3 RTR Poperinge Belgium Dec '44 - March '45

Discussion in 'RAC & RTR' started by Frank Flattery, Jun 23, 2020.

  1. Frank Flattery

    Frank Flattery Well-Known Member

    Hi all, I've been speaking to Walter Tailly about 3 RTR's time in Poperinge, Sept '44 - Jan '45 ( he knows the family my grandfather billeted with) and he's asked me to help identify some other tankies who were billeted in Poperinge. His aunt has photos of them, they all seem to be RTR, from cap and arm badges, and his aunt has written on the back names. All three were 3 RTR and were killed in action, Stanley Varty , Albert Riggs (both kia 1/4/45) and Edwin Bligh (kia 13/4/45). Does anyone recognise any of the others?
     

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    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
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  2. Frank Flattery

    Frank Flattery Well-Known Member

    And to aid identification, Walter has also sent me this pic; most likely HQ?
     

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  3. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    'fitters only' written on the back of the lorry so part of the LAD (Light Aid Detachment) but definitely the 3RTR '52'.
     
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  4. Frank Flattery

    Frank Flattery Well-Known Member

    Let's see if Walter sends me more photos. He's also put me in touch with someone else in Poperinge who has info on 3RTR....I didn't realise how many people there were interested in the war, etc. Let's see what else comes up!
     
  5. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Poperinghe has a notable War history: it's where you will find Talbot House etc etc (Google Talbot House and you will discover the good sides and the bad sides of the town history).
     
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  6. sheila and richard

    sheila and richard Well-Known Member

    Hi Frank
    Your contact Walter has inadvertently send a message to us which I think is meant for you, I have replied to him stating I beleive it is you Frank Flattery, that he really wants. We are more interested in 3rtr photos prior to 18 July 1944 in Normandy and North Africa.

    Kind regards Sheila
     
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  7. Frank Flattery

    Frank Flattery Well-Known Member

    Ok, thanks!
     
  8. Frank Flattery

    Frank Flattery Well-Known Member

    Today a contact in Poperinge, Bertin Deneire, sent me the story of two tankies who billeted with his father, and his father's subsequent search for one of them after the war. Apart from being a wonderful story in itself, it made me realise that we often overlook the human element in our fathers'/grandfathers' war experiences, and it gives some insights into how the war and having a tank regiment living with them affected the people of Poperinge, so, with Bertin's permission, I'm attaching the story. He asked me to include his name and address, in case the events described jogged anyone's memory, which you will find at the end.
    I also have his telephone number, if anyone wants to contact him by phone, I didn't think it would be a good idea to include it here, if you know what I mean. Enjoy!
    EDIT: I have attached a new copy of Bertin's story, I forgot to include his address at the end. Oops.
     

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    Last edited: Jun 25, 2020
  9. Frank Flattery

    Frank Flattery Well-Known Member

    Funny you should mention Talbot House, Walter just sent me this pic found on the internet:

    Talbot house en Comet cruiser Tank 4.jpg
     
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  10. Bertin Deneire

    Bertin Deneire New Member

    great picture which will certainly interest Simon, the manager of Talbot House! The picture is probably taken by the then caretakers from a room on the first floor. I'm adding his email address should anybody want to contact him. I suspect they do not have this one in their archives. I should know since I used to be a member of the Board of Trustees. simon@talbothouse.be
     
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  11. Frank Flattery

    Frank Flattery Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the forum Bertin! Let's hope we uncover more on 3RTR's stay in your town!
     
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  12. walter.tailly

    walter.tailly New Member

    Some more information about 3 RTR at Poperinge (Poperinghe)

    3RTR locations
    There are a number of publications: Taurus Pursuant (which is the history of 11th Armoured Division), 'View from the Turret' by Bill Close (who commanded one of the 3RTR Squadrons at the time) and a couple of 'potted histories' by Patrick Delaforce ('The Black Bull' and another whose title eludes me but is something like 'Breaking the Panzers;a history of 3RTR'. Bear in mind that potted histories can create 'urban myths' so it's always wise to cross-check information. Anyway, back to the point of your posting.

    Comet training by 3RTR was in the Poperinghe area near Ypres.

