The History of the

4th and 7th Royal Tank Regiments


1947 – 1953


In July 1947 4 RTR moved from Trieste to El Quassassin, and then to Shandur in the Suez Canal Zone.

Shandur Camp

Shandur was a mixed structure camp as can be seen from this photograph of the visit of General Crawford DCIGS in October 1947. It was designed for one regiment but housed 4RTR, a REME workshop, an ARG and a tank transporter company RASC.

RTR less C Sqn

On 27 April 1948 4 RTR less C Sqn was ordered to deploy to Palestine where the situation was becoming critical. A Sqn (OC Maj Tom Gibbon) arrived in Jerusalem on 3 May.


RHQ and B Squadron 4 RTR were deployed to Sarafand Camp, East of Tel Aviv.

road block near Lydda

B Sqn troop in support of a King’s Regiment road block near Lydda (later Ben Gurion) Airport.

A Sqn in action trying to keep Arabs and Hagannah apart

A Sqn in action trying to keep Arabs and Hagannah apart. The Arab militia had just blown up the Hagannah outpost where flags are flying.


A Sqn in Jerusalem had the toughest time. Events became most problematic as Jerusalem was evacuated on 14 May 1948. 4 RTR led 1st Gds Bde down the main road curving through the hills, through thebottleneck Bab el Wad, to the Latrun Police Station.


Here Jew, Arab, Arab Legion and the retiring British became embroiled. Eventually, with the Command Cashier secreted on the floor of the 2IC’s Comet, safeguarding the entire Command’s cash, A Sqn made it out on to the plain to Sarafan Camp from where 4 RTR and the Brigade extracted themselves to Haifa and to evacuation by sea back to Egypt.

B Sqn 4 RTR Shandur November 1948

B Sqn 4 RTR Shandur November 1948

Christmas Menu 1948

By late 1948 4 RTR in Shandur and 7 RTR in Bovington were suffering shrinking manpower and consequent overstretch, inadequate and insufficient accommodation and obsolescent equipment. Army morale was threatened and leadership was being severely tested. The respective commanding officers, Lt Col B Cracroft DSO and Lt Col R Walker protested vigorously and courageously. But resources were not forthcoming. The UK had been rendered all but bankrupt by the war and was now relying heavily on US aid.

Every effort was being made on the ground to raise morale!

Gosport Map Ship

In September 1948 D Sqn 7 RTR moved from Bovington to Gosport to take over the Sherman DD role. This freed some of the limited accommodation at Bovington.

Aquaba Map

Meantime 4 RTR had remained based in Shandur. In early March 1949 the fledgling Israeli Defence Force had driven South to Eilat and appeared to be about to move across the slim border to capture the Jordanian port of Aquaba. 4 RTR were “painting everything that moves” at the time in preparation for a large parade for FM Sir William Slim. A Sqn (Major Tom Gibbon) was ordered to stop painting, to load vehicles, ammunition, spares and rations into an LST and sail ASAP.

ARV disembarking

With the paint still wet tanks were loaded that night and the LSTs Reginald Kerr and Snowdonsmith sailed South reaching Aquaba on 13 March.

Tank presense

In Aquaba the very obvious presence of 4 RTR tanks deterred any further aggression from the IDF.

Adjutant, Capt Rowley Morris, escorts the Field Marshal

Despite Aquaba the visit of the CIGS, FM Sir William Slim, went ahead. Here the Adjutant, Capt Rowley Morris, escorts the Field Marshal.


The Centurions and their crews looked good.

King Abdullah inspects the Aquaba Garrison

King Abdullah inspects the Aquaba Garrison with Glub Pasha.

enturions of 4 RTR being loaded on Z Craft

In July 1949 The Aquaba squadron was reduced to a troop. Exercises followed in Tripoli (C Sqn), and in 1950 a half squadron went with its tanks to exercise in Cyprus. The pungent odour of Nationalism was beginning to pervade the Middle East, most evidently in Egypt and in Persia. Elements of 4 RTR were frequently deployed to deter activists but were seldom brought to action.

Centurions of 4 RTR being loaded on Z Craft to cross the Little Bitter Lake for ex Jethro in the Sinai.

