Photos courtesy of D. Mahoney; J.M. & S. McNally


  1. J.McNally recognised his father-in-law in a photograph from another Guardsman’s album - click here to view that photo


I am extremely grateful to Tabs’ family for their generosity and kind permission to reproduce the information and photographs detailed below.


Please click here if you recognise any of the Guardsmen in the photos

ARTHUR ANDREW ‘TABS’ MAHONEY, 2ARMD & 1BN

From his son-in-law, John:


“2717157, CSM Arthur Andrew 'Tabs' Mahoney, enlisted in 1929 and served with the Irish Guards until 1938.  He was then called up again in 1939 and served until 1956. In total Arthur served in the Irish Guards for 27 years.


"Tabs served with the 2nd Armoured Battalion as well as the 1st Battalion.  As you can imagine he had a lot of memories of the time spent with the Guards. After the war, Tabs served in Hamburg until 1949, when he was then posted to the Middle East. He left in 1955. I was lucky to sit down with Tabs and go through his album with him, but some of the photos in the album I have no idea what or who is in them.


Tabs passed away over 15 years ago, and I looked at the album with him in 1959-60. Quite a lot of the photos were passed over, and never discussed.”



Lance-Sergeant A. Mahoney is noted as Gunner / Mechanic on the pre-embarkation list and as being in No. 1 Squadron, 2nd Armoured Battalion, Irish Guards. His Squadron leader was Major N.A.R. O'Neill, the Second-in-Command at the time was Captain Eddie Tyler and the Troop officer was Lieutenant Isitt. Tabs’ crew in the Sherman were:

L/Sgt John Kelly, Driver / Operator [KIA 1/8/44]

Gdsm T. Driscoll Driver / Operator [Wounded 1/8/44]

Gdsm C. Lally, Gunner / Mechanic [KIA 1/8/44]

Gdsm J. Hunt, Driver / Mechanic [Wounded 1/8/44]


Tabs was also wounded on the 1st August 1944. At this time the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Irish Guards were working in partnership with other battalions in the Guards Armoured Division and were not paired together as the Irish Group. The 2nd Armoured Battalion formed up with 5th Battalion Coldstream Guards.




From the History of the Irish Guards in the Second World War, by FitzGerald:


“The Battalion broke harbour at five o'clock the following morning, 1st August.  The next stage on the road was the village of St. Denis Maisonelles, about two miles farther on.  No. 2 Squadron rejoined their COLDSTREAM company half-way up Point 238.  They reached the tope with the loss of only one tank.  A German shot came straight through the bank, leaving a neat tunnel, and struck the Pipe-Major's tank.  The tank promptly went on fire and started to roll back down the hill out of control.  In a direct line beneath it was the Regimental Aid Post; the burning tank crashed through one hedge and bank and bore down on the group of wounded men.  The doctor and his orderlies could not possibly shift the stretchers in time; all they could do was hope that the one intervening bank would hold it.  The tank hit the bank below a whitethorn tree, swayed and stopped.  Pipe-Major CROZIER was badly burnt and his thigh was smashed.  The gunner, Guardsman CUTHBERTSON, was also horribly burnt, and had his foot hanging by a thread.  When the stretcher-bearers got to the tank the Pipe-Major was hauling CUTHBERTSON under cover and both of them were singing "The Mountains of Mourne."  "There's the Micks for you," said the Battalion proudly.


Point 238 secured, the next task was to clear the ground over-looking the main road.  At half-past six, No. 1 Squadron, under Major NIAL O'NEILL, and a company of COLDSTREAMERS formed up in an orchard just above the harbour area.  The orchard skirted the main road and was bounded by a sunken lane which joined the road at right angles.  Their first objective was a group of farm buildings five hundred yards to the south.  The infantry climbed through the deep overgrown lane and tramped across a field of turnips towards the farm.  The tanks went out on to the road and waited there to give the infantry time to reach the hedge on the far side of the turnip field. 


