D-Day Story Comes Together For Sleaford Family
A unique anti-tank gun will fill an important gap in
the family history of a couple from Lincolnshire at the War and Peace
Show in Kent next month.
Brenda Callow, from Sleaford, has discovered the M10 Achilles – the only one in existence which still works – is exactly similar to the one her father drove onto Juno Beach on D-Day.
And researches by her husband Roger have revealed that he was lucky to get out alive after his gun was blown up by a mine and he was shot at by German machine gunners.
“Brenda’s father, John Jerwood, like many other veterans, had spoken little about his wartime experiences,” said Roger. “His army records were not particularly revealing, showing only where he enlisted, dates and so on.
“Searches at Kew showed he was a regular soldier at the outbreak of war having signed on with a Territorial Army Royal Artillery unit. And we learned he had embarked for D-Day on June 4, landing on Juno Beach in support of the Canadian infantry.”
He also discovered his father-in-law, who originated from the south London borough of Southwark, had been part of 248 Battery of the 62nd Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery.
An extensive trawl of the internet later produced a low resolution photograph of an Achilles tank with a crew of four men, one of whom looked very much like John Jerwood. However his father-in-law died in 1980, so it was hard to be certain.
Roger contacted the Dutch owner of the website, who emailed all the members of his group to find out where the photograph originated. It was tracked down to another member of the Achilles crew Wally Shea, originally from Walthamstowe but now living in Cheshire.
Wally was able to confirm that one of the members of the gun crew was indeed John Jerwood, although he was known in the army by his nickname of Jerry. He also provided a much better copy of the photograph.
“Jerry was the driver of the M10 and I was a driver, gunner, operator,” said Wally from his home near Macclesfield. “We all had to be able to double up on one another’s jobs.
“I was just 19 when we hit the beach. Normandy was a pretty rugged do. We lost a lot of good boys.
“The Achilles in the picture is our second one, with a 17-pounder
gun. The original, with a lighter three inch gun, was knocked out in Normandy
after we blew up on a mine.
“The whole crew of five got out, but three were hit by machine gun and mortar fire. The Germans were only 100 yards away.
“Only Jerry Jerwood and I survived. We were given a replacement gun and crew and continued the war up through France, Belgium and Holland and into Germany where we finished supporting the Americans at a place called Ham.”
Now Roger and Brenda are keen to see an anti-tank gun of the kind in which John and Wally served. Another hunt on the web revealed that the only working Achilles remaining belongs to the War and Peace Collection owned by Rex Cadman who runs the Show.
They are looking forward to visiting the Show, which takes place at The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, between July 21 and 25, so they can get a better understanding of how Brenda’s father went to war.
“I’ve told them to get a look inside the Achilles to see how crowded we were,” said Wally. “Sometimes we could be cooped up in our metal box for a couple of days or more.”
More information on the War and Peace Show website
This M10 Tank Destroyer will be at War and Peace