The Wartime Memories Project - The Desert Rats

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World War 2 Two II WW2 WWII

The Desert Rats

The Desert Rats were the 7th Armoured Divison of the British 8th Army under the command of General Montgomery. They saw action in North Africa and Burma during the Secomd World War.

Units of the 7th Armoured Division:

  • 1st Royal Tank Regiment
  • 2nd Royal Tank Regiment
  • 3rd Royal Tank Regiment
  • 4th Royal Tank Regiment
  • 5th Royal Tank Regiment
  • 6th Royal Tank Regiment
  • 7th Royal Tank Regiment
  • 3rd County of London Yeomanry (The Sharpshooters)
  • 4th County of London Yeomanry (The Sharpshooters)
  • 2nd Royal Gloucester Hussars
  • 3rd (The King's Own) Hussars
  • 4th (Queen's Own) Hussars
  • 7th (Queen's Own) Hussars
  • 8th (King's Royal Irish) Hussars
  • 11th (Prince Albert's Own) Hussars
  • 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry
  • 44th Reconnaissance Regiment
  • Household Cavalry Regiment
  • Royal Dragoons
  • Royal Scots Greys
  • 4th South African Armoured Car Regiment (later 4th/6th SA ACR)
  • 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards
  • Kings Dragoon Guards
  • 131st (Queen's) Lorried Infantry Brigade
  • 1/5th Queen's Regiment
  • 1/6th Queen's Regiment
  • 1/7th Queen's Regiment
  • 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment
  • 9th Battalion Durham Light Infantry
  • 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade
  • 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade
  • 9th Battalion Rifle Brigade
  • 1st Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps
  • 2nd Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps
  • 9th Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps
  • 2nd Battalion Scots Guards
  • 1st Royal Horse Artillery
  • 2nd Royal Horse Artillery
  • 3rd Royal Horse Artillery
  • 4th Royal Horse Artillery
  • 5th Royal Horse Artillery
  • 102nd Royal Horse Artillery (Northumberland Hussars)
  • 106th Royal Horse Artillery (Lancashire Hussars)
  • 4th Field Artillery Regiment. Royal Artillery
  • 17th Coast Regiment. Royal Artillery
  • 24th Field Artillery Regiment. Royal Artillery
  • 51st Field Artillery Regiment. Royal Artillery
  • 53rd Field Artillery Regiment. Royal Artillery
  • 60th Field Artillery Regiment. Royal Artillery
  • 97th Field Artillery Regiment. Royal Artillery
  • 146th Field Artillery Regiment. Royal Artillery
  • 57th Anti-Tank Regiment. Royal Artillery
  • 65th Anti-Tank Regiment (Norfolk Yeomanry). Royal Artillery
  • 69th Medium Regiment. Royal Artillery
  • 1st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. Royal Artillery
  • 15th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. Royal Artillery
  • 4th Field Squadron. Royal Engineers
  • 21st Field Squadron. Royal Engineers
  • 621st Field Squadron. Royal Engineers
  • 141st Field Park Troop. Royal Engineers
  • 2nd Field Squadron. Royal Engineers
  • 143rd Field Park Troop. Royal Engineers
  • 22nd Armoured Brigade Workshop, REME
  • 131st Brigade Workshop, REME
  • 15th Light AA Regiment Workshop. Royal Engineers
  • 7th Armoured Troops Workshop. Royal Engineers
  • No. 5 Company, RASC
  • No. 58 Company, RASC
  • No. 65 Company, RASC
  • No. 67 Company, RASC
  • No. 133 Company, RASC
  • No. 287 Company, RASC
  • No. 432 Company, RASC
  • No. 507 Company, RASC
  • No. 550 Company, RASC
  • 4th New Zealand Reserve Coy
  • 1st Supply Issue Section RIASC
  • Divisional Workshops, RAOC
  • Divisional Ordnance Field Park, RAOC
  • Divisional Forward Delivery Workshop Section, RAOC
  • 1st Light Repair Section, RAOC
  • 2nd Light Repair Section, RAOC
  • 3rd Light Repair Section, RAOC
  • 1st Light AA Regiment Workshops, RAOC
  • 15th Light AA Regiment Workshops, RAOC
  • 22nd Armoured Brigade Ordnance Field Park, RAOC
  • 131st Brigade Ordnance Field Park, RAOC
  • 2nd Light Field Ambulance. Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 7th Light Field Ambulance. Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 13th Light Field Ambulance. Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 14th Light Field Ambulance. Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 15th Light Field Ambulance. Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 7th Light Field Hygiene Section. Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 70th Field Hygiene Section. Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 21st Mobile Casualty Clearing Station. Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 3rd Field Surgical Team Royal. Army Medical Corps
  • 7th Field Transfusion Unit. Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 29th Field Dressing Station. Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 132nd Mobile Dental Unit. Royal Army Dental Corps
  • 134th Mobile Dental Unit. Royal Army Dental Corps
  • 135th Mobile Dental Unit. Royal Army Dental Corps
  • 3rd Independent Machine Gun Company, Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 'C' Company, 1st Cheshire Regt
  • No 263 Forward Delivery Squadron, RAC
  • Corps of Military Police (Provost Company)
  • Royal Corps of Signals
  • Middlesex Yeomanry

