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Memoirs of Norfolk man’s time with secret tanks published

PUBLISHED: 15:19 29 November 2017

The StaffordshireYeomanryTrooper At War Cover featuring Aubrey Burton with a Sherman tank at Fritton Lake in 2011. Image: Courtesy Mid-Norfolk Family History Society

The StaffordshireYeomanryTrooper At War Cover featuring Aubrey Burton with a Sherman tank at Fritton Lake in 2011. Image: Courtesy Mid-Norfolk Family History Society

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The memoirs of a Norfolk man involved in the secret testing of “swimming tanks” at Fritton Lake during WWII have been published by a local society.

Aubrey and Doris Burton on their wedidng day in June 1946. Picture: Courtesy Mid-Norfolk Family History Society Aubrey and Doris Burton on their wedidng day in June 1946. Picture: Courtesy Mid-Norfolk Family History Society

The story of Aubrey Burton, who passed away earlier this year aged 93, has been published by the Mid-Norfolk Family History Society.

Mr Burton, who lived in Beetley, was well-known for his work with Dereham builders Potter Brothers from 1947 to 1979.

However, less was known about his wartime activities as a wireless operator/gunner with the Staffordshire Yeomanry in Duplex-Drive tanks, which were also known as swimming tanks.

Brent Scholes of the Mid-Norfolk Family History Society said: “Training with these tanks took place at Fritton Lake and he twice had to escape from a submerged tank.”

Aubrey Burton with his Legion d'honneur award in 2016. Picture: Matthew Usher. Aubrey Burton with his Legion d'honneur award in 2016. Picture: Matthew Usher.

As well as landing in a Sherman tank on the Queen White sector of Sword Beach on D-Day, Mr Burton also took part in assault crossings of the rivers Scheldt, Rhine 
and Elbe.

“Along with other surviving veterans who helped liberate France, he was awarded the Legion d’honneur in 2015,” said Mr Scholes.

Mr Burton’s tank training started with the Royal Armoured Corps in Yorkshire where he qualified as a wireless operator/gunner having achieved 12 words a minute of Morse code.

“He was then posted to the 13th/18th Hussars at Wickham Market,” said Mr Scholes.

“This regiment was soon posted to Fritton Lake for training by the 79th Armoured Division with the swimming tanks.

“However, before D-Day, he and some others were posted to the Staffordshire Yeomanry, a desert-hardened tank regiment issued with normal Sherman tanks to land on D-Day itself.

“After hard battles in 
Normandy, and facing the sombre task of burying two of his comrades, the Staffordshire Yeomanry was recalled in late July 1944 to Fritton Lake for Duplex-Drive tank training all over again.”

Mr Scholes said the regiment was preparing for assaults on major rivers to be crossed by the Allies and training was conducted at sea and on rivers and canals.

The memoirs, titled a ‘A Staffordshire Yeomanry Trooper at War. My war in a Duplex-Drive (Swimming) tank’ by (former Sergeant) Aubrey Burton are published on demand for £9.22 To order call 07732154759.

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