True war stories of Pateley Bridge's WW2 hero, 96

A photo from the Second World war of Pateley Bridge man Norman Goostrys regiment.
A photo from the Second World war of Pateley Bridge man Norman Goostrys regiment.

As Pateley Bridge's 1940s Weekend approaches, readers may be interested to know that there is a Second World War veteran who still lives in this pretty Dales town and still enjoys the nostalgic events.

Until he was interviewed recently on tape by the Imperial War Museum as a lasting record of his recollections of his wartime service, brave ex-British army tank driver Norman Goostry, 96, had always been reluctant to talk much about the war.
But now he has kindly shared some of his amazing real-life experiences during his six years of service all those years ago to his daughter Pam Hall and her friend Pete Cartner.
Here they tell Norman Goostry's amazing tale...
Born in Oldham in 1921, Norman served throughout the entire duration of the war, and drove Sherman and other tanks in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.
Norman was 18 in the March of 1939. The day war was declared, an official came to his place of work and told him to report to the local Drill Hall immediately. Norman became a member of the 41st Royal Tank Regiment.
He did initial training in a mill in Oldham, then spent time in Otley and Knaresborough, where he drove and reported on experimental tanks, trucks and other equipment.
Picked out as a good driver, it took Norman and his regiment two-and-a-half months to reach Egypt.
They broke down twice and were left behind by their convoy and had to switch direction frequently to avoid submarines.
On approaching El Alamein, they received their Sherman tanks, which whilst way superior to the Cruiser and Matilda, were, in Norman’s opinion, not a match for the German Tiger tanks.
Whilst they were in the assembly area near to El Alamein, Field Marshal Montgomery came to chat to them and spent half an hour sitting on Norman’s tank.
Norman remained with A Squadron and the Regiment became the 1st Scorpion Regiment, driving a Matilda Flail Tank, sweeping for mines.
Their orders were to sweep as much as they could, but to be away by dawn, so the Germans could not see what they were driving.
One day, as dawn approached, they had not finished and smoke screens were created to hide them from the view of the Germans.
During his time in North Africa his tank was attacked by Stukas whilst on his way to join the first army anti-aircraft crew.
When they got to Italy they moved across to B Squadron and the Regiment changed again to become 1 Assault Regiment after which they crewed Sherman Gun Tanks.
Moving through Sicily, to the toe of Italy, then heading North, they were involved in the Battle of Monte Cassino before heading for Rome and Naples.
They were crossing the River Poe when they heard over the radio that Germany had capitulated.
They were told to stop and stay where they were.
After a wait, they were given a map reference which took them to Valdarno, where Norman remembers the celebrations and the fireworks that night.
He then spent several months moving vast numbers of the now redundant military vehicles through the Simplon Pass, across the mountains into Switzerland and Austria.
There were some lighter moments too.
He was at one point made up to Corporal but when his superiors heard his crew calling him Gus (short for Goostry), they were not happy.
When called before them, Norman simply asked to be reinstated back to his original rank. He wanted to be one of the lads, nothing else. Giving orders was not something he enjoyed.
He was lucky not to be put on a charge after one incident when a senior officer appropriated a piano that his unit had been using. Norman stormed in and shouted at the officer, “I want my bloody piano back!”
He got away with it and even managed to retain his piano.
Norman still speaks of the generosity of the Americans and said he appreciated the K rations given to them, and on one occasion, after falling ill through the cold air blowing from the fan on the Sherman, he was given a US flying jacket, for which he was very grateful.
In Sicily, they also came across a bombed guitar and mandolin factory, and Norman acquired a guitar.
Sometime after this, Norman was driving a Flail Tank when it hit a delayed action mine, and it exploded under the centre of the tank.
As well as having a severe headache, Norman found his guitar split in half.
On another occasion in Italy, they came across an Italian wine store that had been abandoned with barrels of wine lying about.
His tank crew got a barrel of red and white onto the Flail tank’s front gantry, and connected rubber tubes to the interior of the Sherman!
Finally, Norman left Valdarno and travelled, through the night, by train to Milan.
A 36-hour journey then took him through Switzerland, parts of Germany and through France.
After a two week wait in France, he reached Calais and was given his demob suit. He took the train to Manchester, arriving late at night.
He left the station, carrying his kit bag. There were taxis waiting but they wanted £5 for a trip to Oldham, so Norman set off to walk home, arriving just as it was getting light.
He knocked up his dad and step mother.
There was no big welcome. There was no fuss.
Norman Goostry was given a bit of refreshment then his dad said: “your bed is ready lad, are you tired?”

Tank driver Norman Goostry as a young man during the Second World War.

Tank driver Norman Goostry as a young man during the Second World War.

Pateley Bridge goes back to the 1940’s this weekend Saturday, July 29- 30 with a feast of nostalgia, historical displays, entertainment and dances.
But local charity also benefits.
At last year’s 40s Weekend, fundraising for local charities resulted in donations being made to the following:
Royal British Legion, Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Troop Aid, Manorlands Hospice, Escape Line Memorial Society, Yorkshire Cancer Research.
Chairman of organisers Nidderdale Chamber of Trade, Keith Tordoff said: “The Pateley Bridge 1940s event is now in its fourth year. This popular event is a great attraction and boon for the area and its businesses.
“Amongst re-enactors from around the country it is now a must attend event as they recognise it as a very welcoming and friendly place to visit. The weekend is sure to be a memorable event for everyone.”