Desmond James Osler Penrose

Desmond James Osler Penrose

Regiment:Royal Armoured Corps, 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards
Service Number:258213
Cemetary/Memorial: Brussels Town Cemetary (X.26.58.)
Awards:1939-1945 Star
1939-1945 War Medal

Born on 24th May 1920 in Banbury, Oxfordshire, Lieutenant Penrose died in Brussels on 24th November 1944, of wounds received at Tripsrath on 19th November 1944. He was killed when a shell struck the top of the turret of his tank.

He was the younger son of Dr Nevill Coghill Penrose (1884-1969), OBE, and Helen (‘Nellie’, nee Benson) Penrose of St Mawes, Cornwall.

Desmond was a pupil at St Ronan’s from 1929, where he is remembered as a ’cheery, happy lad’. He went on to (Sept 1934-April 1937), where he was in Walpole House.

His brother, Jocelyn was also at Saint Ronan’s and Stowe before going on to Pembroke College, Cambridge where he gained his degree in medicine. He worked at Saint Thomas’ hospital in London and served as a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

The following is an account by Walter Lee, written by his daughter, of his time serving with Lieutenant Penrose:

“On the 6th of June 1944, Dad drove his Sherman off a landing craft up the sands Gold Beach and onto the shores of Normandy. His landing wasn’t bad and thankfully German resistance wasn’t too terrible at Gold. Dad fought his way through France and his was the lead tank for the 4th and 7th’s entry into Lille where they had a marvellous reception from the population who flocked into the streets to greet them. Onward into Belgium and Holland with resistance all the way until he was involved in the attempted rescue of the soldiers caught up in the Arnhem disaster of Operation Market Garden with some very fierce fighting and the loss of many Shermans. Light in armour and run on petrol, the Sherman was nicknamed the Ronson after the famous lighter whose motto was “Lights first time every time.” A hit Sherman usually burst into flames as soon as it was hit, the Germans called them “Tommy Cookers.”

It was while fighting his way toward Germany that my father and his colleagues met with death at very close quarters. Buried in the rubble of a farmhouse while on a night reconnaissance, dawn revealed a German 80mm gun only a few hundred feet away pointing right at the rubble the tank was buried in. After many hours of waiting the tank commander, a young Lieutenant popped his head out of the hatch to get a look around and was spotted by the enemy, a round was fired and the shell bounced across the top of the Sherman turret and the young officer fell back inside the Sherman dead in Dad’s arms with most of his head missing. Somehow they got away at full pelt in reverse with shells screaming around their retreat.”

Lieutenant Penrose is standing to the left. The photograph was apparently taken by a Dutch collaborator who was forced to take pictures of each tank.

4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, 1940

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