Lieutenant MICHAEL MACONCHY poked his gun muzzle over the wooden gate; his troop sat behind him waiting the word to burst into the field.  He pushed down the gate.  The loud splintering of wood drowned the report of a German gun, but Sergeant HEALEY, in the second tank, saw a long flash from the sunken lane and his troop leader's tank burst into flames.  He had almost reached it when he was hit, but in the front, not in the rear as he expected.  The Tiger in the lane had left him to another gun, while it knocked the tracks off the third tank.  In MICHAEL MACONCHY's tank he himself, Lance-Sergeant RICHES and Guardsman DAVIDSON were killed; in Sergeant HEALEY's, the driver, Guardsman BARNETT, was killed, but the rest of the crew got away.  With no tank support, the COLDSTREAMERS fell easy victims to the German infantry entrenched on the other side of the hedge.  The survivors withdrew back to the orchard. 


No squadron leader likes seeing one of his troops destroyed before his eyes, and Major O'NEILL was "hopping mad."  He had been told that the sunken lane was clear, and indeed some of the infantry must have passed within ten yards of the TIger.  Now he was taking nobody's word, and crawled from hedge to hedge to see everything for himself.  Besides the Tiger in the lane there were at least two anti-tank guns covering the flank, and about a company behind the hedge.  He decided that a second attack would succeed if the sunken lane were properly cleared and a troop and Squadron H.Q. supported the infantry and leading tanks from the orchard.  A Piat patrol went up the lane, but the German tank had gone.  Meanwhile, reports about the enemy were pouring in: "The reports on the air sounded as though a menagerie had escaped - Tigers, Panthers, Hornets and 'Crabs' everywhere, some dug in, some moving north, south, east and west.  We gave up counting the brutes."



Lieutenant COLE's troop of No. 3 Squadron crossed the road to cover the west flank while a fresh COLDSTREAM company moved up.  Squadron Sergeant-Major PARKES, in his Firefly, covered the road itself where the "biggest Tiger ever" had been reported.  Lieutenant-Colonel ADEANE ordered the infantry to attack as soon as they were ready.  They were ready at ten o'clock.  As the COLDSTREAMERS climbed out of the lane into the root-field, both Lieutenant-Colonel ADEANE and the Company Commander were wounded by a sharp mortar concentration, which event caused some confusion through their loss was not really felt till later.  The leading platoons, with Lieutenant MICHAEL CARVILL's troop in close support, and under covering fire from the orchard, reached the far hedge without much trouble.  The Germans were waiting for them at the hedge.  Machine-gunners beat the COLDSTREAMERS back to the orchard with heavy casualties.  Concealed guns knocked out two of the tanks, wounding Lieutenant CARVILL.  Before he was hit, however, Sergeant CARDUS got his tank up to the hedge and destroyed a Mark IV on the other side. 


The Germans then turned their attention to the supporting tanks in the orchard and hit two of them - those of Captain EDWARD TYLER and Sergeant MAHONEY, who was wounded.  Lieutenant PATRICK POLLOCK edged round the orchard till he could see the farm and the Germans moving about in it.  He gave them ten rounds of High Explosive.  No. 2 Squadron, meanwhile, was on Point 238 looking down over the battlefield, but the thick hedges prevented them seeing or helping No. 1 Squadron and the infantry.  Here, as always, the main difficulty the Battalion had to overcome was the close country, the thick hedges and sunken lanes, which prevented deployment and limited vision to a hundred yards or less, with the result that two or three hidden guns or tanks could shoot up a whole troop before being spotted.  The only news of the Germans came from a badly wounded prisoner from the 752ND GRENADIER REGIMENT, who was brought in to the Battalion R.A.P.  Most of his comrades were killed or wounded, he said - "Alles kaput," a phrase which became a German war-cry.  The Battalion was happy to hear it, but was more interested in his statement that some fifty Panthers and Mark IV tanks of the 21ST PANZER DIVISION were supporting the German infantry in the area.  There was something in his story, for shortly afterwards No. 2 Squadron saw about forty German tanks moving across their front.”



From the War Diary, 2nd Bn, IG, 1 August 1944:


“0500 hours

The Battalion broke harbour and got into position for attack at first light.


0630 hours

No. 1 Squadron and a Company of 5 COLDSTREAM GUARDS formed up in an orchard just to the EAST of the main road between it and a sunken lane with their first objective some farm buildings 500 yards to the SOUTH.  The only opposition expected was from light machine-guns and infantry.


Two platoons of 5 COLDSTREAM GUARDS advanced supported by No. 1 Troop, No. 1 Squadron.  The infantry go up to a hedge half way to the farm but as the tanks moved up to them, two were knocked out from the other side of the sunken lane, Lieutenant M.K MACONCHY’s and Sergeant HEALY’s.


