Desert Rats return to old base

VIDEO Brave men rejoice in adversity, just as brave soldiers triumph in war.

BRAVE men rejoice in adversity, just as brave soldiers triumph in war.

Orwell Park School hosted the annual Desert Rat Reunion this weekend, as veteran soldiers from the Seventh Armoured Tank Division gathered in the beautiful grounds to exchange memories and make new friends.

The division, which fought in every major battle during the North African Campaign and battled its way across Europe, spent a month camped at Orwell Park preparing for the Normandy Landings.

Pupils marvelled at the vintage militaria and vehicles on display and absorbed the stories of extraordinary sacrifice the men made more than 60 years ago.

Rodney Scott, Chairman of the Desert Rats Association, had a few stories to tell about when the division was stationed in Nacton.

He said: “The men were all camped outside in tents while the officers stayed inside the building. There was a restriction on going down to the local pub, so one night a load of them jumped into a tank, knocked down the fence and went for a drink, before coming back a lot happier!”

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Paul Stockwell, of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) was at Orwell Park with his family to see his grandfather-in-law William Cutting - a 98-year-old Desert Rat.

Mr Stockwell, 37, said: “These men have seen and been through so much, it's hard for us to imagine.

“It's good that they can come back and relive their experiences. It can sometimes be difficult to talk to anybody but your own.”

Ray Bebbington, 75, and John Adshead, 84, both now live in Kent and served together in the Far East.

Mr Adshead, who also spent time in France, had not been back to the area in 60 years.

He said: “I wasn't here for very long but I enjoyed it. There was a great camaraderie among us and it's good to get together again.”

Mr Bebbington said: “I never have any bad memories of those days. I could have been up to my neck in bullets but I'd only ever think of the good times.

“It's a pleasure to come here. They put on a show for us that is second to none and the children talk to you with the utmost respect.”

Do we do enough to remember our wartime heroes? Write to: Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk