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3911838 TP CRIMP - Tom Parting CRIMP; 1917-1996 Enlisted with the South Wales Borderers. He had 4 children and the tag has gone to his youngest son, Jeffrey in Cockermouth.

2881565 A GARDEN - Now not only does he have a great name which made me smile when I discovered it... yes my humour is that simple! Alex Garden who served with the 116th Regiment (Gordon Highlanders) RAC. His service number is an nice early Gordon Higlanders number. 

It was Alex's grandson who first contacted me through Wartime Memories Project, Angela passed on the message and his email address to which I replied confirming we have the dog-tags, asked for more information and asked where I could send them too. I had no reply. A month or so later, I have another email from Angela at WMP again, asking if I had replied as he had sent a second email as he hadn't heard from me. I then sent the same email to him once again and copied in Angela so she knew I wasn't just messing about. After all, I don't want her to think for second that I'm not doing my part to return these tags when she is going out of her way in helping. 

I never did get a reply from his grandson, but I did get an other email from Angela but this time it was a message from his granddaughter Nicola, asking about the same soldiers and same tags. I replied, not exactly expecting much at this point, but she replied instantly and with the confirmation of the correct soldier she then started sending bits and pieces of his history and most importantly a photo! A few emails went back and forward very quickly and for some reason and I can't remember now why, she mentioned that she was sat on a train coming from Scotland to London. Well that's odd I thought, as the dog-tag site is in the London area and really easy for me to get to, I was going to go the coming weekend to dig more tags. I asked where about's she was going and I almost spat my tea over my laptop when she told me. It was pretty much the same place I was going digging. I told her I would be right in the area and if she wanted to meet up, have a coffee and hand over the tags then we can do it almost right away. Sorted! Well that was easy.

It was back in July, a Saturday morning about 11:00 I jumped on Leyla, my Honda CBR600 and went of to meet Nichola. I was late, as usual however upon getting to a lovely little coffee shop with my digging bag dressed in my digging gear I couldn't see anyone that might be her, so I sat and ordered a bucket of coffee. Sent her a message on F/B and said I was here. Then noticed a someone at the back looking all about. Ah! It was her, I changed tables and sat with her and her two friends. I started to explain about the tags, the craziness of the whole project, things I have found and about my self. Nicola I think called her brother useless, or something along those lines... I think in jest! I pulled out the tags from my wallet and handed them over. The smiles said all I needed to know about these were going to an appreciative home. Sadly my only regret from this meeting was that we forgot to take a photograph. I am hopeless at remember that! Everyone finish drinks/food and after the chat we all went our separate ways. It does always feel rather odd meeting people, making a difference, then knowing the chances of ever seeing them again is so slim. However, it is just the way the project goes. Oh and thanks for the coffee Nicola :)

However, on to Alex's story - Alex went to the local school and when he left school he first went to work for the Forestry Commission; later in the Aluminium works, both of which are in Fort William. 

Alex was in the Territorial Army before signing up for the regulars at the start of the war. He was in the 9th Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders and he was rightly very proud of this. He was always happy to talk about his experiences in the army. In the early days he was a dispatch rider because he was the only one who could ride a motorbike (a man after my own heart)  He got a 500cc BSA which he loved (rightly so!) but he had to wear a kilt which must have been very interesting, and a bit draughty! 

He started off in Northumberland, then shipped first of all to Orkney, then to Glasgow. From Glasgow he went by troop ship to South Africa, India and finally Burma. He talked about having to put on his tropical uniform, and about the experience of sleeping in a hammock in the Indian Ocean when a rolling sensation was created.

The bulk of the regiment was from the North East of Scotland so he knew a lot of them, and I expect there was a lot of banter and camaraderie among them.

After that Alex was transferred to Tank duty ((in fact the whole 9th Battalion was transformed into the 116th Regiment (Gordon Highlanders) Royal Armoured Corps.)) in the Irrawaddy area of Burma where there was a lot of fighting. He once ended up in Rangoon and the drive back had to be done at breakneck speed because the monsoon was imminent. When he got his leave Alex always requested the furthest place away so that a lot of time was taken up travelling, usually by train.

