BUNN, Roger [MM]

No.281218, Lieutenant, Roger BUNN M.M.
Aged 32

The Queen's Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards), Royal Armoured Corps
Killed in Action on Wednesday 20th September 1944

Roger BUNN was born in 1912 Carlton Colville, near Lowestoft (Mutford Q2-1912 4A:2068) son of Thomas George and Ellen BUNN (née HARVEY).

He was the second youngest of the seven children of agricultural labourer George Thomas Bunn and Ellen (Nellie). The Bunn family had lived in this corner of Suffolk, just south of Lowestoft, for over 100 years and worked mainly on farms or as fishermen.
As a young lad growing up, Roger would have read the name of his eldest brother Clifford on the Memorial in St Peter's Church, Carlton Colville. Roger was barely six years old when his eldest brother, Clifford aged 21, was killed in action in Arras, France during March 1918. During this conflict, Clifford was awarded the Military Medal.

Roger was a career soldier serving in the Dragoon Guards (Queens’ Bays), a tank regiment. The 2nd Dragoon Guards (The Queen's Bays) were so named from the days when, as a cavalry unit they always rode bay horses. From their latter days in North Africa they "rode" Sherman tanks. He had been a regular for several years before the outbreak of war. The Queen 's Bays were garrisoned in Haverhill at Place Farm between September 1939 and May 1940 parking their Bren Gun carrying tanks on the Recreation Ground. They were popular with the locals as they provided a twelve-piece dance band for the Saturday dance nights at the Town Hall. While Roger was stationed in the town, he met Winifred Marsh (known as Winnie). The Marsh family lived in Linton and Withersfield before finally settling in Haverhill in about 1805. Winnie’s father, George William was the 3rd generation to be born in the town.
Roger married Winifred MARSH [3-8-1918] on May 8th 1940 at St.Mary's Church, Haverhill. She was a laundry hand, with her parents George and Eliza MARSH at 4 Mill Hill, Haverhill in the 1939 register.and later went on to marry Russell FORD in 1946.

The 1939 register has at 2 Elm Tree Road, Lowestoft, his father Thomas G [26-4-1873] farm labourer and his mother Ellen[8-9-1875]. No closed record.

Probate (to his widow) gave their address as 2 Elm Tree Road, Carlton Colville, Lowestoft.

Within 2 weeks of his wedding, the Bays were sent as part of the 1st Armoured Division to France where they were heavily engaged on the Somme. Sgt Bunn was commanding one of two tanks ordered to seize and hold a bridge across the Somme at Dreuil les Amienois. The second tank was commanded by 2nd Lt Viscount Erleigh who wrote an account about this action which can be read at the end of this tribute. In mid June 1940, with the collapse of French resistance, they were evacuated back to England through the port of Brest.
The Bays left for the Middle East in July 1941 sailing via South Africa for Alexandria. They arrived in Tobruk, Libya in November 1941 and in May 1942 they were involved in the Battle of Gazala where it was recognized that they fought with great bravery. They were continuously in action for 19 days, a record for an armoured regiment in the Western Desert. For his part in the repulse of the first German attack, Sgt Bunn was awarded the Military Medal.

The following is the citation from the Recommendation for the Military Medal award:
"This NCO maintained his Grant Tank in action without a break during the period 27th May to 13th June 1942. In numerous actions that the Squadron took part in during this period Sgt. R. Bunn fought his tank with outstanding skill and ability, and quite definitely inflicted Tank losses on the enemy. His calmness and complete personal disregard for danger was a fine example not only to his crew but to all who witnessed his actions. He was always first into action and no one could have given better support to his Troop Leader. I consider this NCO displayed outstanding qualities of courage and continued determination”.

Roger was commissioned wef 13th April 1943 (LG 30th July 1943) and posted to ‘A’ Squadron in Tripoli. During August and September 1943, he spent some time instructing the Canadian Command Detachment at Phillipville, Belgium before returning to Tripoli. Now holding the rank of Lieutenant he was RHQ Troop Leader when he was Mentioned in Despatches in January 1944.
The Bays went on to Italy in May 1944 and in September 1944 were engaged at the battle of Coriano Ridge. Coriano Ridge was the last important ridge in the way of the Allied advance in the Adriatic sector in the autumn of 1944. Its capture was the key to Rimini and eventually to the River Po. By the 18th September the Bays had closed up to the River Ausa but with bridges destroyed, the ford at Benefizio and sheer volume of traffic progress was slow. They were hampered by supply trucks that failed to reach them to replenish petrol and ammunition. When they finally cleared the congestion on the 19th they made their way to Montecieco. An attack had been planned for that evening but the delay meant that they had to postpone this until the following day. On 20th September leading elements of 2nd Armoured Brigade came under heavy fire from high up on the Coriano Ridge, west of Rimini. This vital position, part of the Gothic Line, had been held by infantry, but they had been forced to withdraw by a powerful German counter-attack, leaving their wounded on the ground. At first light on the 20th they moved out to the west of the road junction at Montecieco and went hull down on the rim of the bowl whose top edge was at Coriano. While forming up they were harassed by sniper fire from the rear in Coriano. "B" Squadron was order to send a troop to deal with that threat, but 2 tanks were quickly knocked out, leaving just Sgt Burley's to continue, his subsequent actions and bravery earning him the D.C.M.. The whole action was judged to have been needlessly costly and futile. It seems very likely that Roger Bunn was in one of the first two tanks to be knocked out. All told, according to CWGC 22 of the Queen's Bays died that day, all are buried in Coriano His widow, Winifred was just 25 years of age when he was killed in action.

The Haverhill Echo of 7th October 1944 reported that Mrs W Bunn of 4 Mill Hill had received confirmation from the War Office that her husband Lt. Roger Bunn had been killed in action in Italy

Sherman tank of the Bays, at Tobruk

Roger's original grave marker

Roger Bunn MM is buried in Coriano Ridge War Cemetery, Italy grave 8:D:12

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details

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