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“H” SQUADRON

8th Royal Tank Regiment Reunion Association

97 YEARS OF H SQn


1. H Squadron was created as a Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps in December 1916, and in June 1917 became a Battalion of the newly formed Tank Corps.  After fighting at Arras and Pyres, H Battalion, along with the 8 other Battalions fought at the battle of Cambrai – H Sqn being part of the 3rd Tank Brigade (the famous centre division).  Those of you who have visited Cambrai will know about Hilda; a tank made famous by Brigadier Ellis, commander of the Tank Corps who rode into battle with H Battalion with his now famous brown, red and green flag wrapped around his ash plant.


2. On 28 Jul 1917 soldiers of H Battalion were issues Red and Blue epaulettes to be worn on their shoulders and later that year 22, 23 and 24 Companies were renamed A, B and C.  In January 1918 H was renamed the 8th Battalion and soon equipped with Mark Vs.  Later that summer at the Battle of Amiens the Eighth was again in the van of the battle and this time demonstrating the first example of what we would now recognise as effective combined arms co-operation, as Tanks were used in cooperation with Infantry, Guns, Engineers and Air.  Following Amiens, the Eighth took part in the storming of the Hindenburg line.  


3. Following the First World War, in a time of austerity when Armoured forces were believed to have had their day, the Eighth was stood down and the flag was lowered.  The miners were demobilised first followed by the conscripted men and the small nucleus of Regular soldiers helped to form the new 5th Regular Battalion.  In 1938 when it became apparent that appeasement was not working and armoured forces would be critical in replying to Hitler’s aggression in Europe the Eighth was regenerated.


4.  In 1939 The Royal Armoured Corps was formed and to prevent the confusing Corps-within-a-Corps the Battalion became the 8th Royal Tank Regiment.  On 13 June 1941, 8 RTR landed in North Africa equipped with Valentines.  The Battalion was heavily involved in fighting around Tobruk throughout that summer including taking heavy losses at the battles of Battleaxe and Crusader.  Following heavy losses across the whole of the 8th Army (which included 1, 4, 7 as well as 8 RTR) in 1942 the Army withdrew, and 8 RTR was tasked to provide the rear guard for that withdrawal.   


5. Later that year after fighting with distinction at El Alamein at the heart of the Desert Rats,      8 RTR lost 22 of 34 Tanks bravely halting the so called supercharged offensive.  The Battalion handed over the remainder of its vehicles to 40 and 46 RTR and fought on their feet in Syria, Sinai and at the Suez.  They were re-equipped in late 1943 and deployed to Italy in the Spring of ’44 to take part in the advance over the Apennine Mountains and the Battalion was commended for its quite brilliant attacks in the Cerasolo area.  The Battalion remained in Italy until the end of the War and spent 1946 in Austria and then Egypt before returning to the UK.


6. In 1960, 8 RTR amalgamated with the Fifth in Fallingbostel and later that year was presented, along with the other Regiments, the first Standard by Her Majesty the Queen.  In 1962/63 H Squadron was commanded by, the then, Major Peter Tustin who is here today with his wife Jean.  H Sqn re-rolled to a Recce Sqn and deployed to Borneo for a 9 month operational tour, again, under Colonel Tustin in ‘65/66.  In 1969, 5 RTR was disbanded and the personnel were absorbed into 3 & 4 RTR.


7. When 1 & 4 RTR amalgamated in 1993 it was decided that each Squadron would draw its lineage from the first eight heavy branch, the machine gun Corps companies.  The modern day H Sqn descends from H Battalion as well as 5 and 8 RTR.  In 1994 from Jul-Oct H Sqn deployed, alongside D as the Prison Guard Force at HMP Maze.


8. On formation of the Joint NBC Regt on 31 Dec 1999, H Squadron was equipped to provide NBC Manoeuvre Support to Land units with the FUCHS Nuclear and Chemical reconnaissance vehicle.  After the Regt was re-named the Joint CBRN Regt in 2005, H Squadron deployed to Iraq again in 2006 on Op TELIC 9 with 110 men as a light role company.


9. More recently H Squadron has deployed to BATUS and taken part in live agent training before deploying to Afghanistan to run the Reception, Staging, Onward movement and Integration of 9500 troops for Op HERRICK 16 before re-orbatting and deploying to Cyprus to run the Decompression facility for the returning 12 Mech Bde, including the kirk of the Regiment.


10. H Squadron have been at the heart of the Regiment’s story for 97 years; as you have heard at various points the flag has been lowered, and then later, when required, a new chapter is opened.  H Squadron’s history has been forged in battle by the men, both past and present, who have been part of this great adventure.  The name and the flag are but symbols of the spirit of H Squadron; the flag is entrusted to the association, for now, and the spirit of being a Tankie and of being in H Squadron lives on in the men of A, D, G and HQ Squadrons.


Fear Naught.


E R G Treliving

Maj

(The last) H Sqn Ldr