When the regiment was in Durban they received wonderful hospitality  from the local people. One man stopped his car, invited 3 or 4 of them to his house and gave them dinner. The lady of the house was very kind also. She wrote Alex's mother and kept her informed about how he was getting on.

When they came back to Port Elizabeth the regiment wasn't allowed off the ship. Alex's brother Dod was in hospital there but Alex didn't know this at the time.

Alex had many stories to tell about his times in the army, and he also talked about the Gurkhas, spoke very highly of them.

He was a proud member of the Burma Star and on the 69th anniversary of VJ Day in 2005 Aberdeen City Council gave a reception for all the members at which Prince Phillip was the guest. He came around the tables, sat down beside Alex and spoke with him about his experiences. This was a very proud moment indeed for Alex. 

Alex had a marvellous memory and could remember the names of all the places he'd been to, and the people he had met, down to the finest detail.

After the war there wasn't much work around (mainly due to the vast quantity of men suddenly looking for work and also that most of the industry had been transformed to make items for the war effort) so he became a bus driver.

14416284 Phillip LEONARDT

337135 DSG DUCK

14728937 GJH NEDEREND

14229181 GD STEAD

2885638 WS OGG

5193230 DS HOLLOWAY

14481291 RA ELFICK

320357 FG GIDDY

19031610 MAR BROMLEY

323462 CH LUGG

3909739 MY LLEWELLYN

3771657 JE BILLINGE

7904748 J ORMANROYD

14878297 VEW BREGA

14404750 ABJ BARRATT

 

14169510 L LIEBMAN

 

14172165 BG BOGGIS

 

7912908 GH DAVIDGE

 

14169176 Ronald GOULDING

7955763 BWA WEGUELIN

20052487 CK DYMOTT

7676567 DC BICKERDIKE

6028399 TED DARLING

14431612 C LATHWOOD

3714191 JP LATHWOOD

6293283 HS DALLMANK

6346795 DL ZWALF - Douglas L. Zwalf 1918-1977; had two brothers Hermann and Leslie (1916 and 1921). Katey left messages for Leslie's daughter on Ancestry. However, it was mainly due to Max Zwalf researching anyone and everyone with the Zwalf name and the rest of his family history too (no small task). When researching any family line, you will always hit 'the wall', that point where there just seems to be no records, or at least nowhere where you would know to look for them. Max had hit this wall when going back through his family line... well unknown to him that someone was following the same family line but from the other direction - a little like to trains travelling towards each other in a tunnel with the lights off. This other person was Lorraine Russell. They had both completely the Ancestry DNA test, the results of which had connected them both, now this had been done, they both connected the dots and the two lines were merged. Lorraine already knew of our project and so Max was put in touch with us :) Simple right!!! 

Douglas Zwalf enlisted early with the Royal West Kent Regiment (RWK), we can safely presume he was in the 9th battalion as that is the only RWK battalion to be transformed into an Royal Armoured Corps Regiment. The 162nd Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps converted to armour in 1942 as the, but retained its Royal West Kent Regiment cap badge on the black beret of the Royal Armoured Corps as did all infantry units converted in this way. However, the regiment was disbanded in 1942, without seeing any active service abroad. From here without the records from the... cough... money grabbers at the Tank Musuem Archieve we don't know where he went next. Hopefully Max will get those papers at some point and shed some light on where he went next. He almost certainly stayed in the RAC until the end of the war for these tags to have been made. 

Max and his wife, or carer as he amusingly introduced me to her as; came to the house to collect them. They explained the whole complicated story of how we came to this point and the research he had done. We spoke for quite a while about the project over a cuppa and of course posed for the photo below. Something I never remember to do. A very generous donation was made to the project which is always so thankfully received and will keep us ticking over! 

