43rd Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment on exercise in the New Forest
Rare colour photos taken of A and B squadron from the 43rd Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment, 33rd Brigade undertaking a training exercise in Churchill Tanks on the New Forest around Wilverley Plain and Long Slade Bottom. After discussing the operation on the tank turret the squadron leader gives instructions to the tank commanders and they move out across the New Forest heath land to complete the exercise with some live firing.
We now know more information about this event following research in the War Diaries held in the National Archives. Reports on the days parading can be found in 3 different diary entries with differing levels of information.
War Diary Entry for the 43rd Battalion Royal Tank Regiment
13th August 1942 – 33 Tank Brigade paraded at full strength in battalion ‘Leagers’ for the benefit of 9th Infantry Brigade
War Diary Entry for the HQ 33rd Army Tank Brigade
13th August 1942 – Brigade parades at Long Slade Bottom in triangular Leager formations – very effective indeed and excellent demonstration is given to divisional spectators. The Tks merge in very well to rough heathland. Brigadier addresses spectators on loud speaker equipment.
War Diary Entry for the HQ 9th Infantry Brigade
13th August 1942 – Parade of tanks by 33rd Army Tank Brigade held at Long Slade Barrow 11:30hrs
All Photos are credit: Imperial War Museum for Non-Commercial Use (Licence)
There are also additional sets of photos and a British Pathe Video of Churchill Tanks in the New Forest:
Black and white photographs: Churchill Tanks of 33rd Army Tank Brigade manoeuvre en masse.
Series of photographs showing a standard day of operations for the 33rd Army Tank Brigade carrying out ordnance, tank recovery and repair operations at Burley: Tank recovery and repair operations by 33rd Army Tank Brigade at Burley.
British Pathe Video from 1942
For 33 Bde War Diary entry on 13 Aug 42: Text reads:”Tks merge in very well to rough heathland” (Tks is the usual abbreviation for tanks). A Leager (rather than laeger) is a term still used today, tank troops would be allocated to each side of a ‘box’ formation with responsibility for defence of those arcs – turrets would be turned outwards; the HQ element would reside in the middle – shortest distance for all troops to communicate as the leager would normally be on radio silence too. The Bren gunners on top of the turrets would providing local air defence (see photo above), with armed guards patrolling on the ground. I doubt live firing would have occurred in the New Forest; also the tank rounds do not produce that much smoke unless they are ‘blanks’; it is possible a smoke screen is being laid to obscure the tanks advancing across open ground in the assault. All would look very good to the “divisional spectators” anyway! Great colour photos!
“…excellent demonstration is given to divisional spectators.”