With so much interest in the Second World War due to the fast approaching VE and VJ Day commemorations, a new book has been published by Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life in Carlisle Castle.
The book “Fifty-First Field” is the story of the 51st Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (Westmoreland & Cumberland Yeomanry) during the Second World War written by Thomas Thompson who lives in Thursby near Carlisle.
In September 1939, 500 mostly young, Cumbrian part-time artillerymen left their jobs, said farewell to their families and assembled ready to go to war. From miners to mill-owners, biscuit-makers and bank clerks, grocers and gamekeepers – these were the Territorials of what had been, during the Great War, the Cumberland Artillery and the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry, now united and forming the 51st Field Regiment.
The unit saw significant service during the Second World War. The book follows them across the world, first to arctic Norway to the stony desert of North Africa and finally to the steaming jungles of Burma in 1944
Here, having given up their guns they fought as Infantry, part of the famous Chindits operating behind Japanese lines.
Thomas Thompson, himself a gunner was the last Commanding Officer of 51st successor unit and was the last Commanding Officer of the 4th Territorial Battalion Border Regiment 1967-1969. In his preface Tom thanks the Museum including Curator Stuart Eastwood for its support with the book including digital photographs from the Museum’s collections. He also thanks Richard Sutcliffe of Brampton, whose father Lieutenant-Colonel Dick Sutcliffe commanded the unit at the end of the war, for the loan of photographs and loan of his Royal Artillery Commemoration book with some of his extracts used in the book.
During the Chindit operation, Lt Colonel Sutcliffe wrote: “During the operation the Regiment marched over 500 miles in enemy held territory, a tough feat – as even the hardiest infantryman would agree – for a regiment of Gunners who had no more than three months training since conversion from their normal role. Gunners may not like marching, but they can”
The book is for sale from Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life priced at £12.50. All profit from the book goes to the Museum, which is a registered charity.