May 1950 the Fourth dined out General Sir John Crocker

In May 1950 the Fourth dined out General Sir John Crocker, here seen with Lt Col J B Robertson and 2/Lts (L to R) I D Fisher, C W Pratley, and Glenie Joel

Guest Night

At that Guest Night Lt Alston, 2/Lts Attoe, Hind and Marshall.

The Officers 4 RTR Shandur 1950

The Officers 4 RTR Shandur 1950

Back Row R.G. Lawson, S.A.Kirby, J. Alston, P.D.Owen, J.A.Withers, J.B.Liardet, G.E.Joel, G.A.Were, C.W.Pratley. Centre Row. J.Marshall, ???, J Stevens, A.L.Gilks, J.H.Mallard, R.W.Attoe, L.G.Burgess, ???, C.Harvey Front Row. W.E.Robinson,N.Ryle, G.N.Williams, J.R.D.Carlton, A.Montgomerie-Campbell, Lt Col J.B.Robertson, R.G.Morris, F.C.Green, T.R.Newton-Dunn, D Mason, F.Adams

The Officers 7 RTR Tidworth 1950 7 RTR 1st Rugby Team 1949-50

The Officers 7 RTR Tidworth 1950. Lt Col J G S Compton; 2IC Maj Mike Woolcoombe CO (Desig)

WOs and Sgts 7 RTR 1950 RSM “Jock” Armit (later MBE) 7 RTR Football Team 1949-50
WOs and Sgts 7 RTR 1950 7 RTR Football Team 1949-50

A Sqn 7 RTR Churchills firing on the range at Lulworth Camp

A Sqn 7 RTR Churchills firing on the range at Lulworth Camp

South Korea Map

In August 1950 a scratch 29 Commonwealth Bde was “put together” and dispatched as part of a UN force in support of the South Korean Army which was opposing a Chinese-backed invasion by North Korea. C Sqn 7 RTR, hastily equipped with Churchill flame thrower tanks, was included in the force.

MK VII Churchill tanks

The Squadron’s Mk VII Churchill tanks were loaded and shipped to Pusan.

South Korea Map

Sailing in the Empire Fowey C Sqn 7 RTR (OC Major A J D Pettingell) arrived at Pusan in November 1950. By this stage the North Korean forces had been thrown back beyond their Capital, Pyongyang. But one troop of C Sqn was transported there just in time to be caught up in a precipitate UN withdrawal to the Imjin.

C Sqn troop hurriedly moved by rail for urgent deployment

This was the troop hurriedly moved by rail for urgent deployment while the remainder of the Squadron was prepared for action.

crossing the Imjin

C Sqn crossing the Imjin as part of the precipitate withdrawal in face of the newly arrived Chinese reinforcement of the North Korean Army

South Korea Map

Given the now massive Chinese involvement the situation became critical. The Centurions of the 8th Hussars were considered too much at risk from capture and were withdrawn to Japan. C Sqn 7 RTR represented half of the brigade’s tanks and the Churchills were henceforth employed as gun tanks. The fighting was intense and the brigade was forced to withdraw further to Osan-ni. Thereafter the Bde fell back South of Yongdong-Po which fell to the Chinese.

severe Winter

Then the severe Winter reduced movement. Conditions were horrendous in “Compo Valley” with 48 degrees of frost – no adequate winter clothing and no sleeping bags. This was the scene on Christmas Day 1950.

Christmas Dinner 1950

Christmas Dinner served by the officers was a frosty affair

Rum Ration

The Rum Ration served by SSM Harvey helped.

Orders of the day

New Year 1951 promised action!

OCpl Hynson and his crew were the first to re-enter Yondong-po The Officers' Mess at Yondong-po

Offensive operations began on 12 February 1951. Cpl Hynson and his crew were the first to re-enter Yondong-po.

Crew Map

Tanks and crews were beginning to show signs of wear and tear as they fought their way North

Pusan on 8 October

Lieutenant Shakleton’s troop was involved in a serious fight which left 43 British casualties.. Thereafter the Chinese were in full retreat and Lieutenant G R Merrell’s troop had the distinction of being the first to re-enter Seoul.

C Sqn 7 RTR then left the theatre embarking at Pusan on 8 October to rejoin the Regiment.

