I was making a simple post on our Facebook group updating guys on the Pankhurst dog-tag and I wanted a couple of generic Royal Armoured Corps photographs to go with the post. Afterwards I noticed a photograph of a soldier standing up and it just looked staged, like those photographs almost every mum takes of their kids on the first day of school. I clicked on the photograph out of curiosity. It was a BBC website and retelling the story of one RAC Trooper, I didn't even think about checking his name and number, but I was more interested in the content... 4 pages of content and a couple of photographs. Once I got to the end I thought I should check the name and number against my list, no ever expecting to get a positive hit. I checked regardless and was amazed that I have all three of his tags.
AC King 14216129 served with the 5th Inniskilling Dragoons. At one point he gets wounded, his tank commander gets killed, the rest of the crew all get wounded. He does name each member of the crew and calls one soldier Wally GENT. Now oddly when I looked in my database, I have a soldier called BENT that was in the same unit and wounded on the very same day! What is the chances that this is actually the same soldier and that the name has got mixed up over time or that its another mistake on one of these tags?
The whole of AC King's story was submitted to the BBC website from Bridport Museum, I Google them and sent an email explaining all about the tags and that I was hoping that had a method of contacting the family. So another one that all I can do it cross my fingers and sit and wait...
After finding King online accidentally, I shared him with Jay and Alan on Watsapp. Jay then starts Googling RAC soldiers and sending me names and serial numbers. One after another I enter then, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, then amusingly we had a tag to the guy behind and the guy in front of the solider Jay asked me to check... but not the one he has information on. As these serial numbers were issued sequentially you can bet that at one point they were all standing in a line together. I have automatically set the serial numbers to highlight themselves if the numbers are sequential. More just out of interest than anything specific. Sure enough the more we dig, the more numbers starting forming blocks in order. I think the most we have is 6 in a row.
Jay did eventually get a result. 7959048 HILLIER Ken T served in Royal Armoured Corps. However the record is on Forces Reunited website and you have to be a member to be able to send messages (If anyone reading this can send Ken Hillier a message letting him know that would be most helpful). It's simply tasks like scrolling through the internet collecting names and serial numbers of RAC / RTR / Reconnaissance soldiers from all number of websites that anyone who wants to help wit the project could be. All serial numbers can be checked on the website and any matches will be followed up. If anyone wants to help, please do what you can.
ELPHICK James 14641204 ... continued ...
01/12/2018 Good news, I found the photo of Elphick shown earlier on this thread back at the start of the year and I sent the website a message about Elphick's tags and two other soldiers who are shown on the website. One of which is an elderly gentleman still wearing his black RAC beret from his time in service. Sadly though my email was never answered. It wasn't until I was searching through other names and number this week that I came across the website again, this time the information that they had on one soldier was incorrect and I sent them my information. Now this website is actually a re-enactment group to the British 61st Reconnaissance regiment based in USA. I thought that maybe Katey (being American) would have more luck with contacting them and so I asked her nicely if she wouldn't mind trying. Sure enough they reply and then the next thing I know, less than 48 hours later she has an address for the Elphick dog-tags! I won't take it too personally! They did answer my email about the correction of there details, but didn't make any comments on the dog-tags!
As well as Elphick's two dog-tags going home (they are literally sat in the postbox waiting to be picked up), we have had a very productive last 48 hours.
With all these dog-tags going into the post with Elphicks.
DOBIE RNC 4463145 2 tags going to his daughter Helen in Cockermouth
GOTTLIEB ACA 14452919 2 tags going to wife and then to his son in Eastbourne
GILBY JEC 14836914 2 tags going to his son Steven in London who has some information and photographs he will share with us... I can't wait to see what he has to show us!
SKILLERN NH 14187924 1 tag going to his son in Canterbury. We know that Norman Skillern was serving with the 15/19th Hussars out in Palestine after World War 2 and subsequently was awarded the General Service Medal with Palestine 1945-48 bar.
