The History of the

4th and 7th Royal Tank Regiments

 

1974 - 1981

Lt Col David Sands

On 23 November 1973 Lt Col New handed over Command to Lt Col David Sands, the first Scotsman born and bred to have commanded the Fourth for many years. Under his command the Regiment had the clear prospect of one year in Catterick and thereafter a return to BAOR as a Chieftain Regiment in Munster.

The American Visit

In March 1974 General Don Starry and Colonel Oldinsky from the US Armor School visited the Regiment to study British basic training methods.

Colonel David Sands introduces General Starry to the Director of Music,  Captain Cliff Wright

Colonel David Sands introduces General Starry to the Director of Music, Captain Cliff Wright.

Maj Gen Pat Hobart,DSO,OBE,MC, RTR Colonel Commandant

Maj Gen Pat Hobart,DSO,OBE,MC, RTR Colonel Commandant, visited A Sqn in Berlin. Major Neil Winship and Lt Eyre Maunsell accompany him.

all-weather driving track at Catterick

An expensive project which came to fruition in early 1974 was the all-weather driving track at Catterick.

Passing- Out Parade

In October 1974 General Sir Richard Ward KCB,DSO,MC, Colonel Commandant RTR, attended the 4th/7th Reunion, and was Inspecting Officer for a Passing- Out Parade. Here he inspects a Quarter Guard commanded by Sgt Bourne.

Cpls Logan and Thomas

The Regiment moved to York Barracks, Munster in December 1974 and became operational in Jan 1975. What a relief to be doing once again what the Regiment knew best. The Commanding Officer in “Long Range Desert Group” style with Cpls Logan and Thomas (driving).

SACEUR SACEUR

SACEUR, General Alexander Haig is introduced by the CO to L/Cpl Norman and Tpr Marren, 17 April 1975.

Suffield training

During Suffield training involving 4 RTR BG the Commanding Officer presented a Regimental plaque to CO 12 RBC, our affiliated Canadian Regiment. Sadly we have no other photographs of this time.

Oficers Mess 4 RTR - Dember 1975

Suffield training

The Pipes and Drums say farewell to Colonel David Sands, December 1975.

Lt Col Nick Cocking Regimentsl Orbat - Op Banner

In January 1976 Col David Sands handed over to Lt Col Nick Cocking who had last served with the Regiment as Adjutant throughout the Aden tour and for a while in Seremban. The task which faced the Fourth immediately was Op Banner which would involve a major re-structuring of the Regiment...

Map

After intensive infantry training the Regiment deployed to Northern Ireland in early April 1976 for a four month emergency tour. RHQ, A Sqn and HQ Sqn were initially based at the Maze prison, Long Kesh, but later moved to Lurgan. B Sqn remained at Lurgan and C Sqn at Portadown.

L to R Cpl McClutchie, L/Cpl Hyland, Tpr Lyle L to R Cpl Thomas, Tpr Neish, CO,  RSM Mertens

L to R: Cpl McKinlay, L/Cpl Hyland, Tpr Lyle, Cpl Thomas, Tpr Neish, CO, RSM Mertens.

Knees

The Fourth's Northern Ireland Int Section on a strictly Kneed to Know basis!

guarding the Maze Prison Maze Prison

It may be tempting to think that A Sqn had a routine time guarding the Maze Prison. The following account would suggest otherwise. Life in Northern Ireland was seldom dull.

By the half way stage B Sqn's records show that they had found twelve weapons, 1500 rounds of ammunition, stopped some 10,000 cars and searched 2,000 of them. They had assisted in fifty arrests, made eight hundred 'P' checks, dealt with nearly forty bomb hoaxes and ten live bombs.

C Sqn at the Mahon Road Base at Portadown had a quiet first two months providing an Alert Troop, Guard Troop and Operations Troop rotating on a 24 hour basis. But there was plenty of variety guarding the Tandragee Power Station, patrolling the Town Centre of Portadown, dispatching troops to the Bandit Country of South Armargh and searching endlessly.

A visit by Field Marshal Carver

The Regiment returned to Munster in July 1976. After Block Leave it was Ex Spearpoint. There was then a visit by Field Marshal Carver, shown here with officers of 2 and 4 RTR.

The 1976 4/7th  Reunion at Blackpool

Maj Brian Coombes, Maj Gen Foote, ?, ?, The Mayor of Blackpool, Colonel Reeves (CO 7 RTR at Tobruk),  Maj Gen Strickland, Bill Penketh and Taff John, (Both with ‘Strick’ in the Fourth at Farnham 1937-38 and  at Arras).

 

Sadly we cannot name the ladies.  Help would be welcomed.

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Batus Exercise in 2ft of snow

In October A Sqn went to BATUS with 1 A and SH BG. The final exercise was conducted in two feet of snow.

Alpine and Langlauf teams

For the first time for several years the Regiment entered teams for both Alpine and Langlauf in the 1976 Div and Army Meetings. Considering their lack of competitive experience they performed very well.