Of Lieutenant MACONCHY’s tank he himself, Lance-Sergeant RICHES and Guardsman DAVIDSON were killed, and the driver and co-driver escaped.”


Sergeant HEALY had managed to reach the far hedge before being hit; only his driver was killed, the rest of the crew got back.


The infantry then withdrew to the orchard, as the opposition was much stronger than expected.


The next half hour was spent in reconnaissance from hedge to hedge: another Company of 5 COLDSTREAM GUARDS was ordered up and a second attack prepared.


0830 hours

Lieutenant COLE’s troop from No. 3 Squadron came up on the WEST of the road to protect No. 1 Squadron’s flank.


Numerous reports came back now of dug-in “Tigers”, ‘swanning’ Panthers and enemy movement.  The Commanding Officer 5 COLDSTREAM GUARDS and Major N.A.R. O’NEILL decided that a second attack would succeed if the far East side of the sunken lane was cleared and a troop and Squadron HQ supported the infantry and leading tanks from the orchard.


1000 hours

The far side of the sunken lane was reported clear by a PIAT patrol, the main road mined and covered by SSM PARKE’s Firefly; and the attack ordered to start.  Just as it went in the Commanding Officer, 5 COLDSTREAM GUARDS and the leading Company Commander were both wounded, which event caused some confusion, though their loss was not really felt till later.


Both leading platoons with Lieutenant CARVILL’s troop in close support reached the far hedge under covering fire from the orchard, without much trouble.  At the hedge, however, the enemy reacted.  Two tanks including Lieutenant CARVILL’s were knocked out, the infantry came under heavy machine gun fire and were forced to retreat back to the orchard, with considerable loss.  Of the supporting tanks, Captain E.G. TYLER’s was hit and Sergeant MAHONEY’s knocked out.  Sergeant CARDUS’ tank which was knocked out at the hedge did “kill” a Mark IV however, before being destroyed itself - so the battle was not wholly one-sided.” 



In total 16 men of the 2nd Battalion died on 1st August, of whom 3 have no known graves and are commemorated at the Memorial in Bayeux.


Remembered with honour BAYEUX MEMORIAL:


Lance Corporal LESLIE WILLIAM BAKER 2722743, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 33

Guardsman THOMAS CHRISTOPHER COLTON 6096248, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 24

Guardsman BENJAMIN BRUCE WHITNEY 2718695, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 27


These 3 men were most likely in the same tank at the time of their deaths. They are listed pre-embarkation as being in a Sherman of No. 1 Troop, No. 2 Squadron. Fellow crew members were P/M J. Crozier and Gdsm W. Cuthbertson. The Troop officer was Captain Hugh Dormer who was also killed in action that day.



Remembered with honour ST. CHARLES DE PERCY WAR CEMETERY:


Guardsman ALBERT GEORGE BARNETT 2722715, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 34 belonged to No. 1 Troop, No. 1 Squadron.  His fellow crew men were Sergeant MK Healy, Gdsm R. Royan, Gdsm E. McClune, Gdsm J. Saunders


Lance Corporal PATRICK CONCANNON 2719429, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 25

Guardsman EDWARD DAVIDSON 2721186, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 24

Captain HUGH EVERARD JOSEPH DORMER D.S.O., 104106, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 25

Guardsman FRANCIS HOLLEY 2723557, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 19

*Lance Serjeant JOHN KELLY 2718214, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 32

*Guardsman CYRIL LALLY 2723499, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 19

Lieutenant MICHAEL KING MACONCHY 165062, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 24 Guardsman THOMAS JOHN PHILLIPS 2720684, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 30

Lance Serjeant ROBERT CHARLES RICHES 2719097, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 24

Guardsman WILLIAM RICHARD TIERNEY 2722795, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 38


*These 2 men were in the same tank as Tabs.



The following two men were also killed on 1 August 1944 but were attached to 5 GAB HQ and so unlikely to have been involved in the above action.


