Memories of the Green Howards WWII

The 50th (Northumbrian) Division included the Infantry Brigades 149th, 150th (4th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, 4th and 5th Green Howards and 5th Durham Light Infantry) and 151st. The division was mobilised on 1st September 1939 and in October 1939 was under the command of Major-General Giffard Le Quesne Martel, focused on training in the Cotswolds. Then in January 1940 embarked to France to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). My father (Pte RL Hymer), in the 4th Green Howards fought in France and retreated to Dunkirk. After which was sent to North Africa and in the Battle of Gazala, Rommel surrounded the 150th Brigade Box known as the Cauldron until it was gradually reduced over a stubborn defence and overrun by noon on 1st June 1942. Prisoners were then taken through Italy to German camps and Stalag XVII B [Pottenbrunn, Austria] is where he was taken. His mother, Margaret Hymer (21 Salisbury Street, Thornaby-on-Tees) sent a parcel to him on the 31st December 1944, rather than the Red Cross. Home from the battlefields, the Green Howards honoured with the freedom of Middlesbrough – 1946.

Photographs and details courtesy of Michael Hymer.

17 thoughts on “Memories of the Green Howards WWII

  1. My father, William Daniel Perry, was discharged from the “Green Howards” having previously served in the Yorkshire & Lancashire Regiment from 22.4.41 to 3.6.42.He was a private, and was captured at Tobruk and sent to an Italian POW camp. He escaped from the camp and spent about six months in the Italian mountains living in an Italian village that did not support Mussolini or Nazi Germany. Eventually he had to leave as it became too dangerous for the villagers to hide him. He was recaptured though, and sent to Stalag X1A In Germany from 4.6.42 to 17.4.45 under very poor living and working conditions making bricks. Near the end of the war he escaped again and met up with the American army who retuned with him to the camp and liberated the POW’s. He stayed with the Americans in Berlin until the British was able to fly him home to Barkingside, Essex. Dad was born in 1915, Silverton, London, England, and died in 1992, Hatfield Peveral, Essex, England.

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  2. I am trying to get info about my dad who was in the greenhowards from 1939 to 1945 his name was Lawrence Taylor

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  3. My Grandfather was Alexander (Alec)Hutchinson, died 1958, I never met him. I recall seeing a dog tag my father kept which I am sure was Stalag XIV B. This was Alec’s ID while a prisoner, after capture in N Africa. Does anyone have any information on that camp or the March the men were forced to make by the Nazi’s
    Thanks
    Nick Hutchinson

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    • Information retrieved from Find my Past – possible solution

      British Army Casualty Lists 1939-1945
      WO 417 / 91 : Green Howards : Army No 4391119 : Hutchinson, A
      Rank Cpl : 5th Battalion Green Howards : Western Desert

      WO 392 / 21 : Prisoners of War : Italy : 1 British Army
      Camp no PG 65 : Hutchinson, A : Rank Cpl : Army No 4391119 : Green Howards
      Camp no PG 65 : located near Gravina in Italy

      WO 392 / 11 : Prisoners of War : Germany : Section 1 British Army
      Camp No 344 : Stalag VIII B ( Lamsdorf ) Poland
      POW No 220716 : Hutchinson, A : Rank Cpl : Army No 4391119 : Green Howards

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  4. Thanks to all who have added information about the 4th and 5th battalions of the Green Howard’s and their role in the Battle of Gazala. I am still trying to,find more information about what happened to him having been taken POW at Gazala. Looking for information about his route and stay at Macharata in Italy and then at the Stalag camp in Torgau, Germany. Anyone know what it was like at Torgau and how he was liberated. He was there for nearly 4 years.
    Thanks
    Dave Cooper

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  5. My dad L.Cpl Bernard Cooper was in the 4th Battalion Green Howards. He fought in the Battle of Gazala May 28-June 1. He was captured and went first to an Italian POW camp in Mascerate and ended up at Stalag 4b at Torgau where he became an arbeitskommando and worked repairing railway lines that the British and American bombers blew up! I would like to know what happened to him either on his way to Africa. I have photos of him in Cairo enjoying himself but have no idea how he got there. Also I don’t know anything about his release from Torgau and how he got back to England. If anyone has any details please email me davidbcooper1952@gmail.com