Battlefield tour of Arras

In May 1977 two hundred members of the Regiment took part in a memorable Battlefield tour of Arras, with especial emphasis on the May 1940 action involving the Fourth and the Seventh (see also Annex A and Chapter 2010). Eyewitness briefers were as shown.

Major Ken Macksey MC,  Brigadier Peter Vaux OBE,  and Maj Colin Cheshire

L to R: Major Ken Macksey MC, Brigadier Peter Vaux OBE, and Maj Colin Cheshire who master-minded the Battle field Tour.

Commanding Officer laid a wreath on the Arras Town memorial

A poignant moment during the Battlefield Tour as the Commanding Officer laid a wreath on the Arras Town memorial.

Commanding Officer laid a wreath on the Arras Town memorial

Major Franz Wallerstein who won an MC when in A Sqn 7 RTR in Normandy translates for Monsieur Vaudeville, the Mayor of Arras.

Dr Hans-Ulrich Schroeder

Dr Hans-Ulrich Schroeder, Adjt 66 Panzer Bn in 1940, briefs a fascinated audience.

Major Ken Macksey

Major Ken Macksey (late 4 RTR) who won an MC when leading a Churchill Flame-thrower troop in the Battle of Boulogne in 1944, speaks as a military historian and writer on Arras.

Left front Major John Robinson, right Captain George Riordan.

Brigadier Peter Vaux

Brigadier Peter Vaux describes the moment when he saw twenty 4 RTR tanks knocked out

(see also Annex A and Chapter 2010 - The Last Hurrah).

As part of the celebrations the Regiment was granted the Freedom of Arras

As part of the celebrations the Regiment was granted the Freedom of Arras.

The Alamein Band gave a memorable concert in the Arras Salle de Concerts on 18 May

The Alamein Band gave a memorable concert in the Arras Salle de Concerts on 18 May.

A guest night was held at the Hotel L'Univers

A guest night was held at the Hotel L'Univers. The British Officer in uniform left of the central flowers is Brigadier Desmond Langley, later Governor of Bermuda.

4 RTR Battle Group plus a Canadian company of 3rd Princess Patricia's Light Infantry training

By July 4 RTR Battle Group, less B Sqn, plus a Canadian company of 3rd Princess Patricia's Light Infantry, was in Suffield. As they completed their final battle-run B Sqn arrived to join 2 Scots Guards BG. The only record we have of this training is of Captain Mark Goodson and supporting cast posing for an ITV documentary on Suffield!

The Officers 1978

The Officers 1978

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Cocking
Adjt Captain Andrew Hill

The Officers 1978

It was time to prepare for yet another Op Banner Emergency Tour beginning in February 1978.

This time 4 RTR would be responsible for City Centre Belfast, based at the Grand Central Hotel and the Cromac Mission.

4 RTR Op Banner Orbat

It was a major commitment with three main locations - here RHQ and the Grand Hotel orbat:

Markets Squadron Markets Squadron

Secondly the Markets Squadron who had the more interesting role but...

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Markets Squadron hard men off duty. Cpl King (later RSM and Major) seated in the centre. Belfast 1978

City Centre Squadron City Centre Squadron City Centre Squadron

...the City Centre Squadron had the heavier commitment of six rifle troops to guard the gates.

Lt Mike Stephenson and his team in City Centre

Lt Mike Stephenson and his team in City Centre.

Belfast City Centre Squadron 1978

Belfast City Centre Squadron 1978

Major Colin Cheshire

SSM Nichol

News report

Tragedy struck at the start of the tour when Tpr Nowosad was murdered on 3 March while on duty at the security gates in Church Street. The terrorists approached disguised as Rag Day students.

Cpls Frank Mc Cann and Alex Birrell

Cpls Frank Mc Cann and Alex Birrell, who in 2004 would become the Secretary of the 4/7th reunion.

Message from the Commanding Officer Fourthwith  

Cpls Frank Mc Cann and Alex Birrell

An artist's impression – quite close to reality

Time to go home

May 1978

Time to go home.

Col Nick Cocking and the Officers – Munster 1978

Col Nick Cocking and the Officers – Munster 1978.

August 1978 Regiment formed up on the Dorbaum

In August 1978 just back from Belfast, and after some nine months away from proper tanking, the Regiment formed up on the Dorbaum to bid farewell to Lt Col Nick Cocking and to welcome back Lt Col Mike Rose.

The Regimental log “Chinese Eye” records that this was a difficult time. The Regiment was sixty under strength - almost a squadron – and tank skills had suffered from the two Op Banner tours in quick succession. There was great pressure on all ranks and sport inevitably suffered. One piece of good news for the officers was that the ceremonial astrakhan beret was finally given the heave – officially!

It was good to be back in our proper role. b_0_180_0_00_images_Tanks_4and7rtr_tanks_00051.jpg b_0_180_0_00_images_Tanks_4and7rtr_tanks_00052.jpg

 

composition

4 RTR Battle Group took to the field at Suffield once again in June 1979. The composition of the BG was certainly more sophisticated than the 4 RTR BG which pioneered Suffield in June 1972.

