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Charles Stanley Hirst

Trooper Charles Stanley Hirst, 7914061, 12th Royal Lancers, Royal Armoured Corps.

Charles Stanley Hirst was born in Ossett in early 1912, the son of Nelson Hirst and his wife Amy Beatrice Hepworth, who married in the Spring of 1910 in Ossett. Charles was the eldest of five children.

Charles Stanley Hirst married Vera Smith, of Ossett in 1938 ad there were possibly three children: Pauline, born in 1940 and twins, Barry and Shirley Hirst, born in 1942.

The 12th Lancers served as an armoured car regiment equipped with the Morris CS9, during the 1940 campaign in France and Flanders, playing a key part in shielding the retreat to Dunkirk. The Lancers landed in Port Tewfik, Egypt, in November 1941 and were attached to the 1st Armoured Division until July 1942.

Trooper Charles Hirst was first reported missing on the 29th June 1942 and in the confusion of the battles for the Gazala Line was probably captured by the Italians:1

"Meanwhile, even in their depleted state the Germans and Italians still were advancing and on 26th June they launched another attack on the British rear. On 27th June Mersa Matruh fell. By now the Western Desert was a full of mixed up units all heading east, and with both sides using east others transport it was difficult for both air forces to know who to attack and mistakes were made by both sides.

This retreat became known as the 'Gazala Gallop' and during this time the 7th Armoured was frequently in action, though shortly after the fall of Mersa Matruh the 4th Armoured and 7th Motor Brigades came under the command of the 1st Armoured Division, holding the desert flank of the 2nd New Zealand Division."

Trooper Charles Stanley Hirst died between the 24th October 1942 and the 14th November 1942, as a Prisoner of War in Italian hands, according to records, possibly at sea. He was then aged 29 years, and is remembered on Column 19 of the Alamein Memorial, Egypt. Alamein is a village, bypassed by the main coast road, approximately 130 kilometres west of Alexandria on the road to Mersa Matruh.

The campaign in the Western Desert was fought between the Commonwealth forces (with, later, the addition of two brigades of Free French and one each of Polish and Greek troops) all based in Egypt, and the Axis forces (German and Italian) based in Libya. The battlefield, across which the fighting surged back and forth between 1940 and 1942, was the 1,000 kilometres of desert between Alexandria in Egypt and Benghazi in Libya. It was a campaign of manoeuvre and movement, the objectives being the control of the Mediterranean, the link with the east through the Suez Canal, the Middle East oil supplies and the supply route to Russia through Persia.

The Alamein Memorial forms the entrance to Alamein War Cemetery. The Land Forces panels commemorate more than 8,500 soldiers of the Commonwealth who died in the campaigns in Egypt and Libya, and in the operations of the Eighth Army in Tunisia up to 19 February 1943, who have no known grave. It also commemorates those who served and died in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Persia.2

12th lancers patrol in desert

Above: Humber Mk II armoured car of the 12th Royal Lancers on patrol in the Western Desert, 10th August 1942.

References:

1. Battle of Gazala and the 'Cauldron'

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site