Arthur Taggart died on 18 October 1992, in his 78th year.

He enlisted in October 1933, when he was 18 years old and was posted to the 4th Hussars, then still a mounted Cavalry Regiment.

In three years he had been appointed LCpl and at about the same time the Regiment had, inevitably, lost its horses, and by 1937 received Mk IVB light tanks. He was promoted to Corporal in early 1938, and Sergeant by the end of that year.

His service, even in his early period, was not without incident.

He was involved in the Dunkirk evacuation (for some unknown reason, for the Regiment was in Leicestershire!) and in helping to haul survivors into a launch; he himself was pulled overboard and only with difficulty pulled back aboard. He was safely evacuated on 2 June 1940.

He was back with the Regiment when it was billeted on Newmarket racecourse in August 1940, and recalls the crash of an RAF Blenheim onto the racecourse. Its crew escaped before the plane exploded, but the Troop Sergeant and crew in the vehicle next to his were killed.

He embarked with the Regiment in November 1940 and disembarked at the Suez Canal in January 1941.

By the end of February, the Regiment was fully equipped and basically trained for desert warfare; in March, as part of an expeditionary force of 60,000 men, it was sent to Greece!

The disastrous campaign (known euphorically by the politicians as a “daring venture”) was virtually over by the end of April, with the Regiment decimated by overwhelming enemy forces.

Arthur Taggart was with ‘HQ’ Squadron, which was ordered to evacuate on 25 April.

They were fortunate to find boats and set out for Crete. Their boats were bombed and sunk; some men were drowned, but the majority of this small party was picked up by a destroyer. Taggart himself recorded that he saved a Chief Petty Officer from drowning, and was rewarded with a Turkish currency note (value unspecified!) which he retained all his life.

He was then appointed A/D/W02 as SSM of ‘HQ’ Squadron which saw some action in Crete before sailing to Alexandria, which was reached on 10 May.

He was one of 159 ORs who survived capture or death in the campaign.

He became a W/S SQMS in October 1941 and after the reforming and re-equipping of the Regiment, he took part in the confused fighting in the Western Desert from the Knightsbridge/Tobruk area back to Alamein, and after that crucial battle, back to beyond Knightsbridge.

But with the move of the Regiment to the more peaceful environment of Cyprus in January 1943, he became disenchanted with what he called “the rest” and applied for a transfer.

He was posted to GHQ Cairo and from there to “Force 133” of the S.O.E. in Palestine.

Here he dabbled in such varied and exotic planning projects as sabotage, limpet mines, dropping sappers behind enemy lines and the transportation of 1000 mules
for partisans in Albania.

After the end of the war, he arrived home before the Regiment, and in March 1946 applied for release to the Army Reserve, only to rejoin the Colours, reverting to the rank of Sergeant, 8 months later, on 11 Nov 1946. He spent the next 9 years at Mons OCS as SSgt i/c Wireless Instruction.

He returned to 4H in June 1954 at Hohne, as SQMS of ‘HQ’ Squadron, and one year later was posted to the 4H Affiliated Regiment, the Shropshire Yeomanry, with promotion to WO2.

He was Permanent Staff Instructor and SSM of ‘A’ Squadron at Wellington for his last 2 years in the Army, before retirement in April 1957.

After working for the next 22 years as a civil servant, he retired to his house near Chester and then became a British Legion Steward and Secretary/Treasurer of the area “Dunkirk Veterans’ Association”, for whom he organised pilgrimages to the battlefields in France; outings; dinners and dances etc., until ill-health cut short his activities.

He had served for 23 years with the Colours, with remarkable loyalty to the Regiment.

His command of troops was always firm, but without aggression, and perhaps somewhat unusual was his reputation for ‘kindness’, not perhaps a characteristic immediately associated with “Sergeant Major”.

Related topics

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