During the desperate days of May 1940 that ended with the fall of France, the 3rd Battalion Royal Tank Regiment was sent to Calais in support of 30th Infantry Brigade, where it played a vital role in the week-long defence of Calais. In helping to stem the inexorable advance by German panzers, the battalion was uniquely praised by Churchill for giving the BEF much-needed extra time for the crucial evacuation from Dunkirk's beaches to be effected. Reformed and refitted by the spring of 1941, 3 RTR returned to Europe to fight the panzers once again, this time in the ill-fated Greek campaign, where it became the only RTR unit to see combat. The battalion fought a costly withdrawal action against the Germans, losing its entire complement of tanks, but still managed to inflict casualties on the enemy during the retreat. The surviving officers and men of 3 RTR embarked for Egypt at the end of April, where they came under the command of General Montgomery. 3 RTR fought again in all the main North Africa desert battles, including the major turning point engagements at Alam Halfa and El Alamein.
Moving back to northwest Europe to join the invasion in June 1944, 3 RTR was in the thick of all the desperate battles in Normandy after its arrival on 17 June.
Patrick Delaforce served with the 11th Armoured Division in the Royal Horse Artillery as a troop leader in Normandy and as FOO in Holland and Germany during the Second World War. He was awarded the Bronze Cross of Orange-Nassau and mentioned in dispatches during the fighting in Germany. He then joined the 7th Armoured Division at the end of 1945 and commanded Java Troop, 3rd Horse Artillery. He is the author of Churchill's Desert Rats, Black Bull, Fighting Wessex Wyverns, Polar Bears, Monty's Ironsides and Marching to the Sound of Gunfire.