Apologies the last few pages have been a repetitive and heavy going, but I am just trying to catch up! To where we are now. Since the last time I got to update the site, I was beginning to believe that the site was drying up as tags were getting harder and hard to find. However, over the past couple of weeks Alan and I have been back to the site and have gone in a new direction and oh my word! We can't pick the tags from the dirt quick enough. In fact now we have resorted to me digging and throwing all the spoil in a pile and him sifting through pulling out all the tags. There are so many tags that he can't keep up , shouting at me to either slow down or stop and then calls me lots of names when I don't!

We started off by finding almost all W surname tags on the first dig back, then M's on the second and last time we seem to have moved into G's and H's! The M section was particularly great for me as I added another 15 or so Mackay/Mckay tags into my own collection. Always a bonus! Sadly for Alan thought I've only ever found one tag with his surname on. 

As well as all the tags this site produces we've actually started to find a few other items of interest. Sadly no more badges, but helmets! Most of course being made from steel are totally rotten and are ready in pieces before you even dig to them. One helmet was just a brown mark in the hole apart from the metal rim that ran around the edge. That was almost perfect! However I did get one helmet out and home, it missing a small chunk from one side, I am hoping that I can find it on site somewhere, but nothing yet. It will take a lot of work to get it clean and stop it from totally falling to bits, but it is the first British helmet that I have ever found almost intact. There was about 40% of a civilian style helmet, the zuckerman style, or what ever they are called. Sadly that was too far gone to take home and preserve.

Then popped up a set of brass spurs, broken into several pieces, but almost all the bits were found. Before these unit were issued tanks, most were the original cavalry units, like the Lancers, Dragoons & Hussars. So a particularly interesting unit that goes well with the sites history. The only other item of note was the surviving pieces to a gas mask, both eye pieces and the big round piece that is by the mouth. Both eye pieces are early dates, 1939 and 1940.

We were supposed to visit the site again today but for various reasons this has been postponed, I am very interested to see what other items we can recover. Of course we will get thousands more tags, but its now the other items which are proving much more exciting. Strange really as on any other site we dig, its the hope of finding one dog-tag that excites you more than almost anything...

The grand total on the database to date stands at 35,648 tags, with 1.19% of those being returned, that's 425 individual tags. On top of that 3 are being collected tomorrow and 2 are in the mail to Katey in the US to give to a family in Canada.

07/12/2019 

Sorting these tags uses by far the largest proportion of time that I put into this project. Not just from the moment that they are clean into 7 groups, then into the giant wall of drawers. After that they need to be matched up with the other tags to the same soldiers; making pairs or trios. Sometimes even more than a trio where multiple sets had been made to the same soldiers. In an effort to reduce the amount of tags in those drawers making it easier to find anything I have been taking the tags that have reports on the soldier and putting them in folders. I have mentioned these before, but always better to recap properly that miss something out. 

The last few days I have spent trying to locate all the soldiers tags who were awarded the General Service Medal (GSM) for Palestine 1945-48. I have found almost all of those, a mighty 1492 tags! Once found these have gone into large coin folders, 6 slots to a page and are almost alphabetical and each folder is a regiment. Some regiments getting more than one folder. 17/21 Lancers and 4/7 Dragoons both having two folders each. The 15/19 Hussars have a whole folder, leaving the 4th RTR, 8th RTR, 1 KDG & 9 Lancers sharing a folder. The other assortment of other units which is mainly only a couple of soldier from each have all gone into another folder. Including a couple of soldiers that were assigned to the BBC for filming purposes. How odd! 

Sadly most of the other folders that I sorted a long time ago now and very problematic, I sorted these by place. For example, I have a few folders for Italy. Inside contains all the soldiers wounded, mentioned in dispatches, captured or reported missing. These were then sorted by date. The problem is that as we dig more tags and find more reports about Italy, how do I 'slot' these new tags into the folders? I think this system will have to be completely gutted, redone in a totally new way, perhaps by unit - then by place with notes to what each tag is. Not an quick job by any means as there are 5191 tags with reports to them! Each one needing to be found, understood, sorted and then placed in a new folder with the new systems. Volunteers welcome! This is a job that I will be putting off for a bit, but sadly with the amount of tags needing to go into these folders and with us recovering more and learning more all the time the need to doing this right away is impending!