On the first day of Armed Forces Week, hundreds of people ranging from teenaged cadets to a 98-year-old veteran gathered to remember the men who were the Desert Rats.
The annual Desert Rats’ Association reunion was held yesterday at the High Ash Memorial Site, near Mundford, where the 7th Armoured Division, whose badge was a red desert rat, were based for six-months as they prepared for D-Day.
Beside a memorial topped with a Cromwell tank, the type they took to Normandy, hundreds gathered to pay their respects.
The parade to the memorial was led by the Great Yarmouth Junior Leaders Adventure Corps’ drums and seven of the original Desert Rats attended. They included 94-year-old Ron Groom, who drove himself there from Newport Pagnell, and the oldest veteran Len Burritt, 98, who was the first man to sew the red rat badge onto his uniform after nurses embroidered the initial batch for them in North Africa.
Members of the 7th Infantry Brigade, who now wear the red rat, were there with their commanding officer Brigadier Johnny Bourne and their padre Father Andrew Lane, who conducted the service.
Afterwards Father Lane also held a small private service for a family who wanted to scatter the ashes of their World War Two veteran relative at the site. They did so as a piper played a Rifle Brigade lament.
An Auster spotter plane, which flew over the Normandy beaches in 1944, was flown over the site by Maurice and Diane Hammond, dropping poppy petals.
On the ground there was plenty to see with a display of military vehicles from the Norfolk Military Vehicle Trust and today’s Army. They ranged in size from World War Two jeeps to an Abbot self-propelled gun, which was used by the Army between 1961 and 1990.