BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

Joining the 4th Queen's Own Hussars

by Ron Goldstein

Contributed by 
Ron Goldstein
People in story: 
Ron Goldstein
Location of story: 
Italy
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A2310003
Contributed on: 
18 February 2004

The first post-war official photo, taken at Ferndorf. See below for surnames of all concerned

Joining the 4th QOH

(Some use has been made here of the 4th QOH Regimental Diaries and I fully acknowlege any or all copyrights to the original publishers)

By the 19th of March, 1945 I had finished my transformation from driver-op in Light Ack to loader-op in the RAC and I was posted to the very prestigious cavalry regiment, the 4th Queens Own Hussars, then in the line at Ravenna.

En route to join the Regiment I was first posted to ‘E’ FDS (Forward Delivery Squadron) where I found myself in charge of a squad preparing Fantails for delivery to units getting ready for the Commachio push.
The Fantails were amphibian versions of the Sherman Tank, designed to cross the marshes and at that time very ‘hush-hush’.

22/3/45 My diary reads:
The ‘Fantails are now in the wood, having been brought in 1 o’clock in the morning. Weird looking things. Spent greater part of the day un-sheeting. Had to guide in a new lot at 9.30 pm.

23/3/45 Am now I/C grease point. Only got through four of the water buffaloes. Everyone needs a bath and some rest. At 8.30 pm met transporters, unloaded and guided in the ‘jobs’.

24/3/45 On solid days work and then we had to go back after dinner till 8.30 pm. The staff officers are in one big flap. Parcel (from home) with wine in it.
29/3/45 Army records confirm this is the day I joined the 4th QOH.

My first shock on joining "A" Squadron was to find the following:

l. I had been assigned as wireless operator to the SSM (Squadron Sergeant Major), one Sgt. Major "Busty" Thomas, as Welsh as it was possible to be.

2. His tank wasn’t the nice, solid-looking Sherman on which I had been trained for the past three months, but was instead a Stuart tank from the 8th Army desert days. To make matters worse its turret had been removed and the only protection "up top" was a canvas hood that was designed to keep the rain off.

3. The SSM's job on the battlefield was to act as nursemaid to the squadron, and this involved anything and everything that no-one else had been detailed for, including picking up stragglers, prisoners, the wounded, and in fact every job that no one else could be spared for, or, would want to do.

Once I had recovered from my first shock I settled in quickly and soon discovered the difference between being in a unit that was strictly an "up front" operation, as opposed to being in a support role such as the Ack Ack regiment I had previously been in.

The next thing I found out was that the Regiment was now part of an armoured spearhead that had been formed to capitalise on the breakthroughs that were taking place here in the very north of Italy. The Germans were finally on the run, and the need was not so much for heavy artillery and slow moving support groups, but rather for fast moving light vehicles and particularly armoured vehicles that could carry infantry right up to their firing positions.

Consequently the Sherman tanks had their turrets taken off, their sides built up and almost overnight were transformed into a new secret weapon with the code name ‘Kangaroos’.

I was elected cook for our tank and also Lt.Walmsley’s tank and to my surprise made a pretty good job of it, of which, more later.

The crew consisted of myself as wireless op and gunner, Busty as tank commander and a lad called Steve Hewitt, or more commonly referred to as "Hewie" as driver. By the way, on the point of nicknames, everyone had one and I was always known as Goldy. The armament of the tank consisted of a .3O Browning machine gun mounted fore, a .50 Browning mounted aft,a 2“ mortar, loads of grenades and pistols that we all wore in our webbing holsters.

We were always very mobile. This mobility was taken to such an extreme that it is worth a short description of the routine.

Suppose that we had been moving along a road and the order to halt came over the radio. We would pull off the road, get under the nearest tree for camouflage purposes and then our bedding sacks would be thrown off the back of the tank, quickly followed by the small cooker and the half petrol can that served as the brew up can.