    The definitive information about dates has to be the 3RTR War Diary which provides the following information:

    15th December 1944: arrived Poperinghe
    16th-19th December: settling in, vehicle maintenance, training
    20th December: moved out (Battle of the Bulge when picked up old Shermans)
    14th January 1945: returned to Poperinghe
    16th March: leave Poperinghe
    17th March: arrive Aarschot
    27th March: leave Aarschot (for the Weser Bridgehead over the Rhine)

    Shermans were disposed of in early December in Helmond


    The 3rd Royal Tank Regiment and its R&R connection with Poperinge and Ypres during the latter half of 1944 requires no introduction. However on reading
    Taming the Panzers by Patrick Delaforce. *This being confirmed in the book Panzer bait by William Moore. I was quite taken back to learn that 3 x 3 RTR Mk 6 light tanks motored all the way down from Calais and took part in the defence of Ypres, especially around the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres & at Dickebusch on May 28th 1940.RTR
     
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  13. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Well known photo of a 3RTR Comet passing Talbot House.
     
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  14. Frank Flattery

    Frank Flattery Well-Known Member

    Looks like they wanted to be first in when it opened....
    Going back to Edwin Bligh (see above), kia 13/4/45, would that have anything to do with the Tiger incident, by any chance? Speaking of which, having read 'Warriors of the Working Day', is the book version true to life??!! We should start a thread just on that book, on 'what inspired what', etc! Excellent read.
     
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  15. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Friday 13th April 1945 was the day Sgt Harding of C Squadron 3RTR knocked out Franzens Tiger F01. I'm not aware of any details re Bligh's death especially as it was a relatively quiet day.
    'Warriors for the Working Day' is based on real people and real events albeit with lots of conflation thrown in (especially with the people) and a significant gung-ho factor. From my point of view, I can see conflation in the character 'Taffy' (dad) who was the Driver: while I can see several of dad's characteristics in 'Taffy', dad was not Welsh, nor a 'Desert Sweat' (dad joined Elstob's crew as Driver in September 1944) and dad was not wounded during the War but was injured badly enough soon after to warrant being shipped back to the UK.
    I've thought of doing a side-by-side comparison of WFWD, the 3RTR War Diary and John Langdons book 'The Sharp End' and actually started this a few years ago but, as often happens in Life, other things have taken priority so it's now on semi-permanent hold.
     
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  16. Frank Flattery

    Frank Flattery Well-Known Member

    The only incident I can se in the WD for the 13th is this:
    1400; A Sqn run into AP fire, two tks hit, OP also hit. Decided to lay on a 2 coy attack
    supported by A Sqn to clear both sides of the CL and track down the enemy tank.
    1640; C Sqn passed through to continue support for 4 KSLI. Hy opposition met from
    wood 321608. OP tk brewed by Tiger.

    No mention of casualties in either case. I've attached the Commonwealth War Graves Commission document that Walter sent me, although it does say that he died on 13th, so the incident was not necessarily on that day. At first I thought that maybe he formed part of the same crew as Albert Riggs and Stanley Varty, who both died 1st April, but they were buried at Reichswald, whereas Bligh was buried at Becklingen, just north of Bergen.
    Would the OP tank be part of HQ?
     

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    Last edited: Jun 25, 2020
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  17. S54

    S54 Junior Member

    The OP tank, probably a Cromwell, was crewed by members of the RA! The officer commanding it would be the Forward Observation Officer (FOO) and he would coordinate the fire from the RA Batteries further back. He would be part of the SHQ but would go forward as needs must to where he was needed! Certainly in my day we were taught to bring down artillery fire via the FOO and if he came back with the call 'Target not identified send corrections' it was down to you to call the shots, so to speak! Back in the day when I first joined the 3rd, who were on Chieftain the FOO's drove around in Centurion gun tanks, then 432 APC's! Nowadays they bomb about in the Warrior.
     
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  18. Frank Flattery

    Frank Flattery Well-Known Member

    Thanks! I remember reading somewhere in the WD about a FOO and wondered what that was....got it! So, that would seem to eliminate that, which leaves the 'two tks hit'. Bearing in mind poor old Bligh was buried in Becklingen, it would suggest he was killed round about the 13th, and from what I can see in the WD, the previous couple of days were quiet. I remember there's a thread with casualties April '45, maybe there's a clue there.
     
