Anthony Rampling joined the 61st Reconnaissance Regiment early in 1943. He was a trained to use a Bren gun and in April 1944 transferred from the assault troop to Dick's armoured car troop. Arriving with Dick in Normandy soon after D Day they were ‘brothers in arms’ through the Normandy campaign (including the hell of Briquesssard), the 'swan through France', battles in Belgium and the ill-fated advance of XXX Corps to relieve the 1st Airborne in Market Garden. After a very soggy time holding the line for three months in the Netherlands the Regiment was due to be disbanded but the 'Battle of the Bulge' called for a hasty reprieve and desperate fighting in the freezing Ardennes winter.
By the end of January 61st Recce had lost three-quarters of the men that landed in Normandy (although all of Dick’s troop had survived). Men from the unit were sent to re-inforce other regiments and on 5th February 1945 61st Reconnaissance was consigned to memory and history.
Tony has been a key source of my information on 61st Recce and accompanied this blog from October 2013/1943 to February 2015/1945:
“When I left the Recce after our second visit to Iseghem (Belgium) – after the Ardennes – I went to the 44th Royal Tank Regiment 4 Armoured Brigade. My brother was a Major in the 4th A.B. and her got me in there, saying it was safer than the Recce (I didn’t see much difference).
When I arrived at the 44th in Holland a Sergeant said: “What are you?” I said I was a Driver, although I was a Gunner/Wirless Operator. My driving consisted of 4 hrs training in England. He said “Drive that DINGO”. I was put in the Assault Troop.
After spending most of the time up front in several actions up to the River Rhine I was sent over on a DUKW the night before the main attack the following morning.
Then I was among the first troops in to Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck. We were near Belsen and asked if we wanted to see it. I didn’t go. War was ending.
After a few moves we settled at Rantzau Castle. The Baron left and the Tanks were parked in his drive. There were stables and some nice horses; my friend and I started a riding school . There were plenty of horses left by the German Army and we had prisoners to help with the work.
This was an enjoyable time until August when I was taken ill with pneumonia, massive plural effusion and a collapsed lung. I was taken to Lübeck hospital then Bremen hospital and flown back to Aldershot hospital. Then from Woking hospital, although I was confined to bed I was given a rail pass and put on a train to make my way to Papworth hospital, Cambridgeshire. After some months I was transferred to Broomfield hospital near Chelmsford – they thought I had T.B., like a lot of other soldiers. After bed rest and fresh air I was finally discharged, taking about 18 months in total.
When I recovered I started a wholesale fruit, vegetable and potato business together with a Bomber pilot friend and my brother. From small beginnings this developed into quite a big business. At 65 I sold my shares in the Company and worked from Rome on potatoes, buying seed from Scotland and Ireland and dealing in Ware Potatoes (ready for eating) to the London markets.
At this time we lived in a nice 400 year old farmhouse with 6 acres of land, and had several horses and ponies. My wife and daughter rode and we all hunted. I did some Point to Pointing, Show Jumping and Hunter Trails. During most of this time I was a member of the 61st Recce Comrades Association and went to re-unions. It was nice to keep in touch and we did three trips to Iseghem.
I retired from business at 80 years old and brought a smaller property in a village. I was doing well until I broke my hip and had a pacemaker in summer 2014.”
Luckily Tony recovered and is still following this blog.
Thank you so much Tony for helping me through your war years.