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    • David, the only way to the Middle east at that time was by troopship and it would be round the Horn off Africa up the red sea to Suez. They would then go to massive camps in the Canal Zone to be brought up to fitness and get used to the conditions.
      The Battle of Gazala stopped Rommel so he tried a Southern attack and was frustrated by the Free French at Bir Hakim. Rommel then attacked again in the North driving the British back Tobruk fell and something like 50,000 of our troops were killed wounded or taken prisoner. It was supposedly Rommel’s biggest victory in Africa.
      Two men I knew who were POW’s worked in the mines they told me you got extra rations if you worked as against starvation rations if you did not.
      Many of the POW’s freed by advancing troops were flown home, they were lucky, others in camps further east took part in long marches to the west to escape the Russians many died on the way.
      I got some of this information from men who came back to work in the factories I worked in. Jimmy Burnip Stan Browm, Mick Dolan and some who’s names have gone. Some like Charly Garbut were called up sent to Germany wounded sent back and invalided out near the end of the war all within months. Most never spoke about the war experience some could not forget it.
      Frank.

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      • Thanks Frank for adding to the story. The little I know from what he did in the desert was that he was forever digging trenches. He gave the impression that he saw little active duty but what I have found about the Howard’s 4th battalion was they were short on ammo and fought to the last before surrendering.

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        • David, Infantry have to carry everything on their backs. A Rifle nine pounds, (I was a Bren gunner so it was twelve pounds) then ammunition in bandoleers of fifty rounds plus all the kit to exist once in the line. If dug in you relied on runners bringing up extra ammunition food and water. Once your supply line was cut you were on your own with what you had.
          My time in the middle east was 1947-49, it was still by Troopship but we went up the Mediterranean stopping at Gibraltar for repairs after an Atlantic storm then Malta to Port Said and by Train to Suez where we had fourteen days training for the conditions as your Dad did then on to oversee the Mandate May 1948, not a good time.
          It took around 70% of the Army to put 20% near a front line that includes Infantry Armour and Artillery, they are the people doing all the fighting, by the end of the war most fighting units had nearly 300% turnover. Wounded were sent back to their units after recovery as i was, it was how it was done, the Dead never came home as they would now.
          You may ask how I know about this, I made it to WO1, was in the Middle East when we still had hundreds of German POW’s working for and with the army as they could not go home to some parts of Germany at that time.
          An eye opener to me in Convalescent camp where Germans were sent who were about to go home they mixed with us ate and drank with us they also went on guard with us. Two came to my tent cleaned my Sten gun and Browning Pistol loaded the mags pushed me in an old fashioned whicker bath chair to our position on the Canal then brewed tea. I told them if there was any trouble take the weapons and hold while i ran for help. Soldiers are all the same really Pacifists at heart.
          Frank.

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          • I where the vets badge meet people all of the time you are right my farther went by the cape to north Africa spent six years there during the war My own service three years sent to Kenya by troop ship Dunera them times you could not come home two years in a tent and six month in Barhian i also was a bren gunner I served in the Coldstream Guards 2nd bat 59 to 62

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    • Details of Inscription given on website, alas not all the names are recorded.
      Imperial War Museums, Memorial Stockton.
      WM Reference 9789

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  6. There were so many of them David, many Infantry both Light and Heavy lost up to 300% of their men from 1940 to 1945 and continued losing men for many years after in what the Governments of the day called “Bush Fire Actions” to those of us involved it seemed like war to us.
    I was with Armour but you cannot go charging off without Infantry cover so the PBI were always in up to their necks it is not generally known that it takes 75% of the Army to put 25% into the front line so those Infantry Regiments took the brunt of all fighting.
    We saw many brought wounded from the front to the Local military Hospitals such as Sedgefield, walking wounded would be seen in Town in their blue uniforms and they talked, we probably knew more that was going on than the News media said.
    I take my hat off to the DLI, Green Howards and other local troops who knowing the odds still went off willingly.
    Frank.

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    • Commonwealth War Graves
      Pte Alfred Harris : Service Number 4392226
      Regiment & Unit : Green Howards (Yorkshire Regiment) 6th Battalion
      Died 09 August 1944 : Age 25 Years
      Buried : Banneville-La-Campagne War Cemetery XVI. A. 15. France
      We all remember their service to our country and us, Lest we forget.

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