Well things are plodding along as usual. Despite of this Corona nonsense, we are still doing what we can. Not much has gone home recently, we are still sitting at just over 450 tags returned. Still, I always look back at the first day when we said, "wouldn't it be good to return just one".
Aside from the odd person telling us that they don't want a tag returned every person we ever talk to about this project is always nice, pleasant and positive... until today. In fact this person was such a **** that he earned his own page on the website within an hour... and not for a good reason. I won't post it again on here, but feel free to read up and see the 'dark' side of what crap we get to put up with when working on this project.
As a result of listing these tags on good ol'EBay, it has gained us lots more publicity and we have been getting more requests for family members tags. Sadly nothing has come to fruition yet, but the more than ask, the higher the chance of success.
The great people at the 'Wartime Memories Project' is still sending plenty of people are way, sadly not many matches recently, but there are a couple more leads I need to follow up. Even when they don't match the families are always excited to discuss their relatives and I always have a quick look to see if I can find any files that relate to them that I can send them. Lots of them are rightly very proud that people in their families served and its great that I can share simple things like files we find on groups like FindMyPast with them.
7963117 MORRISON WGA, 141st Royal Armoured Corps. I had a message through the website asking to check if we had Walter Morrisons dog-tags as they would have been his fathers. He went on to explain that his father had died back in 1975 when he was only 16 so sadly he never knew much about his war record other than that he drove a tank. A couple of years ago he started to look into his fathers military history and discovered he was in the 141st RAC (The buffs). He learned a lot during his research, but discovered a lot more about the regiment than he did about what he specifically did as he was in HQ squadron. The War Diaries give a lot more detail about what A, B, and C squadron did, but not so much on HQ. He then said "Anyway, I don't suppose there is a dog tag kicking about after all these years with my fathers name on it". Of course, I get so many of these and far too many I have to start with, "I'm sorry....". However this one was a hit, a pair of tags. I emailed Andrew back right away and he was almost at a loss for words! I don't think he quite believed it at first, he asked "what now?" I simply asked for an address and they will be with you in a couple of days. It's that simple. I had a few nice emails go back and forwards and confirmation that the tags arrived safe and sound and are now being treasured by a son who sadly didn't get to hear about his fathers stories first hand.
It has been a while since this was updated, most people would probably assume that with the Covid-19 lockdown that I would have even more time to devote to this website... however it would appear not! A couple of days ago I had an email from a chap called Phillip. In the message it told me that he had purchased a medal group 1939-45 star, Burma Star w/ Pacific bar and War Medal with MiD device and a dog-tag from the owner and rthe details on his dog-tag matched one of these from the project.
I was already excited as you can imagine, I asked for photos of the medals and tag and told him the story about these tags. Sadly the reply I got wasn't as possitive or exciting as I hope!
As the photographed showed, it was actually one of my dog-tags that he had already purchased... but not from me. How odd? I asked where he had gotten them from, and I was told a dealer in Bristol. When I checked the database it was clear that this was one of the 'extra' tags made in error as I still had a full set of 3 here. It's even possible that I sold a full set of three tags to someone and there is three sets of medals just like those floating around for sale. Hopefully not!
I informed Phillip of the tags history, sent him in the direction of the money grabbers at the Tank Museum Archieve Room to see what files they have on him. He did ask if he could purchased the Betts tags to complete his set, so I kept the one that matched his format (incase we can find the family) and sent him the other two to complete his set.
Hopefully Phillip will track down information on this soldier and he has already promised to share all and any information with us. Fingers Crossed!
Hackman, Ron 19036649
Hurrah, having listed those odd tags on EBay is paying off ten fold. Not only raising some much needed funds, we are retuning lots to families who are finding us on there. Yesterday I had a message from Tracy, the Grandaughter of Ronald Berthram Hackman through EBay asking about his tag. Although I was a little confused about her requests for his original tags, we eventually got to the bottom of it.
Ron was born on the 23th Jan 1926 in Weymouth. Growing up around the coastal areas clearly had an impact on him. He enlisted into the Navy, his family suspected that he lied about his age (or possibly enlisted with the rank of 'boy') and without any records being found to date his rank is unknown. Nothing is known about his Naval service, except there is a nice photograph of him in Naval uniform shown here.
