John Craven, known to all as ‘Jack’, from Preston, Lancs, who served with 8 KRIH from 1940 to 1946 died on the 13th of April 2015.
He joined up at 18 in 1940 and served when the Regiment was part of the 7th Armoured Division, the ‘Desert Rats’.
He was captured at the battle of Bir al Hacheim in 1942.
The Desert Rats were in reserve behind the 1st Free French Brigade at Bir al Hacheim, near Tobruk.
Bir-Hacheim was defended from 26 May-11 June 1942 against much larger German and Italian forces, commanded by Rommel.
4th Armoured Brigade, of which 8 KRIH were part, advanced and collided with 15th Panzer Division. 8th Hussars were attacked and largely eliminated as a force and many, including John, were taken prisoner, often seeing the enemy commander, Rommel, whilst prisoners of the Germans.
The delay imposed on the Axis offensive by the defence of Bir-Hakeim influenced the cancellation of the planned Axis invasion of Malta.
John spent the rest of the war in a German prisoner of war camp in Austria where he and other prisoners kept track of the progress of the war by a hidden radio receiver that they rigged up.
In his quiet Lancashire dialect he used to explain to younger listeners, speaking of his German prison guards, that, as the war progressed, ‘well, we’d to tell them they were losing the war… they didn’t seem to like that too much’.
He was persuaded to remain in service after the war for a time before retiring from regimental duty and setting up in business as a printer in his home town of Preston, in which business he remained until his retirement.