Sunday, August 27, 2006

A spin in a Churchill tank

A recent news item (August 2006) reported that former WW2 veteran, 83-year old Ray 'Flash' Gordon, had visited the Bovington Tank Museum, Dorset, and had been for a spin in a Churchill tank for the first time in 62 years. According to the report, the last time Ray had been inside a Churchill tank before this was 10 July 1944. This had been during an assault on 'Hill 112' to the South-west of Caen during the Battle of Normandy. Ray's tank was hit by a shell from a German Tiger tank, causing an explosion. Ray was the only one of the crew able to escape the blaze, but in doing so suffered terrible disfiguring third-degree burns.

During his visit to Bovington, Ray had the company of one of the comrades he served with in 9 Royal Tank Regiment, Cyril 'Smudge' Smith. In the news report, it showed both these former troopers taking a ride in a Churchill tank. In Ray's case at least, it was the first time he had been inside one since the war. While Ray experienced the loss of his closest comrades on 10 July 1944 and suffered both physically and mentally, it did lead to a significantly happier event in his life a little later on. Ray went on to meet his wife Joan who was a physiotherapist at the hospital where he was being treated for his injuries.

According to a spokesman for the Tank Museum, Nick Wyness, the intention of the Museum is not just to preserve the vehicles, but to honour the men who fought in them. It seems to me the Tank Museum is doing a fine job in both respects. They also know about the 'Canal Defence Light' as well!

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