Remembered with honour HOTTOT-LES-BAGUES WAR CEMETERY


2720542 Guardsman GERARD GEOGHAN, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards attd. H.Q. 5th Guards Armd. Bde. who died age 23

2720785 Guardsman ALBERT CHARLES KERSHAW, 2nd Bn. attd. H.Q. 5th Guards Armd. Bde., Irish Guards who died age 24

 


The History of the Irish Guards in WW2, FitzGerald, page 423:


[8/9 August, 1944]

" In No. 3 Squadron, Captain Michael O'Cock had S.S.M. HOLLY and Sergeant UPRITCHARD in his headquarters, leaving his second-in-command, Lieutenant WILFRED DODD, Lieutenant KEITH HEATHCOTE and Sergeant MAHONEY to command the three troops."



Tabs' album contains a photo of L/Cpl Modler who he noted as being Killed in Action in August 1944, the CWGC Roll of Honour records his death as occurring on 10th September 1944 and he is noted in the Official Army List published in The Times as having Died of Wounds. It is not known when he received these wounds but quite possible that it was in August.


L/Cpl John Edward Modler belonged to the same Squadron as Tabs - No. 1 Squadron and is listed pre-embarkation in the Troop Leader Lieutenant Isitt’s tank as Gunner/Mechanic.  His fellow crewmen were Lance-Sergeant H. Raistrick, Guardsman W. Kingsley and Guardsman F. Roe.


Lance Corporal JOHN EDWARD MODLER 2719160, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 25 on 10 September 1944
Son of Edward John and Frances Modler; husband of Thelma Eunice Modler, of Selly Oak, Birmingham.

Remembered with honour BRUSSELS TOWN CEMETERY

http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=2109182



From Tabs’ son-in-law, John:


“One thing that Tabs talked about was a tank battle that he was involved in, was when he was wounded and some of the men where killed.? This is what Tabs said about the battle:


‘As our three Sherman tanks approached a bridge crossing the road there were travelling down, a tiger tank appeared coming from the right side of the bridge.’


The leading tank with Lance-Sergent Mahoney in the turret fired but hit the underside of the bridge. The tiger tank returned fire hitting the Sherman and the shell entering through the side killing one man and wounding Tabs, the force of the blast pushing Tabs out of the tank and leaving him on the road side. Tabs stated that all the rest of the squad where killed?”



Another first-hand account of the events at Elsdorf and Wistedt in April 1945 and submitted to the BBC People’s War series on behalf of Bill Ashley, No. 1 Squadron, 2nd Bn Irish Guards can be viewed by clicking here.



From the War Diary, 2nd Battalion, Irish Guards, April 1945:


April 20th


With the two Battalions based on SITTENSEN we pushed out a Troop with a section of carriers under DUNCAN LAMPARD, MC to take the village of ELSDORF, a mile or so further down the Autobahn.  This force completed its task in record time despite a bridge collapsing behind them and mines in all the lanes.


We fund a very easy way of detecting mines after the first encounter: A Pole was sent on ahead into the villages we were to pass through with the threat that unless the civilians disclosed to us where the mines had been laid we would brew up every village in which we found mines.  The effect was just as we expected - after seeing the first village in flames the Krauts soon gave us all the information we require and we ran onto no more mines.


By midday Duncan's small force was in ELSDORF without any opposition, although the recce patrol with him took a few prisoners.  The rest of No. 1 Squadron was now ordered up.  As soon as it arrived the Squadron consolidated and set about getting lunch.


The Commanding Officer, MICK O'COCK and several other officers were having lunch on the outskirts of the village when to their surprise three big lorries full of Germans suddenly bowled down the road leading into the village.  Lunch was soon forgotten, everyone who owned any sort of automatic gun made a dive for it, and at a range of three to four hundred yards one could hardly miss.  As soon as the first bursts of fire died down the tanks advanced and swept down the transport.  We got a good bag - about sixty prisoners, a few dead and eight trucks of various kinds (the tanks rushing on had discovered five more just around the corner).  Battalion HQ had enjoyed their day.


The Commanding Officer now led his party off to clear the Autobahn between SITTENSEN and ELSDORF.  This was done without any trouble and we were then able to use it.  It is a lovely road - a motorists dream.



MICK O'COCK sent one of his troops NORTH to the village of WISTEDT after tea but this had to be called back as evening came on as it was stretching the Squadron too far.


The night was fairly quiet.


