Letter from Shawforth: War – a tale of remembrance told

Posted: June 7, 2011 in Life's Experiences, Uncategorized
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It has taken some time to make the decision to write this story.  It is the story of Trooper (Tpr) Harold Dixon (my grandfather): who at the time was serving in the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (3CLY) (Sharpshooters) “C” Squadron, I believe in a Sherman Tank; and the effect it had upon the rest of his life.

I have often heard it said that “War” will either bring you closer to religion or it will push you away.  This is how one single event, in a service man’s experience of World War 2, resulted in his loss of faith in God.  An experience which, no doubt, will have been had by many a good man before and after him.

Tpr Dixon was 38 years old in October 1943, a good 18 years older than the youngest in the tank, on the day in question.  He was often referred to as “Granddad” even then, because of his age.  His position on board was Radio Operator, a position he was more than happy with.  He had flunked, on several occasions, the Tank Commander examinations, out of self-preservation.  Also on board, amongst others, was a young man, Herbert Desmond Cookson (Tpr) “Cookie” to his colleagues, twenty years old.  And the Tank Commander who was in his mid twenties.

The date in question was October 5, 1943; the crossing of the River Biferno from the Campomarino (South East) toward Termoli (North West).

“C” Squadron were the first to cross the river.  The tank that Tpr “Granddad” Dixon and Tpr “Cookie” Cookson were travelling in was amongst the first to cross; however, before reaching the other side the tank broke down.

“Cookie” was due to get married on his next furlough and he asked Granddad, because of the respect everyone had for him, if he would ask permission from the Tank Commander if he could board the next passing tank: to sit in a “dead” tank was considered risky to a tank man.  Whilst moving tanks was not the done thing, the Commander, having listened to Granddads case, gave permission.

The story continues, with Cookie boarding the next tank and off it set.  Reaching the bank, the tank came to a bend in the road.  Unbeknown to the crew, a hidden German anti-tank weapon lay in wait. The inevitable happened.  The tank with “Cookie” on board went up with all crew killed.

From that day on Tpr “Granddad” Dixon began to question his faith.  The ifs, buts, whys, and wherefores of his actions; never finding any answers.  Until his death in 1981 Harold Dixon, never forgot Cookie.  Then again he never managed to keep his promise of finding Cookies parents and explaining the story to them.

What I found was this, in memory of Cookie. Cookson, Herbert Desmondinterred; Cemetery

Less we forget…I know Trp Dixon didn’t.


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