If we were there for five minutes tea would be made and we would start to cook a meal. If the order to move came crackling over the radio we would simply throw everything back on the tank and the hot brew up would be hung at the rear of the vehicle.
If, however, it became apparent that we were there for the night, the bedrolls would be unrolled and, providing we were not on guard or wireless watch, we would get down to some sleep. The tank suits that we wore were ingeniously designed so that one could unzip them right down to the ankles and we would then use them as an extra ground sheet. In the morning one would then just reverse the process, zip up, roll the bedroll back to its packed position and we were ready to move off again. You can see my tank suit here :

http://db.bbc.co.uk/dna/ww2/A2017630About links

Regimental Diaries for that period read as follows:
1st March to 8th March
Re-equipping of A Sqn
16th March
A Sqn moved to new location 522270
19th March
A Sqn trained with Royal West Kents
20th March
A Sqn trained with Royal West Kents. 1200 (hrs) One Kangaroo carrying guardsmen of the 2nd Coldstream Guards exploded on a dump of mines causing the complete wreckage of the Kangaroo and killing 3 Guardsmen and wounding 5. The commander was killed and the driver seriously wounded.
21st to 25th March
A and C Sqns trained with Infantry with B Sqn as Armd protection
29th March
A Sqn carried 6th RWK in exercise HOSANNAH, the Armd protection supplied by the 9th Lancers. 49 Wos,Sgts and Ors departed on Python
By the 15th A Sqn was equipped with the long promised Priest Infantry carriers and on the 16th the Rgt started to move up into an area where it could train Infantry units of 56,78 and 8 Indian Div. as they were available from tours in the line.
All this month the ground has been dry enough for tracked vehicles to deploy and move across country.

One of the perils of rapid advancing that was taking place at that time was that if you broke down, you were left to your own devices until the rear parties could catch up with you. On one occasion, later in the day, we had some barbed wire entangled in our tracks that brought us down to a crawl, and we had to drop behind the main advance. Fortunately we were near a farmhouse, and so we decided to bed down for the night and wait until daylight would allow us to see what we were doing.

Before we could get to sleep we were disturbed by some Italians who had their hands full of rifles of various types. Apparently they had been informed by some earlier troops that if they had arms on the premises they must hand them in to avoid being shot as German collaborators. Quite naturally they were very keen to hand them over to us, but by the same token we were loath to tell them to fill our small crowded turret with their antiquated firepower!

We solved the matter in a rather black comedy manner by allowing them to pass the guns up to us and then, in the dark, we threw them over the other side of the tank instead of into the turret. At first light we got rid of the offending barbed wire and got away sharp before the Italians discovered they had been spoofed.

Back to the cooking while I think of it. It was the practice then for two tanks to "mess" together for the purposes of drawing rations etc., and we used to mess with Lt. Walmsley's tank. If I remember rightly he was second adjutant to the squadron leader, but he was certainly Canadian by birth. I still remember the fact that he used to put his marmalade on top of his fried bacon, and when he once saw me looking at him with amusement he rejoined; "It all goes down the same hole, doesn't it?"
As official cook I would draw rations usually every second day, and I would be permanently on the lookout for a chance to swap items with the locals for eggs or bread, to supplement our diet. I became a pretty dab hand at finding potatoes in the fields and even managed to produce the odd spotted pudding for high occasions.

On one occasion only Busty complained about the "sameness" of the cooking, and I was so incensed that at the next meal I gave him his plate piled high with his original rations of corned beef and dehydrated potato. Fortunately for me he saw the humour of the matter and accepted the fact that of the six crew that I was cooking for, I was probably the best bet.
As I have already mentioned I found I had an aptitude for languages and by now my Italian was pretty fluent. Consequently, whenever it was necessary to do a small reconnaissance I was often chosen to go with to interpret.

April 1945
Regimental Diaries:
1st April
4TP A Sqn carried 43rd Royal Marines Commando in Op Roast and were extremely successful, 43rd Commando being responsible for 420 of the 1000 POW taken by the Commando Brigade. One Kangaroo hit by 50 mm but was recovered. No casualties.