April 21st


At first light a troop of No. 1 Squadron (BARRY QUINAN) was sent off to WISTEDT; As this troop came out of its old position the Hun occupied it and MICK O'COCK found quite a number occupying the Southern part of the village.  And at about the same time No. 3 Squadron under PADDY POLE-CAREW approached the village along the Autobahn.  Knowing that there were only infantry around PADDY came straight on and was shot at with a panzerfaust.  Fortunately the shot glanced off and did no damage.  Between the two Squadrons the Kraut was soon eliminated.


We were not to have peace for long though.  Ten minutes later No. 1 Squadron reported a Self-Propelled Gun approaching from the West down a lane.  Before we could take any action though it had brewed up a carrier belonging to the 3rd Battalion.  Both Squadrons manoeuvred for fire positions.


No. 1 Squadron found itself pinned - no tank could move without exposing itself to the gun.  So PADDY sent up NEIL WHITFIELD-EDWARDS along the autobahn to see if he could shoot from the flank.  This proved easy enough and from the flank he could see not only the Self-Propelled Gun already spotted by two others as well.  He opened fire.  It was an unlucky day for the Battalion - Visibility was bad owing to a light drizzle, and instead of a fair sized bag we did not get a single one.


The Self-Propelled Guns withdrew, and as they went two more came out of their hiding places and pulled back.  As soon as they were out of danger they all turned and gave us a very unpleasant hour or so.  We had no more attacks on this sector for the rest of the day, due to the formidable "stonk" CHRIS VESEY (our Battery Commander) put down on the area.


This was only the beginning of our troubles: BARRY QUINAN was soon in trouble.  The enemy had worked around WISTEDT and had entered it from the South, over-running one of our infantry sections.  This was soon dealt with and then the attack advanced on the village from the North.  The Troop and Platoon although reinforced by another Troop (JAMES OSBORNE) found themselves practically surrounded.  Two tanks were knocked out, one bogged, and BARRY QUINAN's own ran out of ammunition - the Troop very wisely decided to pull out.  The survivors managed to get to the shelter of a house and when the enemy started to attack that they broke out and made their way back to Battalion HQ at ELSDORF.


JAMES OSBORNE meanwhile had been having the same kind of treatment and was given the order to disengage.  He lost two of his tanks but managed to get back with his own.


The rest of the day was uneventful - ELSDORF was shelled on and off all day but did little damage to our people.  Battalion HQ pulled back to RUSPEL.  Just before dark several planes made a hit and run raid on ELSDORF and dropped several heavy bombs.  We had no casualties.


April 22nd


There was a scare just after midnight when ARTHUR COLE heard a tracked vehicle approaching the bridge he was guarding over the Autobahn.  Also at about the same time a Self-Propelled Gun started to fire on his position from the South East.  There seems to be enemy all round us these days.  ARTHUR lost on tank to a panzerfaust later on in the morning but otherwise all was well.  The tracked vehicle by his bridge was most probably a half-track trying to find a way to safety in the North.


The North sector of the village had also had its alarms - 30 Huns were reported just off our positions.  A shoot by the Artillery was laid on but all we could find in the morning was a dead horse.


Squadrons told they need not advance any more - Battalion was to site where it was until ZEVEN to the North West had been taken.


No. 2 Squadron had moved from SITTENSEN to FRANKENBOSTEL (just North of ELSDORF) last night and so the Battalion found itself in three small groups forming a triangle, FRANKENBOSTEL-ELSDORF-RÜSPEL.


The two forward groups had no trouble for the rest of the day other than shell fire - ELSDORF had the worst time.


It seems from the trouble the enemy has taken over ELSDORF, that he would rather that we were not there - the reason perhaps is that we are very close to his main escape route from the South i.e. the road running from ROTENBURG to ZEVEN.





































From the War Diary, 3rd Battalion, Irish Guards, April 1945:


“20th April 1945

The Grenadier Group set off at first light for ZEVEN but soon met heavy opposition and were compelled to halt. Meanwhile the Battalion Group had been ordered to send a Company, Squadron Group to ELSDORF. Apart from a few mines the village was occupied without incident and patrols were sent to WISTEDT and WEHLDORF. The latter patrol being on the main ROTENBURG-ZEVEN road, obtained a satisfactory shoot at enemy transport moving NORTH from ROTENBURG. By evening the Autobahn from SITTENSEN to ELSDORF was clear and in use. A number of prisoners were taken during the day mostly from the GROSSDEUTSCHLAND Brigade.

