Email from Ron Muggleton to Peter Best, dated 27th November 2017, answering some of John Pank Jr’s questions
Thank you for copying me in on Mr Pank’s latest e-mail to you. I appreciate that you need to catch up following your time away but when you do have the time the following might be of interest:-
a) He seems to have followed more or less the same path as my father who was attested at Penarth and then went immediately to RAF Squiresgate near Blackpool for his basic training, where he was accommodated in a civilian “bed and breakfast” type house. Squiresgate was apparently the largest RAF training establishment during World War II.
b) The vehicle which Mr Pank’s father drove on D-Day seems to have been a radar vehicle of some description. That he describes scenes of devastation when he landed means that he must have landed on Omaha, because we know from the Operations Record Books of 24 Sector which landed on Juno beach that they did not lose either personnel or vehicles to enemy action.
c) He would have been at RAF Church Fenton and moved with the rest of the MRUs from there via Lutterworth and Zeals to RAF Sopley during May 1944. From there, he would have proceeded to Poole Harbour, the starting point for 21 Sector on D-Day. That he landed on D-Day also means that he must have been with GCI 15082.
d) I don’t recognise the account of the vehicles exiting the landing craft on Omaha but certainly one RAF man, Cpl Middleton, is stated to have been killed in his vehicle whilst driving up and down the beach.
e) Like most of those men who had been involved in action, his father exhibited the very same reluctance to talk about his experiences.
f) I don’t recall any reports, official or otherwise, about a German aircraft shooting up the camp but that is not to say that it did not happen. The only account which I can recall is when a piece of the many tons of anti-aircraft shrapnel, which exploded in the sky, fell into a tent and wounded one of the airmen quite seriously in his foot.
g) His father’s account of the starting handle kicking back and hitting him on the chin is actually quite feasible as the engines on those vehicles did have a tendency to play up when being started. The technique was always to grip the starting handle with the thumb alongside the fingers as gripping it in the normal fashion when the engine “kicked back” could result in a broken thumb!
h) Certainly the vehicles were indeed stuck on the beach for a long time, and those which had not been “drowned” on landing suffered from accurate shelling, mortaring and machine gun fire from enemy weapons which had been accurately ranged beforehand. We do have accurate records of the 40 or so officers and airmen who became casualties as a result of this.
i) John Henry Pank’s Service Record would be very interesting as, even though it is likely to be short on information because of the secrecy surrounding Radar at the time, with what we now know of 21 Sector we should be able to decipher some of its probable mysteries and answer some of Jahn Pank’s queries. The photograph of which he speaks might also be illuminating?
As far as John’s final question is concerned, we should definitely be able to supply him with quite a lot more detail. Please let me know if I can be of assistance in this regard.