He was living in Weymouth, Dorset so very close to Portsmouth! The obvious attraction too many young men living around the area to take the Kings Shilling in lots of the costal areas was high; many took up the offer. It would be interesting to see some statistics on how many of the Navy volunteers came from costal towns, vs inland areas. You can only imagine just seeing all those magnificant huge Royal Naval vessles sailing in and out of Portsmouth must have had an impact on young minds.
After his Naval service, somepoint in 1945 he joined the Royal Armoured Corps and was placed into the 3rd Hussars. He was trained and sent to Palestine, his name is on the GSM Palestine 1945-48 medal role.
The family has an inkling that he at some point served in India, however the 3rd Hussars spent 1945-1948 in Palestine and then spent 7 years in Germany. However, he could have still gone to India with another unit. One thing we have noticed with these RAC tags is that soldiers seem to change units faster than thier underwear! His service number is from that weird and almost totally undocument. What I call the '19s', These were almost certainly issued in 1945, proved again by Ron here, thanks Ron. They also were sometimes issued to replace currect army ww2 serial numbers. Why, I have no idea. I can only hazard a guess that it has something to do with the then oncoming 1948 changs and with the sequential system that is still in place now. The 19's seem to be a temporary fix, to the already problematic system of the block numbers that were bursting at the seams.
After his time in the Army was over, he married Lena Evans in 1955 and they settled in Nottingham where he had 4 children. He got a job in a coal mine and spent his time working hard and looking after his family. He was a very proud man, when not at work he was usually found wearing a trilby and almost always smoking a pipe. Sadly there was an accident, when the coal face collapsed on him and both his legs were severely injured. However, his grandaughter told me that his story to her about why he ised walkings stics was a little different! Which went something along the lines of "that he got shot
during the war". It wasnt until after his death that her mum told her the truth. Now an amusing thing here is that my own Grandfather lost one of his legs from the knee down and had an early phosthetic leg. I am certain that he told me he lost his leg during the war. Many years after his death I was at my fathers house and found a small stack of black and white photos of a construction company. I asked my Dad about them and he said "oh, that's the company that your Grandad worked for when he lost his leg!" Either I got mixed up, invented that myself or he was winding me up; the later being very possible. For he was a bit of a comedian!
Ronald Hackman sadly passed away in November 1995 and now has 11 Grandchildren.
Although Tracy only found the project by spoting one of his tags on EBay, I had the other two of his set stored away. So, I will be sending all three home shortly, in fact they are ready and the only reason they are not in the mail is because I want to get this written first before I forget and then like so many others, never gets written up.
Brazier, Brian 7954894
Yet another set of tags that went home because of EBay... as much as we all complain about EBay and their weird-arse rules, it does provide an interesting link to people as well as buying/selling.
I had a message from a chap called Nick asking about a tag I had on there. HB Brazier 7954894. He works tending to a garden, of a man called Brian Brazier and he wanted to connect the dots to see if it is the same solider. Of course you'll know already that he is, or I wouldn't be mentioning it here. A few questions went back and forth, but yes, it was to the same man. So the tags went off to Nick who would then give them to Brian. Fantsatic, another nice easy win!
Then last week I got two letters in one day that were different to the normal rubbish that I get through the door. Two handwritten letters, the first of which contained a photograph and a cheque and the letter basically said sorry for not including the cheque. Feeling a little confused I opened the second letter, which was actually writen first, inside was a bunch of photos, including a couple of a wooden Sherman tank, on the base of the tank were the tags I sent and a RAC cap badge. There are a couple of up to date photos of Brian and a couple of him during the war. He also wrote a brief history of his wartime experiences. Which I will write up here later on... until then you'll just have to wait!
Now the very same day that I mailed home the tags to Brian, I sent home a set of tags to the son of Stan Yarker 7896036. His son emailed me and said he would scan in his fathers photos from the war and mail them to me on a memory stick. Fantastic. After opening and readin Brian' letter, I then opened another piece of unidentified mail. This contained a memory stick and a letter. So I popped in the memory stick whilst reading the letter and then the folder with the photos popped up. Quickly flicking through them I see the typical photos of a tan crew standing beside the tank. It's still so wonderful to see the soldiers faces to the tags we have. The next photos was of the back of that photo which revealed the names.
Now you've probably spotted one of the weird coincidental things about this photo. Both tags went home the same day, both letters arrived the same day, both soldiers served at one point in the same tank together... I found this all a little weird. No only that, but I spotted the Sgt bottom right had the name of 'Herbert' and has a medal ribbon, the only medal ribbons usually worn during World War 2 is the MM and Africa Star to which I assumed that was... well on my wall is a dogtag to a soldier Richard Herbert and he was awarded the MM at San Salvo. I grabbed Brian's letter and scan read over it as I'm sure he had just mentioned his tank commander getting the MM at San Salvo! So I recovered 3 out of 5 of the crews tags... would I have the others tags? Was Herbert the commander that Brian mentioned? Had he even seen this photo of himself before?Questions were begging to mount already. I wrote a reply asking lots of questions in response to his letter and the additional ones that I was finding along the way. Mailed it and waited... something that I am not very good at...
A short while later I got my reply! Brians second letter arrived and Herber wasn't the tank commander he spoke about who got the MM at San Salvo, that was Bob Woods, who later got his commision. However, oddly enough both tank commanders got the MM the same day and he served under both at different points. Brian had seen the photo before as he would meet Stan at reunion events after the war right up until Stan passed away.
Like all crews, they went through several tanks, not always because they wre put out of action. No sooner than his crew got their first tank and had got it into combat servicable condition where they tanks taken off them and sent to another unit. Rather frustrating!!! Knowing that the next tank they got would have to be prepared all over again. After Anzio and San Salvo, they were moved to completely differnet areas and so the current tanks were handed over to whom ever arrived to take over and others collected at their new destination.
Brian recalls the only tank that was 'shot out for under him'. While at Anzio, his Sherman was slowly going up a road towards Rome with the delightful task of lookinig for some Tigers! All of a sudden an almighty explosion! Their tank was hit by a Tiger directly on the front glacis plate; whilst they were lucky that it didn't penetrate, he says "that every revit holding the front glacis plate to the gear box went flying like white hot chunks across my lap". Then a cross the intercome came the call 'we've been hit', Brian thought 'as if I needed telling!'.
Stanly Yarker RTR 789603
They crew started to bail out rather rapidly! However Brian found the Shermans 75mm gun had been traversed over his hatch blocking his main exit route from the tank! He struggled for what was about 5 minutes, yet probably feeling like an eternity with that feeling that if another round from that Tiger comes in would have been his last moments on earth! He went back to that tank later on when it was safe and examined where the round had struck. From where he was sat if the round had penetrated the armour it would have hit him in the heart!
The other close call that Brian had during the war was after landing by LST and had driven 20 miles or so to an assembly point for the night. He had just gotten a letter from home, so was sat on a small folding canvas stool right in front of his tank. Happily reading away, when someone shouted "Jerry Planes!", whilst confortably reading, Brian thought 'should I move?' Something told him that he needed to move right away. What could have only been 4-5 seconds, trying his damnest to sqeeze between the tracks. Suddenly there was a roar of a plane in full dize with cannons firing away and then as fast as it started it was all over. Brian crawled out from under than tank and thought, 'Ah, I can can contnue with my letter'. However, when he got back to where he stool had been, all he found of it was some splinters of wood and a rather poorly looking piece of canvas! Five more seconds of reading would have been his last!!!
Reading Brians letters and the way he speaks about the guys he served with brings all these names and numbers that I see all the time to life. Even simple lines such as 'Bob Mattingley always wore highly polished boots, even in the desert' bring some of these characters to life. It makes me smile each time Brian refers to Sgt Richard Herbert as simply 'Dickie'. As all the reports you ever read and devoid of any sort of personallity and are almost sterile when reading. The same as most history books really. Now seeing the way Brian talks about his friends, makes this a real personal war on a one to one scale, that is sadly lost to almost all people interested and studying any war.