Pusan on 8 October

Meanwhile a Guard of Honour was mounted for the visit of General Sir Percy Hobart to the remainder of 7RTR at Bovington in April 1951.
L to R front rank: RSM Armit; Cpl Ramsdale;L/Cpl Stephen; Tpr George Joughin; Tpr Payne; Tpr Lott Rear Rank: Tpr Luttrell, Tpr Boon; Tpr Bullock

B Squadron 4 RTR (Major Tommy Newton-Dunn)

B Squadron 4 RTR (Major Tommy Newton-Dunn) was despatched to Kuwait by LCT from the Canal Zone at this time in connection with the nationalisation of the Aberdan Oil Refinery but saw no action. Meantime in the Canal Zone in November 1951 the situation was thought sufficiently relaxed to allow 4 RTR to line the Suez at El Kirsh and to greet 7 RTR as they sailed through the Canal on their way to Hong Kong.

Troop Ship

As the troop ship SS Empress of Australia sailed past them , a ripple of 20 pdr blank “feu de joie” was fired at close quarters and caused considerable consternation on board!

7 Tp B Sqn 4 RTR

Among those who provided this boisterous greeting was 7 Tp B Sqn 4 RTR, including front row Sgt Taverner, 2/Lt Hewitt, Cpl Fundell and L/Cpl Melhuish

Meantime on 15 October 1951 Nahas Pasha, the Egyptian Prime Minister, announced the unilateral abrogation of the 1936 Treaty between Egypt and the UK. Riots were instigated against the British community and the British families had to be brought to safety within Army camps. 4 RTR (Lt Col J R D Carlton MC) was heavily involved in securing the families, establishing road blocks and seizing the ferries to limit the movement of Egyptian Army units. There was a confrontation on 18 October between the Fourth’s Centurions and an Egyptian armoured group equipped with Shermans but the Egyptians decided on discretion rather than valour.

Egyptian efforts to harry the Middle East Land Forces slowly escalated. The civilian work force was intimidated and it was necessary to bring in workers from other British bases in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Egyptian Police and an auxiliary force called the Bulak Nazim stepped up their harassment. The families were evacuated and General Sir George Erskine relaxed the rules of engagement significantly allowing the Fourth’s Centurions to fire at specified targets.

Centurion crews Centurion crews

Centurion crews bombing up for the encounter


Serious trouble occurred in Ismailia on 19 January 1952 when the Police and auxiliaries killed two British infantrymen. In a subsequent clearance operation by 3 Tp 4 RTR there were significant exchanges of fire. Egyptian police and Bulak Nizam irregulars were holed up in the Bureau Sanitaire.

The Tower of the Bureau Sanitaire

On 25 January 1952 2/Lt Goodwin’s tank fired six rounds of 20 Pdr into the tower of the Bureau Sanitaire but the Egyptian force still did not surrender.

The building collapsed

All three tanks then engaged and the building collapsed leaving 40 dead and 63 wounded.

3 Troop on the Rue Mohammed Ali

3 Troop on the Rue Mohammed Ali returning after the Bureau Sanitaire action.

When this action became known “all hell” broke loose in Cairo. There was wide spread looting and the Egyptian Police were hard put to it to defend the British Embassy. General Erskine prepared a force to enter Cairo. Fortunately King Farouk now became alarmed; he called upon the activists to halt their actions; he sacked Nahas Pasha and restored calm. But it is argued that a significant outcome of the Bureau Sanitaire action was that the British Government now resolved to leave Egypt as soon as practicable.

Col Jolly, Lt Col Wetherell, Col Robertson and Brig Cracroft

In November 1952 four successive COs 4 RTR posed at the Regimental Dinner in London. Left to right Col Jolly, Lt Col Wetherell, Col Robertson and Brig Cracroft


4 RTR left Egypt in January 1953 to return to Tidworth and then BAOR.

4 RTR Contingent for the Coronation

In June 1953 the 4 RTR Contingent for the Coronation was led by the CO, Lt Col J R D Carlton MC, Captain D Bacon and RSM Hawkins.

In Chapter 7 we see the Fourth and the Seventh come together to Amalgamate in Germany.