21st April 1945
A strong counter-attack, which was subsequently proved to have been made by the 2 Battalions of 104 PANZER GRENADIER REGIMENT (15 PANZER GRENADIER DIVISION), was launched, supported by Artillery, Mortars, and Self-Propelled guns, on to the area ELSDORF-WISTEDT shortly after first light. The situation was serious for a time, as a Platoon and Troop occupying WISTEDT were surrounded and cut off from the main body. Only one tank with the Tank Commander and Platoon Commander with 4 men managed to get back to the Company area. Elsewhere in spite of bitter fighting and heavy shelling on our forward areas, the enemy attack had been beaten off by midday. Another Coy/ Squadron Group moved to FRANKENBOSTEL and Battalion HQ to RÜSPEL. At about dusk 16 bombs were dropped on ELSDORF fortunately causing very few casualties. The firing of Verey lights from the ground seemed to be co-ordinated in the tactical picture, but it was not followed by any counter-attack.”




In Tabs’ album are photographs of King George VI and Field Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis taken in 1949 when the Regiment received new Colours from The King.


“'Lieutenant Colonel Gordon-Watson, officers, non-commissioned officers and guardsmen of the First Battalion Irish Guards:


I am very glad to see you here today and I notice that though you have only recently returned to London from service in North Africa, neither your drill, nor your bearing have lost that smartness for which your regiment is famous.


It is also most welcome to me, as I am sure it is for you, to see your Colonel standing at the head of his regiment for the first time. In order to be on parade Field Marshall Lord Alexander has flown here from Canada, which will remind you of the great changes which have come about since 1927 when my father presented you with your old colours in this garden. On that occasion such a flight would have been unthinkable.


In the 22 years which have passed since that day, your battalion has fought in Norway, in Africa and in Italy, and in two separate tours of duty have helped the cause of peace and humanity in Palestine. As your Colonel in Chief, I am proud to be able to pay a tribute to the exploits and sacrifices, not only of the first battalion but of the whole regiment during those dark years.


We have lived at war and in the shadow of war for much of this time. But I'm glad to see plainly today that the scars of battle of which you have borne your full share have left no mark upon your spirit. In a world of change your courage and discipline has remained unchanged, and it is in full confidence that you will uphold the great traditions of your regiment, now nearly half a century old that I give these new colours into your keeping.'”


A film clip of the ceremony and of the King’s speech, a copy of which is also in the album, can be viewed by clicking here. There are 2 other films of the same ceremony available for viewing on the same site.



From Middlesborough Gazette:


"TANKS FOR THE MEMORY


More than 45 years ago Irish Guard tank commander Arthur 'Tabs' Mahoney helped destroy a German village.  Now, at 80 he is making peace with the inhabitants.


Report: David Lee.


The old man rises to his feet and his eyes glisten with sad recollection.  He is back in April, 1945, leading a tank assault on a German village called Elsdorf.


"I moved my tank behind the butter factory, to a position where I thought I could observe and fire," he says, slowly, in  a rich, undulating Irish brogue.


"The Germans must have spotted me and let me have it.  The shell was meant for me, but burst about 20 yards away and passed through a woman's heart."


WHEN A GERMAN WOMAN WAS KILLED BY A SHELL HE COMFORTED HER TWO YOUNG GIRLS


"Her two daughters were terribly upset.  But I calmed them down and told them their mother was dead.  I told one of the girls to go to the bedroom and bring down a sheet, which I made into a shroud.


Then I got my men to dig two graves, in which i buried the mother and a German soldier, who had fallen nearby.


We placed flowers on the grave, I said a prayer and left a little wooden cross."


Arthur "Tabs" Mahoney is 80 years old, a tall and burly man who lives in Gower Close, Middlesborough.  He had vivid memories of one particular battle during the death throes of World War II.


Tabs - so called because of his big feet - was a sergeant in the Irish Guards battalion which took the German village of Elsdorf.


It was his first battle after returning to combat following serious burns.  He has never forgotten his experience.


"I always wondered why it picked out the mother, not me.  I had to go back."


Tabs visited the daughters in 1946, but service in Palestine and then at RAF Fylindales diverted his mind.


memories were stirred when he read an account of the combat at Elsdorf in a book, After The Battle, in which his role was said to be taken by another officer.


"It wasn't true," he booms.  "I wasn't mentioned.  I couldn't believe what an Irish Guards officer had written.


