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Second World War and Palestine 17/21 Lancers Officers group, Wounded in Operation Grapeshot.


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Second World War and Palestine 17/21 Lancers Officers group, Wounded in Operation Grapeshot.

1939-45 Star; Italy Star; 1939-45 War medal; General Service medal, clasp, Palestine 1945-48, Capt. J. P. H. Walker. 17/21 L. (Correction to rank, group mounted as worn)

Jeffery Philip Harlan walker was commissioned as a Lieutenant 19th March 1944 (London Gazette 25th April 1944) and served in the 17/21st Lancers (Royal Armoured corps taking part in Operation Diadem, the fourth and final Battle of Monte Cassino.)

Most of the 6th Armoured Division (minus the 1st Guards Brigade, but including the 17/21st Lancers) then deployed to the Italian Front in March 1944, and fought to breach the Gustav Line a defensive line running the entire length of Italy and hinged on Monte Cassino. The assault began on 11th May 1944 with the crossing of the River Gari. The 17th/21st moved to their bridge-crossing site ‘Amazon’ during the night only to find that the bridges had not been laid, due to all the engineer bulldozers having been knocked out. As a result the Regiment were forced to improvise, using their tanks to shunt a Bailey Bridge into position and thus effect a crossing. By the 14th the Corps had achieved 19 crossings and by the 16th the pressure on the Germans proved so great that they were forced to abandon the Gustav Line.

The advance north of Rome proved itself even harder than in the south. There were only three routes capable of supporting armoured formations with the Germans covering all of them with direct and indirect fire. The delaying action the Germans fought was so effective it took the Allies four months to reach the Gothic Line, and spent the winter there—at points, serving as infantry rather than as an armoured unit, due to the static nature of the trench warfare there. After the final breakthrough in April 1945, codenamed Operation Grapeshot, the regiment ended the war in Austria.

Walker is recorded as being wounded on the 28th April 1945 during operation Grapeshot.

He went on to serve in Palestine still with the 17/21

In October 1946, the regiment was posted to Greece on internal security duties. In October 1947, it deployed to the Suez Canal Zone and re-equipped as an armoured car regiment; it then moved to Palestine in 1948. At the time Palestine was in a state of civil war, with both Jews and Arabs fighting for independence both from each other and British rule. The Regiment was involved in the operation of armoured rail cars, frontier patrols and escort duties. In the one year that they served in Palestine (1948) the Regiment lost two officers and fourteen other ranks killed.

The regiment returned home to Catterick Garrison later that year as RAC Training Regiment and then joined 20th Armoured Brigade and moved to York Barracks at Münster in December 1951

In the 1952 Army list he is show as serving in the Shropshire Yeomanry as a Lieutenant.

Life after his military service:

 Obituary – The Gardian 19th March 2018

“My friend Harlan Walker, who has died aged 93, was a successful businessman and a stalwart supporter and sometime organiser of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery.

It was with Harlan in the guise of businessman, someone acquainted with order and method, that I met him in 1985 among the decidedly enthusiastic, but not invariably methodical, gathering of food writers, journalists, publishers and amateurs that was the Oxford Symposium. It had been founded by Alan Davidson and Theodore Zeldin of St Antony’s College four years before that, an international gathering of scholars, writers and amateurs interested in food history and the more arcane aspects of cookery.

Harlan had a tremendous interest in food history, as well as being himself a gifted cook, and it was with some relief that I handed on to him the task of organising the Symposium’s annual gatherings as well as editing (and, latterly, publishing) their Proceedings, tasks he undertook with ineffable efficiency and courtesy for 15 years until 2003.

His form in this sort of venture had already been demonstrated by his leading role in the affairs of the Buckland Club in Birmingham. Founded in 1954 in honour of the literally omnivorous Victorian naturalist Frank Buckland, its biannual banquets were invariably adventurous, if not outlandish.

Harlan was born in Birmingham, where his family were nautical instrument makers, famous for the manufacture of Walker’s Log, the brass spinner towed along by ships to determine the distance travelled through the water; the managing director was his father, Jeffrey Walker, while his mother was Katharine (nee Harlan).

After Bryanston school, war service as a tank captain in Italy and Greece and a degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Merton College, Oxford, Harlan joined the cotton company Coats, working in Naples and Glasgow. He subsequently returned to Birmingham, and engineering enterprises, ending his professional career as the manager of the British outpost of NTN, the Japanese manufacturer of ball-bearings.

Harlan’s skills in the kitchen were put to practical use thanks to his marriage in 1954 to the flautist Delia Ruhm. Her involvement in large-scale co-operative music-making at the summer operas at Shawford Mill in Somerset and Highnam in Gloucestershire, and particularly at the Pigotts Music Camps near High Wycombe, had him organising the catering in sometimes spectacularly primitive conditions.

Delia died in 2014. Their children Philip, Becca and Ben, survive him.”

Condition – NEF, correction to rank, likely originally impressed as Lieut but corrected to Capt.