George Betts grandson Thomas was asking after 8th Army pictures. His email address is no longer active, and so I post these few pictures here for all to view, and possibly in the hope that I may hear from someone who knew my father John (Jack) Frederick Reynolds. There must be thousands of pictures of uniformed servicemen that are NOT in published books! Thomas does not say which 8th Army, 1st or 2nd, but I have just put a few together to share. They may be of some interest.

My Father served in the Middlesex Regiment, attached to the 51st Highland Div. (Motor Transport), and saw much active service across N. Africa under Monty, taking in El-Alamein, Tobruk and later Sicily, though I think in the vanguard. Like many, he kept his war experiences a fairly closed book. The comparison between the 'Back garden' picture, and that taken in Cairo tells of fatigue and trauma. We have a few photos of him in uniform, but have never seen any in print, or newsreel (hardly surprising) until now.

John (Jack) Frederick Reynolds John (Jack) Frederick Reynolds

John (Jack) Frederick Reynolds 6205395. After Dunkirk he was attached to the 51st Highland Division and became what I believe to be known as the "London Scottish", so it says on his cap badge as worn in the first picture, which I have in my possession, along with medals etc. The second pcture was taken in the back garden of 14 Wellesley Road, Wood Green N22.
C Company M.T. section 1/7th Battalion Middlesex Regiment

Somewhere on the South coast. C Company M.T. section 1/7th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, August 1939. (John Reynolds, Back row 3rd from L.) (The reverse gives the Eastbourne photographers business stamped address - so much for secrecy!)
April 1940, somewhere in France with the B.E.F

April 1940, somewhere in France with the B.E.F. (My Dad is seated front right).
Men of the British 7th Armoured Division standing by and upon an artillery piece

This is the picture in print in the book entitled "World war II", Battles of the Second World War by Nigel Cawthorne. Now what is that artillery piece? The soldier centre, lounging by the barrel, has been recognised by family as being a dead ringer for Dad. We are not sure what he is holding, looks like a rolled up paper or possibly a waistcoat similar to that worn by another in the shot. As a small boy I had diecast metal "155mm Gun" made by Britain's, which shot small shells from a spring loaded breech. The gun in the photo looks remarkably similar, but searches on the web have proved fruitless in an attempt to show pictures of artillery pieces used, even from model manufacturers.
C Co. 1/7th Bat. once again, this time Nr. Messina, Sicily 1943. Dad front right.

C Co. 1/7th Bat. once again, this time Nr. Messina, Sicily 1943. Dad front right.
Taken in Cairo

This was a studio shot taken in Cairo towards the end, by which time he had become as black as a native African.

Lastly, an 8th Army re-union dinner, sometime in the late sixties. Fourth from left, back to his cheery disposition once again.

My Dad would never talk about his war experiences. Once when I showed interest in his whereabouts after reading an historical book on the War in North Africa, I pressed him gently for anecdotes, but none came, and I thought it best to leave sleeping dogs lay. He did mention burning tanks and charred bodies, and the tremendous barrage that went up at Tobruk. He said the sound was terrifying and constant, and the night sky turning to daylight from the continuous muzzle flashes. No personal experiences, no names of mates.

It says something of the present times, when such great interest is shown in the past, even by those like myself who were not there. There was madness in battle, and always will be, but freedom was at stake. Today our shores are invaded by political and economical factions, restricting freedom like never before, yet where is the battle?

Derek Reynolds.

My Dad, Alfred William Cox, in his RASC uniform taken in either 1946 or 1948

I know he was in the desert with the 8th army and I have seen a Rat cloth arm insignia so I gather he was with the Desert Rats. If anyone has any pictures with him in or knows what unit he was with or any information I would really like to know.

