Taking a bit of a break from hobby stuff to blog about something I frequently encounter when researching the 144th Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, and 33 Armoured Brigade in particular.
This involves the markings used by the brigade, and the repetition of a mistake so many times people take it as a fact. I hope to demonstrate, with evidence, that the information repeated in numerous sources in incorrect.
First up, what information is commonly quoted but is correct? The 'standard' information is that prior to September 1944, the Brigade used the below AoS numbers. There is ample visual evidence of this AoS scheme in use by the brigade, which I won't show here as this information is not in dispute:
The issue arises from the restructuring of the Brigade following the disbandment of 148RAC and the joining of the East Riding Yeomanry (ERY) in August 1944. Most sources (in fact, every book I have that mentions the topic) then incorrectly state that the brigade used the AoS numbers 151 to 154.
Here is my own mock up of these incorrect AoS numbers, which the sources say were in use from August/September 1944 until January 1945:
I strongly dispute this information. No a single image exists which supports the use of the 151 to 153 AoS numbers by this formation. There is no actual evidence that these number were ever put on 33AB vehicles. I am unsure where the notion that these numbers were used originates, but I suspect some early post war source made a mistake that has been reported as a fact ever since.
What does exist is a whole range of historical images of tanks from the various units in 33AB, from October 1944 onward, showing an AoS range of 50 to 53 in use. So from September 1944 till January 1945 the markings of the unit were actually (correctly):
Then we have the East Riding Yeomanry. According to the sources, this unit should have an AoS of 153:
A similar image to the one above...
Again, faintly you can see the 33AB hourglass on the rear left, the same (petrol station tank) square squadron marking mid rear and a faint 52 on the right rear. Also identifiable are the side hull numbers discussed above. This image is sometimes described as being an American unit, which can be discounted as the Americans didn't use Fireflies.
Then we have 144RAC who according to the various sources should have an AoS of 154 by October 1944. However, here we have an image from 'Blue Flash', Colonel Jolly's written account of the regiments actions. This picture was taken at the same time and place as much of the IWM footage above was taken, during the fighting in the Netherlands:
Quite clearly, the regiment is using an AoS of 53 in October 1944, the formation sign is also clear on the left and the turret number is visible on the rear of the turret. This would have been blue with probably a white edging at this time. Another change from the Normandy period is that the tank number was previous also displayed on the side of the turret, but is not visible in these later pictures. Possibly when they had to paint the new (blue) numbers on, they only did them on the turret rear.
Another image, dated 25 October 1944, and found here - the description wrongly attributes these tanks as being ERY, however the AoS of 53 marks these as 144RAC tanks, in company with a 33AB Brigade HQ tank. Again, the turret numbers would be blue with a white edge.
A little later, during the fighting in the bulge, this Pathe film shows some 144RAC sliding about: