Trooper George Bonner Wattam

 

Unit : No.14 Troop, "A" Squadron, 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment.

Army No. : 14238690

Awards : Military Medal

 

Trooper George Wattam, of Sheffield, was the turret gunner of an "A" Squadron tank, commanded by Sergeant Thomson. On the 26th August, they were ordered the support an advance into Pont Audemer. The following is Sergeant Thomson's report on what followed:

 

On the morning of 26 August "A" Squadron was ordered to block the southern entrances to Pont Audemer. 1 Troop was on the left. Sergeant Thomson's tank was ordered by the Commanding Officer to cover a patrol from "B" Squadron into a house. The tank advanced some 500 yards up a street when it was fired on by an Anti-Tank Gun and was hit and penetrated. The front gunner Trooper Greenwood was seriously wounded and the turret gunner Trooper Wattam slightly wounded. Fire was directed on to the target but the tank was hit again. The fire was again returned and the Anti-Tank Gun did not reply. The turret gunner fired 3 rounds of High Explosive from the 75-mm gun and it is believed the Anti-Tank Gun did not fire again although the tank was in view for some seconds before it was able to withdraw to evacuate the wounded.

 

For his part in this action, Trooper Wattam was awarded the Military Medal. His citation reads:

 

On the 26th August, Trooper Wattam was turret gunner of a Cromwell tank which, in co-operation with infantry, was clearing the streets of Pont Audemer.

 

The enemy were well placed, equipped with anti-tank guns, mines and grenades and were fighting stubbornly to prevent our troops reaching the area of the bridges. Quite early in the action Trooper Wattam's tank was twice hit by an anti-tank gun carefully concealed in a house and the trooper was severely wounded in the arm. In spite of the considerable pain of his wound he brought his gun to bear on the enemy and by his quick and accurate shooting destroyed the enemy gun position.

 

He then continued throughout the course of the action to keep his gun in action and by his accurate shooting enabled the infantry to make rapid progress towards the bridges and capture the town.

 

By his complete disregard of the very considerable pain from his wound, by his skill and determined devotion to duty he not only saved his tank from inevitable destruction, but also materially assisted the infantry to obtain their objective at far less cost and far quicker than would otherwise have been the case.

 

After recovering from his wound, Trooper Wattam received his Military Medal ribbon at Larkhill on the 6th November 1944, receiving the Medal itself from King George VI at Buckingham Palace on the 28th June 1945. On the 28th April 1945, he met Field Marshal Montgomery at Divisional Headquarters in Germany, along with two officers of his Regiment who had similarly been decorated in Normandy; Major Donolly MC and Captain Shearer MC. Promoted to Corporal, Wattam continued to serve with 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment and participated in the Ardennes action and the Rhine Crossing. When the 6th Airborne Division returned to England after the end of the War, however, Wattam remained behind in Germany where he was involved in tracking down wanted Nazis.

 

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