My grandfather Thomas Pflugk first joined the Green Howards in 1926 at Catterick Camp when aged 19yrs. He was a career soldier and rose through the ranks to Company Sergeant Major when he was finally discharged in 1947 to the reserve. In 1930, the then Corporal took part in Public Duties in London while the battalion was stationed at Wellington Barracks. At the outbreak of WW2, aged 32, he was medically classified as B, then by 1942 downgraded to C. He spent most of his war service between Richmond, Catterick Camp & HQ Northumbrian District at Newcastle Upon Tyne.
From his service records he was giving instruction to new recruits in basic training at Catterick, including small arms weapons training and training on the 2pdr anti tank gun. While Thomas was ‘home’ based his brother Pte Walter Pflugk was serving in the Middle East with 2nd Battalion The King Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster). His battalion had been moved from Palestine to Egypt in 1940, then to Syria in June 1941 to contain the potential German and Vichy French threat. It was near Merja Ayoun that Walter died of wounds received in the short but vicious battle. He is buried in the Commonwealth War cemetery at Damascus.
In 1944, the Green Howards took part in the D-Day landings on 6th June 1944. They landed on Gold Beach near Ver-sur-Mer and moved inland towards the village of Crepon. It is here that there is the Green Howards memorial to those who fought and lost their lives on D-Day and the following months in the battle for Normandy. The only Victoria Cross awarded on D-Day was to CSM Stanley Hollis who on his own, secured two pillboxes that had been bypassed in the assault. He came under machine gun fire but managed to knock out the pillboxes thus saving the lives of many of his men.
No doubt some of the men who landed that day were trained by my grandfather. Many who landed were without battle experience and had to rely on their training. The Green Howards moved inland quickly and on the day their advance was one of the most successful.
Thomas Pflugk was discharged in 1947. He died in 1961.
During the Second World War, the regiment was again increased in size, although not to as large an extent as in the 1914–1918 conflict. In all, twelve battalions saw service: the 1st, with 15th Infantry Brigade of the 5th Infantry Division, and 2nd regular army Battalions, the 4th and 5th Territorial Army Battalions, both serving with the 150th Infantry Brigade of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, the 6th and 7th Battalions (both formed as 2nd Line duplicates of the 4th and 5th, when the Territorial Army was doubled in size in 1939, served with 69th Brigade, originally with the 23rd (Northumbrian) Division but later the 50th Division), the 8th was formed for home defence, the 9th was formed for garrison duty (and later converted into the 108th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, serving with the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division from March 1942), the 10th was formed by the conversion of the 2nd East Riding Yeomanry (a war-time duplicate of this yeomanry unit) in 1940 and subsequently becoming the 12th (Yorkshire) Parachute Battalion attached to the 5th Parachute Brigade and part of the 6th Airborne Division. The 11th, 12th and 13th were all formed in 1940.
In 1942, the 12th Battalion was converted to armour as the 161st Regiment Royal Armoured Corps, but retained its Green Howards cap badge on the black beret of the Royal Armoured Corps as did all other infantry units converted in the same way. In October 1943 it was then converted again, this time to the reconnaissance role, as 161st (Green Howards) Regiment in the Reconnaissance Corps. It never went into action as a regiment, but provided a replacement squadron to the 43rd (Wessex) Reconnaissance Regiment, which had suffered heavy losses when its transport was sunk on the way to France to fight in the Battle of Normandy.
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