The attack over the Senio

Regimental Diaries:
A Sqn carried London Irish Rifles on 2nd Armd Bde exercise, Armd protection by the Queens Bays
3rd April
A Sqn carried 5th Buffs on 2nd Armd Bde exercise, Armd protection by the 9th Lancers
5th April
A and B Sqns moved to GODO area
6th April
Preparation for Op BUCKLAND
9th April
A Squadron HQ moved to area 420385
10th April
A and B Sqns crossed the Senio
11th April
1630 hrs A Sqn moved to outskirts of LUGO. A Sqn 2 and 4tp carried Gurkha Rifles. 1 and 3 Tp carried RFF Rifles in an advance to the banks of the river SANTERNO. After 1 and 3 Tp dropped their Infantry they encountered A/Tk mines. 6 Carriers of 1 Tp and 1 of 3Tp were damaged. No casualties.
13th April
A and B Sqns moved off with 2 Armd Brigade and passed through the bridgehead. Advance went very well as far as the canal crossing 315535 where the bridge was blown causing the advance to be held up. At first the advance was rapid but later Kangaroos met ditches which slowed them down considerably. A number of POW were taken. Own casualties one NCO killed and 2 wounded. The Sqn was subjected to very heavy shell and mortar fire during the whole of the day.
14th April
2nd Armd Bde advance. A Sqn entered LAVEZZOLA to advance North of the RENO bridge which on arrival was found to be partially blown. Considerable mopping up was done by all troops during the day..
15th April
All Sqns spent the day reorganizing and doing maintenance.
16th April
A Sqn moved across river RENO to area 331581. Intention, immediately the ARGENTA Gap was broken the group would advance North. Waited all day while others battled to break through the ARGENTA Gap.

18th April
A and B Sqns forming part of 2nd Armd Bde Grp advanced to form bridgehead across FOSSA SABBASOLA at 240665. A Sqn worked hard all day to be rewarded with excellent results. RHQ Tp did bulk of work but suffered 2 Kangaroo casualties. Air bursts over the 2nd i/c’s Honey badly wounded 2 of the crew. In general, the enemy were taken by surprise.. Many SPs and Mark Ivs were encountered but in conjunction with excellent fighter-bomber support throughout the day the majority were destroyed. (See my diary for the same day)

Sunday 8th. April 1945
Colonel gave A and B squadrons griff talk talk for this 'final' campaign. Packed tank sheet and covered my bed with Honey canopy.
Monday 9th April 1945
Moved to other side of Traversare. Dug in and have bivvie to myself.. D day and H hour have started. One rocket landed fairly near. Leaflets dropped.

One interesting feature at this particular time of the war was the increase in Jerry propaganda to which the front line troops were subjected. At one time I had quite a few of these and in my Album there is still a small collection.
See my posting (A2297333) German Propaganda Leaflets.

Since I first wrote the article above I have had the odd contact from relatives who had seen the photo on this and other sites.
For their benefit I now give the surnames of all those depicted, which, in a moment of brilliance, I had written on the back of the photo before I put it in the Album.

Starting with the back row and reading from left to right.
House,Westlake,Burroughs,Carstairs,Holmes,Lees,Haines,Vic Hatch,Ron (that's me), Hunt,Ball,Hewitt,Jefford,Richardson,Dash,Howell,Harwood,Hewitt, (No relation) Rayston,Shave,Bellinger
Fourth row:
Stilletto,Evans,Fortheathe,Houldsworth,Staite,’Jock Ewen,Willis,Rolfe,Jones,Syms,Bennet,Holmes,
Manning,Lawrence,George,Miller,Howard,Pulham,Faulkner,Davis,Johnson,May,Marrison,Grant,
Ward,Cresser.
Third row:
Biggs,Kendal,Ewens,Wyatt,Ashford,White,Joe Metcalfe,Garnett,Jackson,Westwood,Oag,
‘Dicky Hole’,Wilson,
Wallis,Gorton,Elliot,Brennan,Ayre,Haines,Waite,Gerahty,Mollard,Jarvis,Porter,Stillwell,Crighton
Richardson.
Second row:
Fuller,Cunningham,Butterworth,Maloney,Lascelles,Ward,Graham,Munns,Gould,Allsop,Skinner,
Brown,Davies,Rigby,Douthwaite,Hobbs,Jervis,Holmes,Davis,Sherman,Vic Ullrich,Thompson,Cross
Leigh,Bowler
First row:
Hills,Wakes,Tom Metcalfe,Haywood,Hasted,Boult,Chiltern,Broderick,Ellis,Stone,Buckley,’Busty’ Thomas,
‘Paddy’ O’Brien,Waddingham,Walmsley,Harris,Jackson,Rogers,Taylor,Holland,Balfour,McMoreland
Atkiinson,Mundy

Please contact me by e-mail if you have any queries about someone in the photo

Ron

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Forum Archive

This forum is now closed

These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Joining 4Hussars

Posted on: 18 February 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Ron,
you must admit that all the fun,excitement of the war started for you when you joined the Tank Corps,while I was still reclining in hospital at Catania watching the steam rising from Etna. It was a bit like watching paint dry and just as interesting !

