Desert Rats return to Suffolk

SURVIVING members of one of the most famous British army divisions every have visited a Suffolk school to tell today's youngsters about their role in World War Two.

SURVIVING members of one of the most famous British army divisions every have visited a Suffolk school to tell today's youngsters about their role in World War Two.

The 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats, paid their annual visit to Orwell Park School, in Nacton.

For the seventh year running 31 war veterans from the Desert Rat division and their families enjoyed a musical recital by several pupils from the school and had a celebratory lunch followed by a procession across the playing fields to the Desert Rat memorial.

The Desert Rats were formed in 1938 when British Troops in Egypt assembled a mobile force to counter the threat from the Italian Army, who, as close allies of Germany in World War Two, were expected to attack the Suez Canal.

On May 8, 1944, the armoured regiments moved to Orwell Park School in Ipswich, where they camped out in tents in the school grounds before sailing from Felixstowe to the Normandy landings on Gold Beach in June 1944.

The veterans were given a special welcome at the school by Paul Forte, the headmaster, and then enjoyed a musical recital performed by several pupils of the School.

Most Read

Mr Forte said: “It was a wonderful experience for the children to meet war veterans, and it's so important that they understood what they represented.

“I have great faith and hope for the youth of today as they go on to become the leaders of tomorrow”.

There was a service of Remembrance which concluded with Reveille played by bagpiper, Rod Caird and during the afternoon the Ipswich Hospital Band entertained both guests and parents with an eclectic mix of songs from the shows, favourite film themes and some jazz classics from the 1940's.

A wartime USAAF Mustang fighter - similar to those which flew from East Anglian airfields - performed a low-level flypast.

The pupils of the school were also able to explore the various Sherman tanks and other wartime vehicles on display in the grounds, arranged by Rod Scott, Chairman of the Thetford Forest Desert Rats Reunion.

Have you been involved with the Desert Rats? What do think?

Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter