Desert Rats Association



March  2017

The next Association AGM will be held on 22nd March 2017 at 10.00am in the Schoolroom, Forest headquarters, Santon Downham, Brandon, Suffolk.

The School Room will be available from 10.00 hrs.

Lee Davison



Summer (August) 2017


THE DESERT RATS ASSOCIATION Bi-Annual news-letter Summer 2017

Please find attached the first bi-annual news-letter for the association for 2017.


Newsletters is shown here,.


Simon Copley-Smith




 November 2017



Dear ‘Desert Rats’, Members, Supporters and the Ride of Respect

 Just a quick note to the Veterans, Members, Supporters and ‘The Ride of Respect’ to pass on the Association’s sincere thanks for the amazing support on the Remembrance Day Service 12th November 2017.  Everyone I spoke to said it was the best supported to date, with well over a 1000 people in attendance.  The scooters and bikes just kept arriving and I am told that there was over 450 in all.  The event was filmed and the link – will take you to a must see video of the ‘Ride of Respect’ and Association. 

The generosity and support on the day was also truly outstanding and the Association took the following on the day:

 Ian Hindle and the ‘Ride of Respect’  -           £535.50

Taking on the Association stall           -           £551.00 (sales and donations)

Collection tins                                      -           £385.33

Total donations and sales                             £1,471.83 

It undoubtedly was a remarkable success and Captain Chris Hall REME delivered a stirring and appropriate sermon which brought together the origins and the relevance of Remembrance Day in this day and age.  I would also like to thank Ian Hindle and all riders and marshals from the ‘Ride of Respect’.

These generous donations will go towards the manufacture of a Marquette sculpture of the proposed ‘Desert Rat’, which will be 6 to 8 inches tall.  It will go some way to presenting to everyone the likely ‘Desert Rat’ to be the centre-piece at the Associations proposed memorial at the National Arboretum.  The Marquette sculpture will be ready in early spring 2018 and will be on view at all the Associations events.

Once again, many thanks to you all for your continued support, help and friendship

 Yours Aye

 Simon Copley-Smith


December 2017

The Life and Times of a Desert Rat – Lt Col T H Cole MBE

On 14th December 2017, Lt Col T H Cole (MBE) will celebrate his 100th birthday. This will be a milestone for a former Desert Rat who saw active service in both North Africa and Normandy during the Second World War and was part of the Berlin Victory Parade in July 1945. Although his name was Thomas (Tom), he became known as Tim because there were too many soldiers named Tom in the Sergeant’s Mess.

As a boy growing up in Hampshire’s Meon Valley, Tim often saw cavalry soldiers and their horses alongside the River Meon and decided he would like to be in a cavalry regiment when he was old enough. Years later at the age of 19, he travelled alone by train to Edinburgh and joined the 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars in November 1937. After completing his basic training, in January 1938 he was sent out to Egypt where he was disappointed to discover that his regiment was to be one of the first  to become mechanised and he would never train a horse or be a cavalry soldier. 

Tim remembers passing his driving test on the congested streets of Cairo, with camels, carts and people all around him and his vehicle. War broke out in 1939 and Tim trained to be a tank commander. During 6 years in North Africa, he was in Mersa Matruh, Buq Buq, Sidi Rezegh, Gazala and he fought in the battles of El Alamein.

In 1943, following victory for the allies in North Africa, Tim returned to England with the Hussars to prepare for the invasion of France. Six days after D-Day he sailed from Gosport to Bayeux, arriving in his tank with a landing craft. Tim advanced with the regiment through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany - Villers Bocage, the Tower Maas, the Roer and the Rhine - and was part of the fighting force in the final  battle with the German army before they surrendered just outside Hamburg. It was during his time in North West Europe that Tim received a commendation from Field Marshal Montgomery for outstanding performance. Early one morning he had discovered a Tiger tank lurking near his unit in the countryside and with the help of his fellow soldiers and a 17 Pounder, anti-tank gun, he was able to disable the beast.

After the war, in 1948 Tim was stationed in Leicestershire at Stoughton East aerodrome, where he met his future wife, Peggy who was training to be a children’s nurse. They were married with an 8th Hussars guard of honour in June 1950. (Photograph Left)






Straight afterwards he was sent with his regiment to aid the UN Forces in Korea (photograph right)  for 18 months and returned to his wife and their baby son, Simon, in 1952. Tim and Peggy went on to have three more children, Elizabeth, Christopher and Sarah. Tim received his commission in 1954 and continued to have a long army career with overseas postings in Luneburg, Hohne, Aden, Malaya and Wolfenbuttel. UK postings included Tidworth, Northampton, York, Barnard Castle, West Byfleet (MOD), Ash Vale and Tim completed his 36 years of service at the Aldershot Garrison in 1972..


Tim has been honoured with 17 medals during his army career and received the MBE on 1st January 1965 for services in Borneo setting up the camp at Kuching. More recent honours have been given from Perak in Malaya and he received the French Legion of Honour in 2016.

After the war and during his long and peripatetic army career, gardening has always been a significant part of Tim’s life, having grown up working within the family’s market garden business in the Meon Valley. From his early days in married quarters in Tidworth, he was growing cabbages alongside the barrack square and in retirement whist gardening, he always wore a cap with the desert rat badge on the front.


Tim also learned to play golf whilst stationed in Malaya in 1962 and this was an activity that he enjoyed until his late eighties. Following his retirement from the army, Tim and Peggy returned to live in Leicestershire where they had first met and to be close to Peggy’s parents. They have been blessed with five grandchildren, with Tim and Peggy celebrated 67 years of marriage in June of this year.


Tim is immensely proud of his army career but has been reluctant to take part in reunions and remembrance parades. His family believes this is because of the traumas he suffered, particularly in North Africa where until last year, he still mentioned that he hoped his fellow soldiers who lost their lives in the desert would have been given a proper burial. Although suffering from Alzheimer’s, the items that still offer him the reassurance that he is living in his own home are two reminders of the army. The first is the framed display of his army medals and the second, two Gurkha Kukri knives that were presented to him on a wooden shield by the Gurkha regiment in thanks when he retired from the army at the Aldershot Garrison.


Winter (December) 2017


THE DESERT RATS ASSOCIATION Bi-Annual news-letter Winter 2017

Dear Sirs, Ma’ams, Veterans and supporters of the ‘Desert Rats’ Association

Please find the Associations Winter 2017 Newsletter below..


Lastly, the Association wishes you all a merry and festive Christmas and New Year.


Simon Copley-Smith


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