Sadly I only have a photograph of Elphick at the moment, if and when we see more to these dog-tags I will share them with you all.
Well bugger me! A quick update, on the 61st Reconnaissance website the photograph of the soldier wearing the beret is Derek Edmonds. Katey has just been on the phone to him for over an hour discussing stories from his time serving. He even told her that he was due to go to Indian near the end of the war as there was talks of preparing to invade somewhere but nobody knew where of course. His three tags will go in the post in the morning to his home in Devon. It's always something special when we can return them to families, but even more when we get to 'issue' them to the veterans they were intended for all those years ago. There will be more on Derek Edmonds later on.
13/12/2018 Well a week and a bit later and we have been so busy! The total returned has jumped up to 193! Everyone who Katey not only answers but understands that this isn't a weird scam and the dog-tags are flying out. Although yesterday surprise call from Derek Edmonds shocked me, Katey has been conversing with Derek lots via Email, he has been telling here all about his time in service and even sent her his Recce cap badge that he wore from D-Day until the end of the war. It seems that when we get to chat to these veterans that the are some of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet. Derek caught me by total surprise ringing me out the blue and as such I was really ill prepared to ask him questions, but we did have a nice chat about general things and the information below has been provided to me and writen up by Katey.
Derek Edmonds 14378693
"We are very pleased to have made contact with D-Day veteran Derek Edmonds in order to return his dogtag found by Dan. He was drafted was assigned to 61st Recce Regiment, and was part of a Bren Gun carrier troop. From their LST he and his buddies watched British Commandos take Gold Beach at Arromanches on DDay morning. He was 19 when they hit the beach at 4pm on 6 June 1944. His unit waded ashore, offloaded their waterproofing, and marched 2 miles inland to wait for the rest of the Recce regiment. Edmunds says that by Dday+1 everyone he saw had ditched their rifles and picked up Brens from casualties who didn’t need them anymore. He recalled constant combat from DDay+1 to the end of the War.
He was wounded in the shoulder/arm in Normandy (having been blown off his gun carrier) and spent a few days recuperating. His Sgt asked him to volunteer for a patrol with a wireless radio, but he felt his arm wasn’t strong enough and was able to decline. That evening on the patrol, the Sgt was severely wounded and a Corporal who took Edmonds place worked hard dragging his body back to safety, saving his life. The corporal later earned a citation for his actions. Had it been Edmonds with his injured arm, there’s a decent chance the Sgt woudn’t have made it. Tpr Edmunds recalls feeling so strange those first few days of War. Edmunds likened it to when he was a boy playing cowboys and Indians and the Buck Jones movies he watched as a child, “except it was real”.
Edmonds remembers having his 20th birthday on the south side of the Falaise gap on 18 August 1944. The Falaise Gap was indeed brutal, Edmonds recalled, “brutal for the Germans”. By September 1944 Tpr Edmonds was the only original soldier from his troop that had landed on DDay.
After fighting through France, his unit readied for Operation Market Garden. Unfortunately, they were slowed down and didn’t make it to Arnhem in time to relieve the courageous Paras caught in the cauldron there. Later, his group fought through Belgium (during the Battle of the Bulge), and he specifically remembers his time in the small Belgian village of Izegem.
Post War, Pvt Edmonds spent time training at a German airfield training on Churchill tanks as part of Fife and Forefar Yeomanry. He remembers firing a flamethrower, the heat being so intense they felt it despite 6 inches of armoured plating. "It was an awful weapon", Edmonds remembers. He said he was glad he never had to use it on anyone. We spoke about the significance of his dog-tag, and how he was on a roster to be shipped to the Far East for intense combat. Edmonds was so thankful he didn’t have to assault mainland Japan. After 11 months of constant fighting, seeing so much carnage and losing buddies, he was happy to have survived and return home to England. He retired after 32 years as a drafts-man, and has enjoyed 66 years of marriage."