Ralph Roberts was born in the Meanwood area of Leeds on the 24th of January 1914 one of a large family of eight or nine children.

He enlisted into the Army (4th Queen’s Own Hussars) as a Cavalry Trooper in January 1931 at the age of seventeen.

At the time The 4th Hussars were a mounted Cavalry Regiment and remained so until the mechanisation of the cavalry to lorries in 1936 and then in 1937 to tanks, as and when they became available.

During that period the Regiment was stationed in the UK at various locations, York Colchester, Aldershot and when war was declared in September 1939 they were at Tidworth. For a local boy from Leeds Ralph saw quite a bit of the UK.

The 4th Hussars by now equipped with light Mk VIB tanks and Dingo Scout cars sailed to Egypt in November 1940 as part o the First Light Armoured Brigade and commenced training for the desert campaign.

Early in 1941, the invasion of Greece by Germany became imminent and the British Government opted to send a force to Greece to assist the Greek forces. In March a force of some fifty thousand troops sailed for Greece under the command of General Maitland Wilson.

The action commenced on the 6th of April with the Light Armoured Brigade Group (which included The 4th Hussars) the leading formation.

The enemy force was superior in numbers and air support and after fighting in a number of delaying and rearguard actions and with the surrender of the Greek forces on the 24th of April the battle for Greece was nearing its conclusion.

The outcome for the Regiment was that some members of the Regiment managed to escape but most of the Senior Officers and four hundred men were taken, prisoner.

Roberts was captured at the battle of Corinth Bridge on the 26th of April when the Germans attacked with a strong force of over a thousand plus gliders and paratroops.

He remained a POW in Germany until 1943 when he was repatriated due to ill health through Norway under Red Cross arrangements and was medically discharged from the Army.

He was awarded the Africa star and the 1939/1945 Star.

Ralph worked as a Labourer on the railways, then for Burtons the Tailor and finally with the Biochemistry Department of Leeds University as a handyman. His interests were motorcycling and talking to local schools about his wartime and POW experiences. I gather that although not an educated man he was quite eloquent.

Ralph Roberts died of old age on the 14th of March 2009 aged 95 years.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 4th Hussars
  2. Middle East (Greece and Crete) timeline