1940s dinner dance in Thetford to fundraise for ‘desert rats’ memorial

The Desert Rats memorial at Sandhurst. Photo: Ian Paterson, Desert Rats Association

The Desert Rats memorial at Sandhurst. Photo: Ian Paterson, Desert Rats Association - Credit: Archant

Thetford's 7th Armoured Division, known as the Desert Rats, are famous for their exploits, bravery, and sacrifice during the Second World War.

Entertainment at the Desert Rats Association Memorial Day included Swing-Time Sweethearts which got

Entertainment at the Desert Rats Association Memorial Day included Swing-Time Sweethearts which got people dancing. Picture: Rebecca Murphy - Credit: Archant

They are remembered for their service with a stone memorial at Sandhurst Military Academy.

The Desert Rats Association hope to relocate the memorial to the national arboretum in Staffordshire: a dedicated centre for remembrance, which was created to be a permanent place of memorial.

The new memorial will also commemorate all of those who have served with the division to this day.

And to fund raise for the move, association is holding a 1940s themed dinner and dance in Thetford, the only place in the UK that the Desert Rats were ever stationed. The division were in Thetford Forest from January to May 1944 while they prepared for the invasion of Normandy.

The Desert Rats memorial at Sandhurst. Photo: Ian Paterson, Desert Rats Association

The Desert Rats memorial at Sandhurst. Photo: Ian Paterson, Desert Rats Association - Credit: Archant


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Lt Col Simon Copley-Smith, chair of the Desert Rats Association, said: 'We're holding the event in Thetford as that's where the Desert Rats were based in the UK.

'Its an important place for the history of the division.

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'Our aspiration is to raise the money to move the Sandhurst memorial.

'It will be a down-to-earth evening, with period dress, a great meal, and lots of entertainment.

'I'd encourage anyone who's involved or interested in the history of the division to come along.'

The evening will be held at Lynford Hall, near Thetford, on Saturday, October 14, and coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein - the conflict which gave the historic division their famous name.

The event will raise money towards moving the memorial to its new location and expanding it.

The evening's entertainment will include a three course meal, complete with tea and coffee afterwards, special discounts on selected wines, and a raffle and tombola.

There will also a performance from the 1940s-themed group the Swingtime Sweethearts, and a talk from a historian on the Battle of El Alamein.

The dress code for the event is smart and/or 1940s-style, to fit with the theme of the evening.

Advance tickets cost £35, or £30 for Desert Rats Association members, and will not be available on the door. The event will run from 7pm to midnight.

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