"I wanted to show the truth and wrote to Elsdorf's Mayor asking him to get in touch with the family whose mother I buried.  I sent the prayer book I used when I buried her, marking the prayer I read."


Tabs' letter provoked immediate reaction in the local press.  Newspapers lauded the soldier who comforted two little girls in their hour of need and wanted to make peace with the town.


He received letters from the Mayor and Margarete, one of the girls, now a woman of 58.


"I wanted to get the truth and I got it, from the mouths of the people who were there," says Tabs.  "They proved I was there, they remembered."


The translation of Margarete's letter warmed Tabs' heart.  It revealed a thankful woman, who clearly remembered the events of 1945.  She described Tabs as "a good, charitable, godly man who did good at a time of evil."


Another letter followed from Margarete's husband Fritz.


As he takes to his feet, Tabs gesticulates in animated fashion.


"But I'm not a medal man," he protests, arms outstretch.  "I did nothing you wouldn't have done.  That woman was a mother, MY mother as far as I was concerned."


Tabs will meet Margarete and Fritz - and the Mayor - when he visits Germany in May.


"The Mayor invited me without hesitation," says the old man proudly.  "He know the woman who died.  He was there at the time and proved all my memories correct."


During the battle for Elsdorf, Tabs was asked to take out a farmhouse.


"I told them it was a reckless order.  There was no need - we were coming to the end of the war, for God's sake.  Let's have a little humanity.


I decided to go in and set fire to the farm instead.  We checked the farmhouse, but there was no-one there.  I decided I wasn't going to burn animals either and opened the stable doors and shooed them out."


Not one animal died and Tabs has had a letter of thanks from the son of the farm's owner, whom he will meet on his May visit.


After entering Elsdorf, an Irish Guards captain told the population they had 20 minutes to get out.  They didn't and I was told to burn the Village," Tabs recalls, “I fired tracer ammo into the roofs hoping and praying there would be no casualties.”


"The village burned down, but only one person died.  I was so pleased there weren't more."


Tabs was surprised by the newspaper coverage of his story.


"Maybe they thought it strange for a fighting soldier to climb out of his tank and help," he muses.  "But I couldn't leave two little girls there screaming.


I wanted to clear my conscience and make my peace with Elsdorf.  I hope what I did to help over-balanced the destruction.  I though about it so long.  You clear your conscience by telling things straight."


Tabs received many other letters and photographs from Elsdorfers - and surrounding towns - as he prepares for his visit.


Perhaps the most remarkable letter came from Nanny.  Tabs asked the Mayor to trace "the little girl who used to skate past the barracks in Gummersback" and enclosed a photo.


Amazingly the Mayor traced Nanny and she wrote to Tabs, promising "a musical surprise" when he visits Germany.


All this attention is a little bemusing for Tabs, but he is determined to make the trip - and make his peace.


"I've got to be there," he asserts.  "People say you're mad, you are 80 years of age, had a number of small heart attacks last year.”  Tabs rises to his feet again,"but i need to go." "



From John:


“The clipping was from the Middlesborough Evening Gazette. The outcome of the article was that Tabs was invited over to Elsdorf to meet one of the two ‘little girls’, and the people of Elsdorf. The sad end to the trip was Tabs had a heart attack and passed away over there. Tabs was very proud of the action that he had taken, and the lives saved on the day. Tabs’ son and daughter Danny and Sheila were upset, but in a way also very proud."



From Middlesborough Gazette:


“TABS' FLIGHT FOR REUNION


Old soldier Arthur 'Tabs' Mahoney flies out to Germany for an emotional reunion tonight.


Former Irish Guardsman Tabs is returning to Elsdorf, where he was involved in a battle in the closing stages of the Second World War.


"I want to make my peace with the people of Elsdorf and tell them the truth about what happened in 1945," said 80-year-old Tabs, of Gower Close, Middlesborough.


POIGNANT REUNION


He is set for a poignant reunion with Margarete, who was comforted by Tabs after her mother died in the battle for Elsdorf.


"I was in battle, but when the mother was hit by a shell bound for me, I had to comfort the girls," he said.


Margarete and husband Fritz will meet Tabs, along with Elsdorf's Mayor, Wilhelm Baumann.  Tabs will be presented with a special medal from the town, which he says he will treasure more than the six he has already.”



