Last week 2 historic tank transporters returned to 7 Regiment. The Antar and Scammel Commander vehicles arrived at Kendrew Barracks in Cottesmore.
Formerly of the now disbanded 16 Tank Transporter Squadron, the tank transporters are an important piece of 7 Regiment’s history. Recently the vehicles have undergone an extensive restoration programme and are now able to be displayed proudly in the new permanent Regimental home in Rutland.
The vehicles are named after Polish soldiers who served when the Squadron was still part of the Mixed Service Organisation (MSO) and have been extensively restored. George Barcikowski spent 38 years with the 16 Tank Transporter Squadron. In 2000 he was awarded the MBE for his service and he was present at the Squadron disbandment parade in 2014. Stanislaw Bielecki was a Superintendent in 16 Tank Transporter Squadron.
On the 16 April 1945 Montgomery’s 21st Army Group discovered and liberated a network of concentration camps including 2 near Fallingbostel that contained a large number of Polish Prisoners of War. In May 1945 Colonel Karol Ziemski formed Polish Auxiliary units made up from Refugees, Forced Labourers, Prisoners of War & Conscripts who were used to guard captured German Armour. By the beginning of 1947 the tasks of Auxiliary Units had expanded and they were now moving Allied and German armour throughout Germany.
In 1972 the Regiment took on two Troops of British soldiers to replace the polish members who had retired and the subunits were re-named 617 Tank Transporter Squadron and 16 Tank Transporter Squadron. The British Officers of the Regiment were presented with the Polish Orzel (Eagle) Lapel Badge as a sign of thanks from the serving Mixed Service Organisation personnel. This was the first time British Soldiers wore the Lapel Orzel and this tradition has continued to this day.
These vehicles are an important part of the history and tradition of 7 Regiment. They will be cherished for many years to come and offer an invaluable link to the proud Polish tradition and unique history of the unit.