More History Of The Regiments

Much of 1938 and early 1939 for the 41st Battalion Royal Tank Corps was taken up with training and converting to the ways of a tank battalion.
The infantry PSI’s (Regular Army Permanent Staff Instructors) left Oldham, and spirits ran high as the 41st received its first light tanks and an ancient ‘Peerless Armoured Car’.
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A Peerless Armoured Car. A Mk 6 Light Tank.
You can see all these photographs and more, on the Regiments Photo Gallery Pages.
In May 1939 the battalion left for annual camp at Waitwith Camp, Catterick, North Yorkshire, Were they trained alongside the 7th Bn Royal Tank Corps.
July of that year found the Regiment preparing for the inevitable mobilisation, and on the 24th of August the key party was called up, the remainder of the battalion was mobilised on the 2nd of September.
As you can imagine the drill hall at Rifle Street was not large enough to accommodate two Regiments the 41st and 47th (newly formed in April of that year) which was also mobilised.
To overcome this they were billeted in two cotton mills, the 47th in the Further Hey Mill at Lees and the 41st where accommodated at the Earl Mill on Dowry Street.
Both mills being semi-derelict so there was plenty of cleaning to be done. The officers were billeted in a large house on Windsor Road, Coppice.
A section of land belonging to Hegginbottoms Farm was also commandeered for tank training. (This land is now part of the Fitton Hill housing estate).
Walter Mills tells a good tale of the early days of training, when the regiment only possessed one tank.
The said tank much to the delight of the local children, was left to fend for itself at lunch time whilst the crew retired to the local pubs for a spot of refreshment, and how you could set your watch by the dulcet tones of "Oy gerof that bloody tank" on their return.
There was plenty to do, with the issuing of clothing, individual training, documentation, and all the other tasks that go with the organisation of a TA battalion in time of war.
The 41st commanded by Lt Col J C S Rowbottom and the 47th by Lt Col W Schofield remained in Oldham throughout 1939 and early 1940. Individual training continued, and assistance was given to the local authorities with essential tasks such as snow clearance etc.
Members of the regiment were drafted for overseas reinforcements and armoured train crews.
Some men, through reasons of age and fitness were unsuited for overseas service so the battalion had to be reorganised on loosing these valuable experienced soldiers.
On the 15th April 1940 Lt Col J R Farrington assumed command of the 41st and both battalions (41st and 47th) trained for enemy airborne landing counter measures, and were given the task of airfield protection.
In June the 41st and 47th, now part of the 24th Armoured Tank Brigade left their home town of Oldham (on the first of many moves) and took up residence at Farnley Park, in Otley, West Yorkshire.
Training now consisted of tactical vehicle movement, as well as individual training, and the Regiment received its first civilian intake.
In September the 41st moved to Knaresborough North Yorkshire and the 24th Armoured Brigade now came under command of the 8th Armoured Division under Maj. Gen. R L McCreary.
Units were ordered to convert to Valentines and throughout the winter, tanks, scout cars and B vehicles (trucks etc) arrived with exciting regularity.
valentine_1.jpg (58427 bytes)Left. A Valentine tank of the 24th Armoured Tank Brigade.
In March 1941 the 41st moved to Warminster, and in April experienced its first war casualties, when the garage occupied by the LAD at Corsley Heath was hit by bombs.
One soldier was killed and three wounded, as well as civilian casualties.
Most of the LAD equipment was destroyed and the following night the garage was hit again and completely gutted.
On 11th March 1941 Maj. J B Whitehead who served with the Regiment during and after the 1st World War was promoted to Lt Col, and appointed CO 41st RTR.
The 47th meanwhile left Otley in September 1940 for Boroughbridge, Trowbridge in March 1941, then Warminster, Chiddingford and Shoreham (Sussex) in June. Records for the 47th are a little sketchy for this period but in June 1941 they show the formation of a Special Service Squadron, which was posted to an unknown location, in December the regiment was sent on embarkation leave.
In March 1942 the 47th moved the short distance to Portslade (also in Sussex) were Lt Gen. Montgomery visited the Regiment.
In May, the Regiment now commanded by Lt Col G Parks DSO, was inspected by the King before embarking at Liverpool aboard the HMT Scythia for Egypt, were they arrived in July.
July through to October was taken up with training and exercises, up until the Battle of Alamein, a detailed account off which follows later.
During April 1941 the 41st won the 8th Armoured Div motorcycle trials. And at the end of that month spent ten days at Castlemartin tank ranges in Pembrokeshire, South Wales.
"A" Sqn gave a demonstration of a Squadron advance against enemy anti-tank opposition, at which Maj. Gen. McCready and the Duke of Gloucester were present.
In September the Regiment partook in Exercise Bumper the largest field exercise ever held in the UK to that date.
Many valuable lessons were learnt under trying conditions and the Regiment came through with flying colours.
This was followed by another visit to the ranges (Linney Head) for Squadron battle practice.
After a number of false starts, it was the 19th March 1942 before the 41st finally received orders to move overseas, to a destination unknown.
By the beginning of April all the vehicles had been prepared for shipment and the Valentines had been fitted with sand-shields, indicating a posting to warmer climates.
After many delays and an extended embarkation leave the Regiment finally embarked abroad the HMT Scythia at Liverpool on the 6th May 1942 along with the 47th and other units of the 24th Armoured Brigade.
Training continued whilst on board with TEWTS (Tactical exercises without troops) and various lectures.
Concluding a troublesome Voyage due to engine problems, the Scythia trailing many miles behind the convoy arrived at Capetown, where the troops were made very welcome.
All to soon the hospitality of South Africa had to be left behind, and on the 9th July after another troubled voyage (and a change of ships to the New Amsterdam) the 41st and 47th disembarked at Suez and moved to Quassassin Camp in Egypt.
At the time the Desert Army was on the Alamein Line.
The Regiments were ordered to give up their Valentine Tanks, which were sent forward as front line replacements.
The Regiments were then converted to Grant, Sherman and Crusader Tanks.
sherman.jpg (59430 bytes) Left, A Sherman Tank
This conversion, plus other military training and acclimatisation occupied the next two months. By the end of September all training and re-equipping was complete.
"B" Coy. 11th Kings Royal Rifle Corps, and "G" Battery. Royal Horse Artillery was attached, work up exercises continued until the 22nd September when the Regiments and attached units moved into the 10th Armoured Division assembly area.
crusader_2.jpg (29986 bytes) Left. Crusader tanks Egypt 1942.
So on the eve of the Second Battle of Alamein, both of Oldham’s own Tank Regiment’s are on the Alamein Line.
On the Left of the page you will see a menue with links to edited supplements of the Regimental War Diary’s and eye witness accounts of operations from the 19th to 29th October 1942.