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Desert Rats return to their WW2 base for Memorial Day




Tina Keddell, mayor of Watton, and Desert Rats' Association chairman Col Simon Copley-Smith with Richard Heather who served with the rats from 1942 to 1947
Tina Keddell, mayor of Watton, and Desert Rats' Association chairman Col Simon Copley-Smith with Richard Heather who served with the rats from 1942 to 1947

Desert Rats past and present gathered together at High Ash on Sunday for their annual Memorial Day.

The 7th Armoured Division rose to fame in North Africa but High Ash in Thetford Forest, was its only UK base during World War Two and was where it prepared for D-Day with Cromwell tanks.

Veterans of the division were joined by members of the Royal Signals Logistics Corps, who took along a Bulldog armoured personnel carrier and are part of the 7th Infantry Brigade which now wears the red Desert Rat badge.

But they were also joined by members of the public wanting to show their appreciation.

Dan Pickard with Rosa-Bel, Ivo and Otto from Swaffham in an armoured vehicle
Dan Pickard with Rosa-Bel, Ivo and Otto from Swaffham in an armoured vehicle

Rod Scott, vice-president of the Desert Rats' Association, said: "It was a brilliant day – the most people we've ever had there.

"We had the mayors of Watton and Thetford lay wreaths. There were some wonderful Wordl War Two military vehicles, mostly from the Norfolk Military Vehicle Trust."

Poppy petals were dropped from from an Auster spotter aircraft which supported the Desert Rats on the Normandy Beaches in 1944 and is now owned by Maurice Hammond.

Visitors also had a chance to preview the association's new museum on the site, which will be officially opened later this year.

Winterton's 901 Troop Marine Cadets in front of High Ash's Cromwell tank memorial to the Desert Rats
Winterton's 901 Troop Marine Cadets in front of High Ash's Cromwell tank memorial to the Desert Rats
Nigel Apperley from Red Lodge with Jane Penny, Justin and Cameron Wilder from Brandon in a World War Two truck
Nigel Apperley from Red Lodge with Jane Penny, Justin and Cameron Wilder from Brandon in a World War Two truck
  • More of Mark Westley's pictures in Friday's Bury Free Press.


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