Daily Archives: 13 March, 2010

2nd Lieutenant Allan Ballantyne – Royal Flying Corps

Prior to the forming of the RAF in 1918, the Army’s Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service operated military aircraft.

2nd Lieutenant Allan James Ballantyne, 19 and from Portsmouth, was serving with the Royal Flying Corps when he died on 10 November 1917. He is buried at Izel-les-Hameau War Cemetery in France some 15 kilometres west of Arras.

Ballantyne joined the Royal Flying Corps on 1 February 1917, and after passing through Flying School, Operational Conversion Units and 25 Reserve Squadron, on 4 July 1917 he joined 64 Squadron, who were flying DH4′s in the day-bomber role.

Ballantyne transferred to 94 Squadron on 14 September 1917, tasked with training Sopwith Camel Pilots. He then transferred to 46 Squadron on 5 November 1917, flying Sopwith Camel’s in the ground attack role.

His service record records that he died of wounds. Clearly only days after he joined 46 Squadron he was wounded in action. It’s uncertain where or how exactly Ballantyne was wounded, but 46 Squadron Association’s website records that during November 1917 they were heavily involved with supporting the Cambrai offensive.

There are 6 British servicemen buried in Izel-les-Hameau Cemetery, all but one of them of the Royal Flying Corps or Royal Air Force. As he died of wounds and Izel was far behind the front line in November 1917, it seems that Ballantyne died in a Hospital.

Ballantyne’s extremely young age, and his short but valiant service shows that the life expectancy of Pilots over the western front was not far removed from the ‘thirty-minuters’ sketch in Blackadder.

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Filed under portsmouth heroes, Royal Air Force, Uncategorized, World War One

The Desert Rat Scrapbook: Cairo to Berlin by Roger Fogg

One of the most noticeable things about military history is that certain elite units seem to attract a lot of attention. Aside from Regiments such as the Paras, the Marines and the SAS, its quite rare that a larger unit becomes famous in such a manner. Along with perhaps the Light Division in the Peninsula, the Guards Division in the First World War and the 101st Airborne in the Second World War, the British 7th Armoured Division – better known as the Desert Rats – is possibly one of the most well-known Divisions of all time.

Its also inevitable that any famous unit will have a plethora of books written about it, and the Desert Rats are no exception. Patrick Delaforce, George Forty, Robin Neillands and John Parker are among the writers who have published books about this famous Division. Many of them focus on the higher conduct of the war, the senior officers and the battles. But this book, by Roger Fogg, is different. Not only is it based around an enlightening collection of photographs and mementoes, they were collected by his father Ted, a Desert Rat from the Desert through to Berlin.

The 7th Armoured Division was formed in Egypt just prior to the Second World War. Fighting throughout the campaign in North Africa, they went on to the invasion on Sicily, and then Italy. During their time in the North African Deserted they picked up their ‘Desert Rats’ nickname from the Jerboa. In late 1943 they were recalled to Europe to take part in Operation Overlord, and after landing at Arromanches fought their way through France, Belgium, Holland and finally Germany. They ended the war as part of British Army of occupation, and took pride of place at the Victory Parade in Berlin in July 1945. Thus the Division and its men had been on quite a remarkable journey.

Having done a lot of research on my own family’s military history I found this book fascinating. The documents and photographs tell their own story. We should be grateful that Roger has collated them and made them accessible for future generations. Collections such as these provide a wonderful depth to the bigger strategic picture. As useful as well researched books about Generals and Battles are, they can only tell us so much. What about the men they sent into battle? This is a very ‘real’, down to earth and refreshing account. I like the scrapbook concept – its a fantastic way of bringing to life to the kind of collection that all too often gathers dust, forgotten in an attic or catalogued and stored in a museum.

This book tells us not only about the Desert Rats, but life in the British Army in general during the Second World War. For a start, look how many of the men are smoking in the photographs. There are also telegrams home, Army newspapers and handbooks issued to the Desert Rats as they liberated country after country. I only wish I had half as many documents about my Grandad’s war service!

The Desert Rats Scrapbook is published by The History Press

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Filed under Army, Book of the Week, d-day, World War Two