All our yesterdays

Michael MacPherson
MEMBERS of the former Manx Regiment met at the Manx Aviation and Military Museum to reminisce about their heroics during the Second World War. August is a significant month for the anti-aircraft regiment, which was formed in August 1938, went off to war in August 1939 and was credited with shooting down its first enemy aircraft in August 1940, during the Battle of Britain.

At its peak the regiment had around 600 Manxmen but there are now fewers than 20 who still live in the Island.

At the museum, they inspected two examples of the type of Bofors Gun they used in Europe after the D-Day landings as well as uniforms, medals, photographs and memorabilia illustrating the history of the regiment.

Museum curator Ivor Ramsden said: ‘All of these boys are in their 80s or 90s now, but listening to them talk about their time in the regiment it’s amazing how the years fall off them. It’s as if they are back in their 20s.

‘Some of them have memories that are crystal clear and these days they are prepared to talk about their time in service much more openly.

‘To them, it used to be something that everyone had done but now they realise that people are much more interested in finding out what happened.’

After the men of the Manx Regiment were trained in the Island, they were stationed in Merseyside.

They were then posted along the south coast to defend strategic targets such as airfields, radar stations and aircraft production lines during the Battle of Britain, which reached its 70th anniversary this month.
At the end of 1940, the regiment’s 129 Battery was sent to Crete, where its troops were captured and spent the rest of the war in prisoner of war camps.

The other batteries, 41 and 42, were sent to Eritrea and Egypt respectively until mid-1941, when they joined forces to support the famous 7th Armoured Division, nicknamed the Desert Rats, in western Africa.

After a foray up the west coast of Italy in September 1943, the regiment re-trained in Norfolk and arrived in Normandy a couple of days after the D-Day landings.

They fought through France, Belgium and Holland defending river crossings and later firing at ground targets such as infantry.

By the end of the war they had reached Hamburg and shot down more than 200 aircraft, still the record in the British Army. Sadly, the regiment was re-numbered after the war and lost its Manx connections.

The Manx Aviation and Military Museum, at Ronaldsway Airport, is open from 10am-4.30pm every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays. It will be open every day during Manx Grand Prix fortnight.