Mu uncle Derrick Norton was in the 8th Army, Desert Rat. He came from Aylsham in Norfolk. He would not talk about the war. I do not have an Army No. I have photographs of him on his own and also with some other men, written on the back Italy 1943.

He was on the front of The War Illustrated when they went in to El Alamein, which my nan had a copy of but must have got thrown out. Could anyone point me in the right direction to try to get a copy?

I am trying to find anyone who knew my dad during ww2 he served in many campaigns including el alamein where he was a gunner in the tank corps. His regiment was the Royal Dragoon Guards, and I beleive he was attatched to the queens bays. His name was William Frank Heath some people knew him as Bill or Frank he came from birmingham in the west midlands. It would be great to hear from anyone who knew him.

I am trying to find out any information about my grandad known as possible Jim but his name was Ralph James Jordorson, he was a range finder in Alamein battle, I would be greatful for any information and maybe pictures

My late father Frank Lomas was in the catering corp of the 8th army and served in Egypt, and Italy. Mum has one or two photos of him. He would have been 90 next month. If anyone knew him or has any photos please contact me. Many thanks. Anne

My grandfather, Albert Arrowsmith (Bert) was a driver in the Desert Rats. His gunner was Tom Denning. 2nd driver and tea-maker was Dennis Knight. There was also a Wally and an Eric but I don't know if they were part of the tank crew permanently or if something happened to them. My grandad died 10 years ago, and Tom died last year. Dennis is still alive and kicking and it's thanks to him that I now have some photos of my grandad at that time. This afternoon I'm taking some of the mementoes we have of the Desert Rats into my son's class to show and talk about. They're 8 and 9 years old. It all seems like ancient history to them but I'm hoping they'll find it interesting. It has been really nice to read of the rememberances on these pages. I would be very interested to hear if anyone knew of my grandad and his crew.

My father served with the 8th Army his name was Pte. H Beliskey. Does any one have any photos or memories of him as he died in 1988.

My late father also served for a time in the 8th. Unfortunately I do not have names of his colleagues to offer, but if anyone recognises the name Pryce Lawrence I would love to hear from them.

My grandfarther Ernist Martin was in the 8th army dessert rat I have never seen a picture of him so if anyone has one please get in touch.

My uncle Robert Sealy was in Tobruk and I am sure he was at EL Alamain. If any one has any info on what regiment or if he had any friends who knew him please get in touch.

My late father was John Farish (Jack or Jackie) He served as a Staff Sergeant with the 8th army as a desert rat in North Africa, India, Ceylon and Burma during the war. I know he was in Tobruk, at El Alamain, in Calcutta and in Candy (Ceylon) but I'm not sure what regiment he was in. He came from Cumberland (now Cumbria)and was in the territorial army before the war started. I would love to find out what he did and where he went during the war so if anyone has nay information please get in touch.

My Grandfather was in the 8th Army Desert Rats, Named Wallace Beaumont better known as "Wally". I would like to know what the 8th army did and if there is any information I could get to educate myself in what he had to go through. I would love to explain to my children how we have the lifestyle we do today.

My Late father served in North Africa during the war, I think for the Sussex Regiment, his name was Frank Bysouth. He never talked about his involvement so any input would be appreciated. I recently lost my mother and have found a small photo collection which has stirred my interest!

I have several photos of my great-uncle who served with the 8th Army in North Africa and Italy. The information he wrote on the back of a photo was Tgr Ernest Whiley, 8th Army #9, Protective Squad RAC (and) CMF. I was wondering if anyone knew of him and what he did, or anything about this squad?

My father Sam Cooper unit 1515 Artillary plt RASC was a driver in 8th army tobruk and italy. Wonder if anyone still alive knew him, he was Scottish.

My late cousin served with the Desert Rats in N Africa - he was probably a Major at that time and was RASC. If anyone has any photos of the RASC in NA could you contact me please, I'd love to find a photo (group or otherwise) of Maj FCJ Goodyer-Pain. For those with relatives who served with the RASC in N Africa, could you ask them if this name rings a bell.

My Great Grandad fought in both the Africa campaign and the Italian Campiagn. His name was Henry Drummond and he was a driver in the 8th Army Desert Rats. Is their anyone who might of known him

My dad was one of the above, he is now 97 years old. His name is Tom Watson but was known as Watty. Names I have heard from him are Africa Corps. RASC Tobruk. Is there anyone who might have known him?


If you have any Photographs you would like to share please get in touch.

List of those who served in The Desert Rats during WW2.

If you have any names to add to this list, or any recollections or photos of those listed, please get in touch.

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