Photo gallery: Visitors pay tribute to role of The Desert Rats in D-Day landings
06:30 16 June 2014
Hundreds of people travelled to a memorial to pay tribute to the crucial role two Norfolk army units played in the D-Day landings 70 years ago.
The Desert Rats Association holds a remembrance event every year at the memorial site at High Ash Camp on the A1065, between Mundford and Swaffham, in honour of those who have served in the 7th Armoured Division (The Desert Rats) and the 4th Armoured Brigade (The Black Rats) throughout history.
But this year’s event was especially poignant because of the recent 70th anniversary of D-Day, in which the brigade and the division – stationed at Thetford Forest – were heavily involved.
The Black Rats started to land on the Sword beach in Normandy on June 7 for the operation to invade German-occupied western Europe. The Desert Rats followed them a week later.
Each unit took part in a range of battles including Villers-Bocage, where the Desert Rats were ambushed by German Tiger tanks and had to withdraw.
However The Desert Rats went on to fight the Battle of the Brigade Box, where they effectively halted two German Panzer divisions from attacking an exposed left flank of the American forces from Omaha beach.
Rod Scott, chairman of The Desert Rats Association, said more than 700 people attended yesterday’s event. “We owe our liberty to these people, so people want to come and commemorate what they have done,” he said. “This is about commemorating those that we have lost.”
As well as a wreath-laying and remembrance service, people had the chance to meet veterans from the Desert Rats and talk to them about their service during many conflicts.
A Second World War Cromwell tank, in divisional markings, was also present and led the parade to the memorial.
The site at High Ash Camp was the only place where the Cromwell tanks that equipped The Desert Rats were based.
Mr Scott added that The Desert Rats Association was raising money to ensure the commemorations would continue, as well as create a new museum.
Pay your tribute by writing, giving your full contact details, to: EDP Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.