WW2 tank driver Les, 99, guest of honour in Shifnal
A 99 year-old war veteran is today's guest of honour at a town fete in Shropshire.
Les Cherrington was cutting the ribbon in Shifnal after being invited to speak about his time in service during World War Two.
To his father's dismay, Les joined the Territorial Army in April 1938 after being convinced by his friends.
Five years later he was fighting for his life when his tank exploded while under attack during the North Africa campaign.
Through sheer tenacity, Les lived to tell the tale and was today sharing some of his harrowing memories at the summer event at St Andrews Church in Shifnal.
Les is Shropshire born and bred and has never moved from Shifnal, where his family have lived for many years.
He was working at Baker’s Nurseries in Boningale when, encouraged by his workmates, he joined cavalry regiment the Staffordshire Yeomanry .
Now his jacket is laden with around 12 medals and badges, all for different achievements and services.
He said: “I was born in Shifnal and we’ve never moved. I’ve been all over the world but I’ve always come back here. It’s nice countryside with green forests, green countryside.”
But, with a father who served for 26 years in the Shropshire light infantry and a brother also in the Army, Les had felt like the odd man out.
He said: “I never told my dad I was joining, then when I received my kit and came home, he wasn’t best pleased. And kept asking me why?”
While fighting in Tunisia In 1943 Les suffered serious injuries when his tank was set on fire during a German attack.
His arm was left almost severed by shrapnel and his body was covered in burns but he was alive - unlike many of his colleagues.
“We were driving Sherman tanks through a gap in the mountains about a mile wide, so they could only fit four tanks through at a time," Les explained.
“I was in one of the first 12 tanks to go into action, but what we didn’t know was that the Germans were waiting about a hundred yards off with 88mm anti aircraft guns.
“They got six of our tanks, and I was in one of them. The shells got into the tank making it blow up. I was very lucky, I was knocked unconscious but the others were killed almost instantly."
Les crawled out of the tank’s turret and was hit by further rounds of gun fire before managing to crawl into a slit trench where he spent the night.
Severely injured but still alive, Les was found by an Australian soldier the next morning.
He was then taken to hospital in Tripoli, Libya, where he regained conciousness three days later.
“I was a very lucky man,” said Les, who continued to serve his country for a further 40 years in the RAF police.