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26 Battalion


page vii


Five years ago when I undertook to write the history of 26 Battalion I had practically no idea of the work involved and assumed that unit war diaries and other official records would be sufficient for my needs. Instead I found that the diaries, in particular those covering Greece and the Desert, were sketchy, impersonal and often misleading. To overcome this understandable fault an appeal for help was made to former members of the battalion. The response was very encouraging. Some sent in private diaries, letters, maps and photographs, while others offered to assist in any way possible.

Those to whom draft narratives were circulated made many comments, adding materially to the story and, more important, saving me from countless errors and omissions. I had hoped it would be possible to acknowledge the invaluable assistance given me by these men, but through the years their number has grown to such an extent that several pages would be required to list their names.

Certain of them, however, have given prodigiously of their time, and in this connection I feel I should mention Lieutenant- Colonel E. J. Thomson, ED, the chairman of the unit historical committee, Major F. W. Wilson, MBE, MC, on whom I, like many before me, placed much reliance, and also Mr. D. C. Walker and Mr. B. J. Palmer, who painstakingly corrected my narrative and offered much useful advice. All records of the War History Branch were placed at my disposal, and each and every member of the staff showed keen interest in my work and a willingness to help which was greatly appreciated.

This book has taken a long time to prepare, much longer than I ever anticipated, but it was a very absorbing task. As more information came to hand the story of each action became clearer, and it was possible to picture events as they took place and understand the hazards and problems which confronted those who took part. It was equally interesting to note the gradual development of the battalion as a fighting machine. Changes in tactics, equipment, and personnel often came only as a result of costly setbacks. These had no apparent effect on morale.

page viii

A complete story of the battalion's activities would fill several volumes. In this book I have tried to give a full and accurate account of the most important of them. Those left out or briefly mentioned mainly concern social activities pertaining to small groups to whom the incidents are personal. I have made no attempt to comment on each action, leaving the question of military tactics to those more qualified. The book is a tribute to those who served overseas with 26 Battalion and has been written primarily for them. If each one of them can find in these pages something to link him with the story then my purpose has been gained.

Frazer D. Norton

23 August 1951