  19. Frank Flattery

    Frank Flattery Well-Known Member

    Going through the info on this thread: 11th Armoured Division, Tank Casualties, 1945 , I've complied these casualties on the dates mentioned:

    1st April '45:
    D13 Operator killed;
    D22 Gunner killed;
    D18 Operator killed;
    D49 Operator killed;
    EDIT:
    D15 Operator & Driver: Killed (missed this one first time round)
    1st April, not a good day to be an Operator.

    13th April '45:
    D21 Driver killed
    So it looks like Bligh was the driver, the details are as below:

    Regiment: 3 Royal Tank Regiment

    Serial No.: D.21.

    Mark: -

    W.D. No.: 335342

    Date: 13 April 1945

    Photo No.: 33

    Figure Nos.: 30, 33
    11th Armoured Division, Tank Casualties, 1945

    Range: 1200 yards

    Cause of Damage: A.P. (88 mm.) penetration.

    Fire Damage: None

    Other tanks involved in same incident:

    Circumstances: Leading tank clearing a wood on the right hand side of the road up which it was proceeding slowly when fired at by a gun concealed in another wood ahead of it. The second round hit the ground near the tank. Turret at 3 o'clock.

    Position of Hit: Penetration 88 mm. diameter through lower front glacis plate at its extreme right hand corner and out again through the floor plate. Also hit the suspension arm of the right hand front bogie.

    Course & Effect of Projectiles: Projectile passed through the forward part of the driving compartment. The floor was badly bent and all the fitting battered. Shot hit the Driver.

    Remarks: Tank seen.

    Fate of Crew:
    Commander & Gunner: Unhurt
    Operator: Trivial wound right buttock. RTD 1/52. Category A.1.
    Driver: Killed. Hit by shot and disintegrated.
    Co-Driver: Unhurt.

    Poor sod. At least he never knew what hit him. Sounds like a Tiger, 88mm, 'tank seen', although I suppose it could have been an 88mm artillery, the tank just happened to be there...
    EDIT: just checked Bill Close's book, Tank Commander, and he states Trooper Bligh was killed on that day, along with Lt Bullock (not mentioned in the report), so that's that.
    Tank Commander
    EDIT: WGC have an entry for Lt Bullock, kia 13 April '45. The WD mentions two tanks being hit, perhaps he was in the other one, as the entry above for Eddie's tank only mentions one casualty.
    Casualty


    Eddie Bligh.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2020
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  20. Frank Flattery

    Frank Flattery Well-Known Member

    Hi all, I've decided to re-title the thread to cover all aspects of 3RTR's time in Poperinge, as more info & pics come in. Speaking of which, our good friend Walter has sent us some more pics and names of 3RTR Tankies who billeted with families. This is what he has to say about them:

    Just a brief update on the ‘Brits in Poperinge’-story: last Monday, Willy paid a visit to Mrs Annie Beernaert-Poppe, Deken De Bolaan 67 in Poperinge. Mrs Poppe is now 86 years old but Willy tells me she has a keen memory. She saved photographs of the time 3rd RTR members were housed in her family home, Victor Poppe-Van Overbeke (= nowadays Deken De Bolaan number 47?).

    The Poppe family probably received them as thank you notes after the soldiers left. The garden photos include her and her brother Juan. The pub photo was taken at ‘Au Casino’ (a corner café next to ‘Amfora Hotel’ on central square). We have used Mrs Poppe’s additional notes to name the scanned photos. We hope all of this will be of use to your research group! Willy is now planning to get more information about a Mrs Baelen, who lived nearby and supposedly married a 3rd RTR member after the war. The couple moved to England, Willy has heard a daughter still lives in the UK?

    EDIT: Mrs Baelen married a Roy Cogdell, 3 RTR.

    Does anyone recognise faces, names? The pictures of Bill look like they could be of one tank crew. John Kitson has written A Squadron on the back of his photo.
     

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    Last edited: Jul 1, 2020
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