Desert Rats remembered at their D-Day training base at Mundford

Beneath the Cromwell tank memorial, helpers use umbrellas to give the Desert Rat veterans some shelter from the hot sun before the parade and service
Beneath the Cromwell tank memorial, helpers use umbrellas to give the Desert Rat veterans some shelter from the hot sun before the parade and service

Now in their 90s, the eight old men in a place of honour needed the shelter of brollies to keep the sun off as the temperatures edged into the 30s on Sunday.

But in their youth some of them helped gave Britain it’s first great victory of World War Two in the far higher temperatures of North Africa, earning themselves the nickname the Desert Rats.

Phoenix Pipes and Drum band lead the parade to the memorial

Phoenix Pipes and Drum band lead the parade to the memorial

The eight were from the ever decreasing band of men from the original Desert Rats – officially the 7th Armoured Division – who attended the annual Desert Rats’ Memorial Day at Mundford, near Thetford, which was the division’s only UK base during the war.

After North Africa, they had fought up Italy then been brought home to prepare on the new Cromwell tanks they had been issued with for D-Day, in June 1944.

Sunday saw them joined by members of the seventh, past and present, and other well wishers, for a ceremony of remembrance in front of a Cromwell tank that has become a memorial to them and their fallen comrades.

There was a parade through the old camp to the memorial, led by the Phoenix Pipes and Drums and the Junior Leaders Adventure Corps band from Great Yarmouth.

General Adrian Bradshaw takes the time to meet  some of the cadets taking part in the event

General Adrian Bradshaw takes the time to meet some of the cadets taking part in the event

After a service, poppies were dropped from an Auster spotter plane which flew for the Desert Rats in Normandy, piloted now by Leah Hammond, daughter of its owner Maurice Hammond.

Norfolk’s Cadet Force joined current service people of all ranks up to General Adrian Bradshaw, former deputy supreme commander of Nato and an ex- 7th Armoured Division commander.

The Desert Rats Association had brought to life the former camp, on which you can still see the foundations of buildings and the tank roads.

There was a massive collection of historic military vehicles and weapons, reenactors and stalls marking everything from Dad’s Army to the Ghurka Association.

Standard bearers came from many veterans groups

Standard bearers came from many veterans groups

If your funds did not run to owning a real World War Two vehicle, perhaps the model ones were more your style.

There were even Churchill and Montgomery look-alikes and the Baker Boys and Swingtime Sweethearts brought back the hits of the 1940s.

A reenactor in uniform of the style worn by the Desert Rats in North Africa in World War Two

A reenactor in uniform of the style worn by the Desert Rats in North Africa in World War Two

Maj Gen Paul Nanson, Colonel Commandant of Sandhurst amd a Desert Rats Association trustee, addresses the crowd

Maj Gen Paul Nanson, Colonel Commandant of Sandhurst amd a Desert Rats Association trustee, addresses the crowd

Bill Wells, Desert Rats and Royal British Legion bugler, with his mascot Glenn on his first parade

Bill Wells, Desert Rats and Royal British Legion bugler, with his mascot Glenn on his first parade

Some of the eight original Desert Rats taking a place of honour in front of the memorial for the  parade and service

Some of the eight original Desert Rats taking a place of honour in front of the memorial for the parade and service

A drummer with  the Junior Leaders Adventure Corps band from Great Yarmouth

A drummer with the Junior Leaders Adventure Corps band from Great Yarmouth

The event attracted a large number of historic military vehicles and World War Two reenactors

The event attracted a large number of historic military vehicles and World War Two reenactors

Standard bearers from several veterans  groups lower the standards as a mark of respect during the silence

Standard bearers from several veterans  groups lower the standards as a mark of respect during the silence