Discussion in 'Memorials & Cemeteries' started by aghart, May 13, 2022.

  1. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    Located in a wood near the village of Moreton in Dorset, UK, is a memorial bench dedicated to Sgt R Essex of 50th Royal Tank Regiment. Sgt Essex was killed on 2nd November 1942 during the battle of El Alamein in North Africa. He was commanding a Valentine Tank which was hit and knocked out by a German 88mm A/T gun. The bench had been neglected over the years and was looking very dirty and sad. The Bournemouth, Poole & District Branch, Royal Tank Regiment Association stepped in and got to work on this bench. It has now been cleaned up and it is planned to hold a small remembrance service at the location on 2nd November 2022, the 80th anniversary of his death.

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  2. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    On Wednesday 2nd November 2022 a memorial service took place in a peaceful wooded glade near the village of Moreton, Dorset. The service was to remember Sgt Ronald William Essex, 50th Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) who was killed in action 80 years previously on 2nd November 1942 during World War II.

    Born on 25th January 1912 at Exminster Devon, Ronald’s family moved to Dorset and Ronald was educated at Dorchester Grammar School. He gained an English degree at Exeter University before spending 12 months at York attending a Physical Training course. In 1934 he returned to Dorset and became a teacher at his old school, Dorchester Grammar. In 1938 he married Mary. And a year later he became a father to a daughter Hilary.

    In 1940 he joined the army who due to his background offered him a place at an Officer training School. He declined this and joined as a private soldier although he did quickly gain promotion to Sergeant. Shortly before dawn on 2/11/1942, 50 RTR advancing in support of 5th Camerons during the battle of El Alamein came under fire from a line of enemy Anti-Tank Guns, Ronald Essex’s Valentine tank was hit, and he was killed instantly. He was buried close to where he died but the location was either not recorded or the information was lost, and his final resting place remains unknown.

    For this reason, in 1947 his family placed a memorial bench in his memory in one of his favourite places, close to the village of Moreton. In 2003 Ronald’s wife Mary passed away and her name was subsequently added to the bench. It is believed this was last occasion the memorial was cleaned prior to 2021. In 2021 the poor condition of the bench was brought to the attention of the Bournemouth, Poole & District Branch, Royal Tank Regiment Association (RTRA) Noticing that it was only 14 months to the 80th anniversary, it was decided to try to bring the bench back to life and present it in an acceptable condition in time for that event.

    With a lot of work and many calories burnt the condition of the bench improved, so much so that the idea of a formal remembrance service in November 2022 was born. Preparation began slowly but the pace picked up closer to the date in question. Contact was established with Sgt Essex’s grandson and subsequently with Hilary, Ronald’s now 83-year-old daughter. Cleaning of the bench continued and closer to the anniversary all the pieces came together, and then a week before the event just as we were beginning to relax, potential disaster loomed. The access road to the bench is a quiet country lane out in the sticks, the sort of highway that is resurfaced about once every 75 years, so what do you think the odds were on Dorset Highways planning resurfacing work on the day we needed to use it? Fortunately, they were co-operative and understanding and suspended work on the day we needed access. This allowed us to carry out the final task, which was clearing the ground near the bench of brambles and other potential hazards.

    Come the day, Ronald’s daughter and grandson attended the memorial service, also in attendance were serving and retired RTR officers, representatives from the Tank Museum at Bovington, local people and the Bournemouth & Poole Branch members. BBC TV (South Today) and British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) Radio were also present to cover the story.

    The service was supported by a bugler provided by Poole Sea Cadets, and the bench was flanked by two Royal Tank Regiment Association Standards. A floral tribute from the family was followed by a wreath laid by the Bournemouth, Poole & District Branch RTRA.

    Following the service, a reception was held at the nearby Frampton Arms Hotel.

    BFBS radio asked the Bournemouth & Poole branch secretary why did your branch organise this service? His reply was, Ronald Essex was one of us, he served in the Royal Tank Regiment, we are the Royal Tank Regiment Association, and all this today? this is who we are, this is what we do!
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    Last edited: Nov 9, 2022

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