"What I learned in the war, the comradeship, held me in very good stead for the rest of my life."
My name is Peter Bunn. I was born in South London, England.
During the war, I served with the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers which was mechanized cavalry. They went to war with tanks. The regiment itself served, first of all, in 1941 in the desert. I joined them in 1942 in the western desert at El Alamein outside of Cairo. At the age of 19, I volunteered for the Royal Armoured Corps. I decided that I would become a radio operator in a tank. And that I did throughout the war. The job of a radio operator in a tank is obviously to be the radio operator but also, was the gun loader. He... he's the guy who put the shells in the big gun and kept the machine guns running with ammunition. That was primarily the job of the, as we called them then, "radio operator". I served mainly in Sherman tanks. At El Alamein, I was in a British Crusader tank which was phased out after that battle and we had Shermans. They were crew of five. Three in the turret. Turret's only about five feet wide. It's very, very cramped. Very hot, very noisy.
I'm one of the very few people who survived a tank being hit three times. I was hit at El Alamein. It didn't catch fire and we sat there waiting to be blown apart all day and luckily we weren't. And we were able to be towed away at night. Then in a later battle in Tunisia, was again, hit. The tank, didn't "brew up" - as we used to call the catching fire of a tank. And I escaped again. And then had another incident going up the Italian Peninsula on the Adriatic. I was hit again. And I was uninjured. So, I had a very long time on a tank and, you know, not many people survived being hit three times and three separate occasions.
I was pretty young. As I mentioned, I went in at 19, so I was pretty young when the European War came to an end. And I wasn't demobilized for some time. Initially in Italy, I was stationed as occupation troops, on the Po Valley at Verona and Vicenza and little town, Padua. And at that time, they established an 8th Army School at Cortina d'Ampezzo. They established a ski school and I learned to ski which was really quite a bonus for having been a tank man for the previous three years. Cooler weather and much more pleasant. I never skied before, I've never skied since.
I think basically, we eventually won the war mainly because the Germans were less organized than we were. We both sort of muddled through at the end. The Germans always had better tanks than we did. They always had better armour. They always had better guns. And I think anybody who was at the sharp end will agree, for example, that the 88 Anti-Tank Gun was probably the finest armament in this war on any side. What I learned in the war, the comradeship, held me in very good stead for the rest of my life. I've been a fatalist all of my life and live each day and appreciate each day. And I've done that since I was de-mobbed way back, such a long time ago.