (the real version) in my thread on this forum (search for Ferhmann Tiger Comet). I don't have my copy to hand at the moment so can't remember what pages in Warriors for the Working Day this incident is described. There are normally copies of Elstobs books, he was a prolific author of WWII stuff, on eBay and normally quite cheap. Incidentally, my avatar shows their real Comet tank 'Celerity'.
  3. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Seems to me that one writer is being ignored here - who had some extraordinary experiences as a Tanks crew W/op with much experience in fighting in that role in both North Africa and Italy - which MIGHT be the problem as he never fought

    in the NWE campaign as too many still think the war started and ended just after D Day.....I refer to our own Gerry Chester who was with the North Irish Horse of 25th Tank Bde and finally replacing my own regiment in the 21st Tank bde as

    we were broken up for spares at Cesena in Northern Italy in December '44 - Cyril Joly was another who fought in the Desert and wrote "Take these men " - Crispy's - " Brazen Chariots - Roy Farran's " Winged Dagger " a mix of Tanks

    commander and SAS - with those three it was not all gloom and doom but an element of fun..which it was on many occasions...

  4. Belgian Dave

    Belgian Dave Well-Known Member

    Its going to take me ages to read all these books you lot keep mentioning!

    Tom-The only thing I know of the NIH is the fitting of 75mm guns into their Churchills.
  5. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    If you want to focus on the desert first, Joly and Crisp are short books, and excellent reads.

    All the best

  6. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    You wanted to learn - so now is your best chance - then will come the questions - I usually recommend reading Barrie Pitts - " Crucible of War ' which really starts the war not the BEF shambles - then move on to Joly - Crispy and Farrar

  7. James55uk

    James55uk New Member

    Hey guys thanks for your info and help, I will say this means so much to me that I can finally learn about his life.

    Thank You So Much
  8. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    James 55uk

    More than welcome as this is what the forum is all about - helping each other to find the truth

  9. Belgian Dave

    Belgian Dave Well-Known Member

    Quite right James.
    Thanks to all who answer my questions (and they are often quite odd ones, but thats me!). The knowledge that people have on these subjects is quite astounding. I've been interested in military matter all my life, and yet I seem to know so little. I would love to be able to help with information for someone, but just dont have the answers.
    Since joining the forum, and its only been a couple of months or so, I have learnt so much about my Grandfather, and I still dont have his service records!
    Redetin likes this.
  10. jetson

    jetson Junior Member

    ceolredmonger; another good one is "A View from the Turret" a history of the 3 RTR in peace and war by Major Bill Close MC (commissioned in the field and my dad's cousin).
  11. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    ....and if you can't get a copy because it's out of print, then you will find that Pen and Sword books have just republished it but, for reasons best known to themselves, it is now titled 'Tank Commander. From the fall of France to the defeat of Germany. The memoirs of Bill Close '.
    SleeperService likes this.
  12. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Hello Dave,

    The answer to your question goes back to initial service at RTR training units.

    The first six weeks, apart from licking civilians into soldiers, were spent determining which role recruits were best suited to be tank crews, then its was home on leave.

    Those who did not make the grade were posted elsewhere, those returning: to be eventually posted usually in 1941/2 to units being re-equipped with Churchills, thus:

    Gunners - seven weeks - then posted to a unit.

    Drivers - ten weeks - then posted to a unit.

    The title Driver Operator is confusing - fifteen weeks - as only one was spent on driving. The remaining 14 weeks were spent mastering Morse Code, the A and B sets and there basic maintenance, and loading guns. then posted to a unit where they "enjoyed" highest pay scale.

    North Irish Horse crews served as they had being trained, presumably other units did also.

    Cheers, Gerry
  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Gerry is quite right of course as one's fate was determined at the initial six weeks in the General Service Corps then on to the Tank training RAC regiments..in my own case it was to the 61st TR at Barnard Castle where we came under the

    discipline of the Horse Guards and the classrooms of the RTR where we blancoed our equipment yellow and highly polished boots - or else - we did more driving than Gerry as I still have memories of taking a Crusader down the cobbled

    Richmond Hill where the house at the bottom was in constant repair as many missed the turn.....then on to North Africa as a Driver - Op class 111 then class 11 in a crew......one everlasting memory is after meals at Barney we would empty

    our slops into the pig swill by tapping our plates - da de da da de dah da da de dah.......Morse drove us all nuts

  14. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    Come va mate ?, nice to se you on site !

    As the thread appears to have broadened it's scope to general training of tank crew I think it's worth mentioning how much of a serviceman's life was spent on actual training.

    In my own case it went as follows.

    Basic training. 6 weeks
    Wireless / Driving training in Light Ack Ack 12 weeks
    Wireless/Gunnery/Driver training in RAC. 12 weeks

    I was dead lucky in that the wireless set on which I trained in the RA was the identical one that I used in the RAC, namely that wonderful rugged 19 set.

  15. jjrc1991

    jjrc1991 Junior Member


    In connection with ongoing research into the men remembered on my local war memorial can I ask if there are any veterans reading this thread who served with either the 1st Bn. Coldstream Guards (armoured) during April/May 1945 or 9th Bn. Royal Tank Regiment in June 1944 (specifically looking here for anyone who served in, or knew men from, "C" Sqn).


  16. Belgian Dave

    Belgian Dave Well-Known Member

    Thanks to all for the info on training. it really brings to life what my Grandfather was doing.

    To be a pain, can anyone (or all of you!) elaborate on the training for drivers?
  17. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    In your local library should be a book by Lt. Col. Peter Beale - c/o of 9th RTR at D Day and beyond - OR they can get it for you...one good thing I thought was the listing of all KIA and DOW personnel..as well as a listing of honours and

    awards to the Battalion...main reason I bought this excellent book was to learn how a Churchill battalion fought in France/ Germany - in both 31st and 34th Tank bdes they did well losing some 240 casualties

    The title is "Tank Tracks "
  18. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    A Tank Driver - whether Dvr/mech...Gunner Driver ..or Driver / Op - started - usually on an 8cwt small truck - then 15cwt - finally a three tonner.......then a Tank - in the Tank park learning the controls - and instructions - "Driver Halt " -

    "Driver advance" - then he would be allowed out on the streets and introduced to lights - hills - curves - people - cars - buses - Houses.. etc with a full understanding that IF he hits anything - it stays HIT unlike the movies..then he is tested by the

    Serjeant Major - and good luck with that....

  19. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Tank Tracks is actually available online (legally), as are the war diaries of 9 RTR:


    All the best

  20. Belgian Dave

    Belgian Dave Well-Known Member

    Thanks Tom - I have a feeling that my Grandfather mentioned training beginning with driving a truck. I expect the locals feared the new intake of learner drivers!

    Andreas, thats a super link, thanks.

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