Second World War Veteran Les Cherrington, a Volunteer at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford will be celebrating a milestone birthday this week when he turns 100 years old! .
As the Museum’s oldest volunteer, Les enjoys engaging with visitors and school groups, sharing his experiences of his time serving in the Army with the Staffordshire Yeomanry Queens Own Royal Regiment. .
Les began his military career in June 1938. His regiment travelled to France and later sailed to Palestine, arriving in January 1940. Making their way through the regions along the Jordan valley and into Syria, his regiment became engaged in combat with the Vichy French Forces. By 1942 horses had been replaced by tanks and Les was sent to the western desert to fight Italian forces who were later joined by the German Afrika Korps. As the war in the desert began to build, the Staffs Yeomanry were transferred into the 7th Armoured Division where it’s exploits in the Western Desert Campaign gained it the ‘Desert Rats’ nickname. .
Les took part in the infamous outflanking manoeuvre through Tabega Gap, Tunisia in the Battle of the Mareth Line, where over 100 tanks from three regiments lined up to face the Afrika Korps who were armed with far superior weaponry. In one battle eight British tanks were knocked out by one enemy shell causing a fire to rage through the line of tanks. Les’s tank suffered a direct hit by an 88mm enemy gun capable of more rapid fire, the shell pierced the tank and exploded. Les was the only survivor. .
After regaining consciousness to find the tank engulfed in flames and his left arm almost completely severed by shrapnel, Les was almost completely blinded from the effect of Cordite. With one arm, Les dragged himself up and through the open turret, slid down the front of the tank on his belly and was hit in the back by machine gunfire before landing on the ground. He crawled into a slit trench where he lay until the next morning when he was found by an Australian soldier. .
Read more about Les's remarkable story on our website www.rafmuseum.org/Cosford
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