Wardrop's Story

New Donation to the Archive

21st March 2019

"We went storming in right up to these tanks, firing as we went, and then swung away a bit to go further on and beat up some artillery…”

These words were written by Jake Wardrop of 5th Royal Tank Regiment on Operation Crusader (or as Wardrop called it “The November Handicap”). Now, thanks to the generosity of Wardrop’s nephew, Wardrop’s original notebooks, photographs, letters and personal effects have been donated to the Tank Museum Archive. 

Born John Richard, ‘Jake’ Wardrop, enlisted as a private with Royal Tank Corps in 1937, serving from 1940 until his untimely death during last days of the Second World War in April 1945. Although his diaries have already been privately published and extensively used in books and the Archive has these copies already, what makes this donation so significant is that Archive now have the original, handwritten notebooks Wardrop kept in his tank throughout his service. With these notebooks to hand we can see how Wardrop was a keen writer, re-drafted and revised his memories throughout the war.

Wardrop, who can be seen here holding his guitar alongside his fellow recruits at Bovington camp, writes a moving, honest account of his service often punctuated with humour and cheeriness:

“…I was beginning to think we were doing fine when a shell burst just in front of us and the left track was broken…the track was lying about twenty yards behind us and in coming off it had ripped the ration box clean off the tank…The cruellest blow of all was the smashing of a bottle of whisky belonging to the commander.

"It wasn’t a very healthy position to be in, but it could have been worse: it wasn’t raining.”

Jake Wardrop’s story will be included in our new Second World War Hall exhibition, which will open in 2020.