The final phase of Op Malplaquet

Lt Col Mike Rose gives his orders for the final phase of Op Malplaquet. The BG covered 136,000 miles during Suffield 79 without accident.

HMS Fife, a County Class Destroyer

After the BATUS training a small group sailed home on HMS Fife, a County Class Destroyer affiliated to the Regiment. In the event she was diverted to assist with disaster relief in the Dominican Republic and the slightly dislocated group returned some six weeks later!

Pipes and Drums

By 1979 the Pipes and Drums were making very good progress. The Regiment's Establishment was annotated from this time to show three crewmen as pipers. Thus all the P and D's kit could thereafter be indented for, a great advance.

The Officers 4 RTR Munster 1979

The Officers 4 RTR Munster 1979

Back Row – Lts P Loggie, R Chesterfield, J Mosley, S Anstey, A Stephenson, R Jenkinson, Capts Ian Lawson,A Fraser, M Stephenson
Centre Row – 2/lt Mark Urban, Capts George Riordan, Tom Horne, Tom Roach, Eyre Maunsell, Brian Wheatley, E R Barnham, Stephen White, Roger Mertens. Ray Tillotson, 2/Lt P Miller
Front Row - Majs Mike Williams, Stephen Doble,Colin Cheshire,Ian Galloway, Lt Col Mike Rose, Capt Martin Speller, Maj Chris Hammerbeck, Chap Clements, Maj Charles Vane-Percy

L/Cpl Gregson piping a 4 RTR Chieftain

L/Cpl Gregson piping a 4 RTR Chieftain across the Weser at Ohr during Ex Keystone, the 2 Div Autumn Exercise.

five of the original survivors The Rhine re-visited

In March 1980 the Regiment re-visited the Rhine Crossing site on the 35th Anniversary. They had the advantage of five of the original survivors, here seen with the CO and Major Peter Bloomfield who enlisted in 1949 and completed a distinguished clerical career by commanding G Sqn.

Inter-Unit Competition at Bisley

Thanks to the consistent leadership of Major Colin Cheshire the Regiment came fourth in the Inter-Unit Competition at Bisley with a score of 394 out of a possible 420.

B Sqn moving through a German village during Ex Spearpoint 80. An RHQ tank during Ex Spearpoint
B Sqn moving through a German village during Ex Spearpoint 80 An RHQ tank during Ex Spearpoint

The 1980 Cambrai Parade

The 1980 Cambrai Parade marched past Brigadier (Later Field Marshal the Lord) Peter Inge.

Exercise Highland Reel Exercise Highland Reel  

1812 Overture November 1980

A performance of the 1812 Overture during a 4 RTR evening for invited guests at Munster in November 1980.

RSM Jess Adjt Capt Mike Stephenson, RSM MacDonald and Lt Col Philip Sanders Hong Kong

In December 1980 RSM Jess handed over to RSM MacDonald, promoted from SSM D Sqn. In January 1981 Lt Col Mike Rose departed for Hong Kong (in a Bangladeshi Staff car!) and Lt Col Philip Sanders assumed command.

Lt Col Philip Sanders

Lt Col Philip Sanders assumed command of the Regiment in January 1981. Like so many of our COs he had previously been Adjutant of the Fourth, in his case in 1970/71 in Hohne.

February 1981: 4 RTR teams active on snow and ice

January and February 1981 saw 4 RTR teams active on snow and ice. The Downhill Team consisted of Lt Harper, Major Mark Goodson, Tpr Swarbrick, Capt Anstey, Lt Ward and Lt Warner. They came 4th in the Divisional Downhill and Lt Warner 2nd individually.

Team 4 RTR Cresta 1981
Pipe Sergeant Harden Pipe Major receives his LS and GC Medal

In the June 1981 Pipe Major Elder handed over to Pipe Sergeant Harden. Elder had served for 27 years, nine of them in 4 RTR. In the Birthday Honours he was awarded the well deserved British Empire Medal. At the same time the newly appointed Pipe Major received his LS and GC Medal.

B Sqn

B Sqn strutting their stuff – Munster.

OC Major Roger Powell RAAC.

B Sqn in Volkslauf mode

B Sqn in Volkslauf mode

Cambrai The Clan Rose Dancers - Farewell The Clan Rose Dancers

The final Autumn in Munster was hectic. In September the Regiment exercised together for the first time for more than eighteen months. After Soltau and BG training came the FTX Jumping Jerboa and then Red Claymore. Cambrai was celebrated with a Drumhead Service. There was block leave over Christmas and New Year.

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Just before departure in early June 1982 Brigadier (later General the Lord) Charles Guthrie, then Commander 4 Armd Bde, later CGS and CDS), addressed the Regiment.

In the next Chapter we see the Regiment deployed in Germany and Cyprus and HM the Queen consecrating new Standards.



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