Qatia Day, Worcester 2011

Attended Qatia Day at Worcester Cathedral and TA centre for the first time, Harry used to attend for as long as he could.

Qatia Day commemorates an action at the Suez Canal in the first world war against Turkish troops. The Regiment was sent to Egypt to protect the water supplies on the eastern side of the Suez Canal. The Regiment dug wells and sent out patrols for reconnaissance to establish the location of the Turkish forces, the Regiment being responsible for patrolling the whole of the Qatia water area. Turkish troops attacked the small garrison at Qatia, which fell with loss of all of the Yeomanry's officers except Major W.H. Wiggin who was wounded and managed to withdraw with about half the squadron, 9 officers and 102 NCOs and men of the Regiment were killed and many other wounded. Anzac troops, who occupied Qatia four days later, testified to the ferocity of the battle and paid tribute to the valour and tenacity of the defenders. Subsequently the Worcestershire Yeomanry with the Warwickshire Yeomanry took part in the last cavalry charge in British Military history against a group of Turkish guns at Huj in November 1917.

Hugh Sebag-Montefiore had forwarded an email from another author writing a book about Operation Dynamo - Dunkirk 1940 asking if he could reproduce a passage originally from Harry's memoir that appeared in Sebag-Montefiore's 'Dunkirk: fight to the last man'. I wrote back to the author - Doug Dildy - saying I would be happy to. We then exchanged a series of emails about things connected with the forthcoming book, amongst them that an artist - Howard Gerrard - had been commissioned to paint three pictures to be appear in the book. One of these depicted the final stand at Cassel, and the destruction of a tank just as Harry had described it, with the key on the back quoting Harry's words. Doug said they intended to auction the three originals and asked if I was interested in bidding for it. I would have been, except I had no idea what such a work would go for, and didn't want to embarrass myself in either direction! I suggested that the Worcester Yeomanry and the regimental associations of the other divisions that were at Cassel might be interested in bidding and gave Doug their details. Subsequently Doug wrote to say that he and Howard had decided to donate the picture to the Regimental Museum, and asked me to suggest a suitable occasion. I wrote to Stamford Cartwright and he suggested Qatia Day 2011. Now although Howard is based in England Doug is an American and a pilot for DHL freight, and quite by chance although Howard wasn't going to be available on the day Doug would be in London on a rest-day and would be able to bring the picture and present it himself. He was driven to Worcester by an acquaintance, Tim Calloway, who he had met at Duxford air museum, Tim being a guide and interested in wartime machinery of all types. Doug is an interesting person in his own right as his Osprey profile indicates, but you would never know it on meeting him. A true 'Top Gun', and about as far in personality from Tom Cruise as you could get.

Saturday 16th April was a beautiful Spring day, arriving early we had time for a very pleasant stroll around the cathedral grounds beside the river. St George's Chapel was full with most of the overflow seats taken as well, and Worcester Cathedral organ was in full voice, being new in 2008. Sadly Stamford was unable to attend having been struck down by a stomach bug the night before. After the service we retired to the TA Centre, fortunately being able to follow Stamford's wife round the many road-works and diversions in the short distance. The TA Centre itself is new, and impressive in its own right. Doug had brought a couple of copies of his book - 'Dunkirk 1940: Operation Dynamo' - for us, which he very kindly inscribed with some nice words about what Harry and his comrades had gone through. Someone else had to receive the painting on Stamford's behalf, but because his illness was so sudden there had been no time for a proper briefing so it was a bit low-key, given the trouble that Doug had gone to. For our own part, it was a great pleasure and an honour to meet Doug, and since then he has sent us copies of another of his books - 'Dambusters - Operation Chastise 1943'.

Some pictures from the day, taken by Tim and myself:

St George's Chapel flags and windows commemorating Worcestershire Yeomanry actions.

St George's Chapel, Doug Dildy extreme left.

The newly refurbished TA centre

Repast and silverware

The author inscribing a copy of the book ...

... and chatting to Yeomanry members and family.


The artwork, showing a tank having been stopped by shell damage to the tracks, as Harry had described