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Wartime from the centre of the action; CITY MAN SNAPPED IMAGES OF ALLIED ADVANCE AFTER D-DAY LANDINGS.

Byline: JOANNE BUTCHER

POSING for a photo next to their truck, these smiling faces had seen some of the hardest battles in the Second World War.

The young men were infantry troop vehicle drivers - who transported soldiers during the D-Day landings and right through Europe as the Allies liberated the West from the Nazis.

The shots were captured by Robert Tait, of Westerhope, Newcastle who was one of the drivers in the 52nd Infantry Troop Carrying Company.

He had found the camera as the Army moved through occupied France and, fuelled by a boyhood interest in photography, began snapping his comrades as they went about their daily business.

Some of the men in the photos are barely 18.

Mr Tait, who is now 85, said: "We drove the vehicles that carried the troops. Our company had about 100 vehicles, there was another company with about the same.

"We had driven through France, Belgium, Holland and into Germany. Between D-Day and June the next year we must have covered 40,000 or 50,000 miles going forward and dropping back.

"I got through two engines in my vehicle in the space of a year." The drivers, many of whom were from the North East, transported soldiers from the 3rd, 51st, 52nd, 53rd Infantry Divisions of the British Army as it moved through Europe.

They had taken part in the successful D-Day landings in Normandy, France, on June 6 1944, helping move troops up the beaches and into position.

The mission, known as Operation Neptune, was one of the turning points of the conflict.

The Allies continued to push back German forces during the second half of 1944 and crossed the Rhine in March 1945, as the Soviets advanced to Vienna.

German forces surrendered in Western Europe on May 7. Mr Tait added: "I am glad I was there, but some of the things we saw were unbelievable. The Nazis had taken every mortal thing from the countries they invaded.

"It was terrible to think people had been living like that for five years."

Mr Tait took these photographs near Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands in 1945, as the war in Europe was drawing to a close.

Hertogenbosch was the site of one of the few Nazi concentration camps outside of Germany and Austria, holding about 30,000 inmates.

CAPTION(S):

MEMORIES: Some of the photos of the Allied advance taken by Bob Tait on and around D-Day.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 25, 2009
Words:405
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