Bert Vowden was a member of the last batch of men to escape from Jersey just before the Germans occupied the islands in 1939.

SSgt BL Vowden
SSgt BL Vowden

Most of the party were persuaded to join the Royal Hampshire Regiment, but about a dozen listened to a RAC Recruiting Officer and joined the 2nd Royal Gloucestershire Hussars.

He settled down well in the Regiment and was soon promoted to acting Corporal. In August 1941 he was posted to the Middle East and took part in every tank battle in which they were engaged for 12 months.

During the first battle at El Gubi, Vowden and another Jersey man were operator and gunner respectively when an anti-tank shell killed the commander and driver.

Every effort made to remove the dead driver failed, so they too bailed out. They took over the ground refusing offers to take them to safety. They remained by the tank under heavy fire, then climbed back in and the gunner, with the help of Vowden, squeezed into the cockpit and sitting on the dead driver brought the tank back to the lines.

The gunner received the MM for this act and Vowden was Mentioned in Despatches.

When in 1943 it was obvious that due to loss the RGH would be disbanded, Vowden volunteered to stay with ‘H’ Squadron and was posted to the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars. The 8th then took him to Cyprus where mountain warfare was practised, and he was promoted to acting sergeant taking over as ‘B’ Squadron transport sergeant.

About six months later the Regiment was back in Egypt and Libya delivering reinforcement vehicles. Then they sailed for England and home leave.

On D+1 Vowden was a Sergeant in charge of ‘B’ Squadron Al Echelon, a job he continued to do successfully after landing, right through Normandy, Holland and Germany, where the war ended. He was promoted to SQMS and released to the Reserve in 1946.

He was a determined man with a marvellous sense of humour. There was nothing he liked better than relating life on the dockside of Jersey and working a crane with full demonstrations. A chain smoker, he soon developed cancer of the throat and lived the next 15 years of his life without a voice box.

He endured something like 14 operations but insisted on coming to reunions and writing all questions and jokes on slips of paper so that he was always in the midst of his ex-comrades. He died in Jersey aged 81 on 19 December 1994.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 8th Hussars
  2. Timeline: Middle East (Egypt and Libya)
  3. Timeline: North-West Europe 1944-45