 

Message 2 - Joining 4Hussars

Posted on: 19 February 2004 by Ron Goldstein

Tom
It depends on what you mean by 'fun'and yet I have to admit there is an large element of truth in what you have just written.
When I was in the Light Ack Ack, if I was being bombed, shelled or mortared it was all very impersonal. Once I'd joined the Armoured Corps however, if someone fired at me they were actually trying to kill me and this certainly added zest to the quality of life.
On the credit side was the great camaraderie I was to find amongst all the tank crews, without exception, and this is the abiding memory that lingers still today.
Keep well
Ron

 

Message 3 - Joining 4Hussars

Posted on: 19 February 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Ron
you are so right the cameraderie was something to behold as we were all dependent on the others to make it and they , you ! I'm still in touch with Frank Alison as we met on the train from New St Station Birmingham to Bury St Edmonds...we were in the same regiment and when it was broken up he went on to the 16/5 th Lancers and as I was released from hospital and retrained on Armed Cars at Rieti - I then volunteered for the 16/5th and walked in on him in his billet at Knittelfeld in Austria - he nearly died ! I visit him every time I'm in the U.K. - he spent three weeks over here with us a few years ago ! The Tank crews were all the same in every regiment !

Message 1 - information on fred peachey acting section seargent

Posted on: 23 November 2005 by searchingpeachey

I am trying to find out more about my uncle Fred Peachey who was acting section seargent attacking bridges across the river reno in Argentina this according to his citation was where he was awarded the bar to his MM 17TH APRIL 1945 he was wounded there can anyone help me i know of over 10 locations he was at with dates and the attachment he was with in anticipation Mark Brammer

 

Message 2 - information on fred peachey acting section seargent

Posted on: 25 November 2005 by Ron Goldstein

Dear Max

Before I can even think of helping you I have a question for you.
Was the Fred Peachy of whom you speak in the 4th QOH ?.
If so, do you know which Squadron?

By the way, I'm sure you meant Argenta....Argentina was a long way off from where we fought!

Regards

Ron

Message 1 - A Squadron Photo; The definitive list

Posted on: 28 November 2005 by Ron Goldstein

Since I first wrote the article above I have had the odd contact from relatives who had seen the photo on this and other sites.
For their benefit I now give the surnames of all those depicted, which, in a moment of brilliance, I had written on the back of the photo before I put it in the Album.

Starting with the back row and reading from left to right.
House,Westlake,Burroughs,Carstairs,Holmes,Lees,Haines,Vic Hatch,Ron (that's me), Hunt,Ball,Hewitt,Jefford,Richardson,Dash,Howell,Harwood,Hewitt, (No relation) Rayston,Shave,Bellinger
Fourth row:
Stilletto,Evans,Fortheathe,Houldsworth,Staite,’Jock Ewen,Willis,Rolfe,Jones,Syms,Bennet,Holmes,
Manning,Lawrence,George,Miller,Howard,Pulham,Faulkner,Davis,Johnson,May,Marrison,Grant,
Ward,Cresser.
Third row:
Biggs,Kendal,Ewens,Wyatt,Ashford,White,Joe Metcalfe,Garnett,Jackson,Westwood,Oag,
‘Dicky Hole’,Wilson,
Wallis,Gorton,Elliot,Brennan,Ayre,Haines,Waite,Gerahty,Mollard,Jarvis,Porter,Stillwell,Crighton
Richardson.
Second row:
Fuller,Cunningham,Butterworth,Maloney,Lascelles,Ward,Graham,Munns,Gould,Allsop,Skinner,
Brown,Davies,Rigby,Douthwaite,Hobbs,Jervis,Holmes,Davis,Sherman,Vic Ullrich,Thompson,Cross
Leigh,Bowler
First row:
Hills,Wakes,Tom Metcalfe,Haywood,Hasted,Boult,Chiltern,Broderick,Ellis,Stone,Buckley,’Busty’ Thomas,
‘Paddy’ O’Brien,Waddingham,Walmsley,Harris,Jackson,Rogers,Taylor,Holland,Balfour,McMoreland
Atkiinson,Mundy
Please contact me if you have any queries
Ron

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

British Army Category
Italy Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy