Nine Elms

A Tank to Remember

15th January 2018

The Archive has recently received an insightful and fascinating, privately published memoir which was donated to the Museum by his brother, following the author’s death. 

Nine Elms picThe book presents an extremely honest and sobering first person view of his experiences with in a Churchill tank regiment during the Normandy Campaign. Trooper H. E. A. Baulf includes his training in the UK, D-Day, “The killing fields of Normandy”, Caen, Battle of Le Havre, Liege as well as the of the Battle of the Bulge. It also examines his brief but harrowing experience of Belsen Concentration Camp [Bergen-Belson] and his disillusionment following his de-mobbing. 

‘Nine Elms-A Tank to Remember’ was written by 14316145, Trooper H. E. A. Baulf who served as a Wireless Operator No. 3 Troop, A Squadron 153rd Regiment RAC (Formerly 8th Battalion Essex Regiment). He would later be transferred to 9th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment following the disbandment of 153 Regt. RAC. The memoir is named after his first Churchill tank, `Nine Elms’, (most of 153s tanks were named after Essex place names) a Mark IV on which he trained in and fought in before it was knocked out on the 16th July 1944 during a close battle with a German Panther near Bougy.

Mixing vivid battle accounts hourly with anecdotes on his day to day activities and experiences, the memoir builds up an extremely unique, primary source, offering us an important overall picture of Baulf’s war. Baulf recalls incidents such as coming across a large house with a cellar crammed with bottles of wine.  Whist tasting the wine one solider joked that the reason the wine was left was due to the bottles having been booby-trapped. After a search, “one of the lads took the initiative” and threw a suspicious bottle out the window:

“…the explosion made up all dive for the floor and …we saw a rather large hole where the bottle has landed…it was unanimously decided to abandon any further attempts to get sloshed and we carefully made our way outside.”

The memories are written in an extremely accessible yet descriptive narrative style and laced with black humour. Indeed, the start of the memoir includes this warning:

“We were not a bunch of Choir boys roaming round Normandy on a Church Outing. We were rough and ready “Tankies” engaged in a tough battle for Survival, yours as well as ours, so I make no apology for the frequent use of obscenities”

Baulf dedicates his book to his Nine Elms crewmates 2564677 Sgt R Dye (Tank Commander), 14432622 Trp C Matthews (Gunner), 14215404 Trp R Neville (Co-Driver) and 6027658 Trp T Langmaid (Driver). Through the information presented in the highly detailed memoirs we have been able to locate 4 of the 5 TRACER Record cards for Baulf’s crewman, including his own, which revealed that Sergeant R Dye, Trooper R Neville and Trooper T Langmaid all survived the Second World War. Only 14432622, Trooper C Matthews TRACER card was not located and his fate is unknown following his serious injuries during the destruction of Nine Elms. 

If anyone has any information on 14432622, Trooper C Matthews please contact library@tankmuseum.org