From German Newspaper, Zevener Zeitung:


A GESTURE OF RECONCILIATION: A SOLDIER'S PRAYERBOOK SENT FROM ENGLAND TO ELSDORF


An eighty year old British man asks for forgiveness 45 years after the War.


Real life stories are often more exciting, more gripping and more moving than fiction.  For example, the letter of an 80-year-old Gentleman, who took part in the battle round Elsdorf in 1945 as an English soldier, has caused quite a stir in Elsdorf for a few weeks.  The former soldier and enemy wants to make his peace with the village whose inhabitants, livestock and property he had to endanger.


A.A Mahoney from Middlesbrough in England sent the prayer book, which was his support and comfort at the burial of a woman and an unknown soldier during the last war, to the Mayor of Elsdorf as a gesture of reconciliation.  Along with the English prayer book the senior citizen from Great Britain enclosed photos of the battle around Elsdorf as well as a long letter.


Typically British, A.A. Mahoney apologised for not knowing the name of Elsdorf's Mayor and having to address him as 'Sir.'  The Gentleman writes, "Sir, as you well know the truth is the first casualty of war.  In front of me lies 'After the Battle.'  I don't feel so good about the so-called heros, but nowhere in the book is there a mention of the inhabitants of Elsdorf."



PRAYER BOOK FOR A DEAD PERSON


Apparently, because the Elsdorfers have been screened out of the war history,  A.A. Mahoney has - perhaps over a prolonged period of time - come to terms with his part in the Second World War: the events pass in review.  He has not forgotten the death of an Elsdorf woman.  He wrote to Mayor Bammann: "I would be happy if you could pass on the prayer book I  used when I buried her (Mrs Koster).  There must still be some relatives who want to know the truth."



THE SHROUD


The truth: The English soldier Mahoney buried Mrs Koster in her own garden in 1945.  She had probably been hit by a shell from the German Artillery and died instantly.  Today the old man says, "I have never forgotten the anguish of those two young women.  The shroud was a white sheet from her own bed.  My tank crew put flowers on her grave.  I am now 80 years old; it certainly won't be long before I follow her and others."



THE END OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR: FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN FOES


Tabs Mahoney wants to travel from England to the Continent.


ELSDORF: The letter from a British soldier, involved in the battle around Elsdorf, caused considerable turmoil just before Christmas.  Families and members of the community sat down together to reconstruct events at the start of 1945 and their effects in order to tell Tabs Mahoney, the Second World War veteran what 'traces' he left behind at that time.


The Christmas edition of the 'Zevener Zeitung' covered this in detail.  A dialogue arose out of the British man's request for forgiveness.  The path to friendship between old men was opened up.


The 80-year old ex-soldier rated the card and letter from Elsdorf's mayor as "the best Christmas present" and thanked Frau Neumann for the photos of her family she had sent to him.  Frau Neumann, a young woman in 1945, is the daughter whose mother 'Tabs' Mahoney buried.  "I have one thing in common with my new friend the farmer - we're both 80 years old."  In 1945 the English soldier set fire to the farmer's barn.  Only, however, after he had driven all the cattle out of the stalls.


A.A. Mahoney, who would like to attempt a journey to the Continent under more favourable auspices, sent the people of Elsdorf a picture and a short life history.


"My father came from Ireland and was a staunch Catholic.  I myself and a Protestant.  The medals on the left side are mine and have nothing to do with Elsdorf; the other medals belonged to my Father.  He got them in the Boer War in 1899.  In the First World War he gain 3 more medals."


In Elsdorf now the community is considering when and how it should receive the old Gentleman from England.  It should be as warm and sunny as possible; the countryside should be green and lush.  Because of British forces in the area, there should be no language problems.


The mayor Wilhelm Bammann said, "It goes without saying that Tabs Mahoney will stay with us.  We're looking forward to his visit."



A DESIRE FOR TRUTH


Forcefully, the old man appealed to the Elsdorf mayor, "Please, Sir, keep in mind that one must have a will to remember the truth."


In his letter A.A. Mahoney accuses himself of being guilty of causing other people's suffering, but suggests that he was one of many soldiers and describes the events of the war in Elsdorf.  "My commanding officer came and ordered me to destroy a farmhouse.  My tank was the only one on the road but I couldn't get enough pressure to fire my cannon.  My superior officer, a major, then ordered me to destroy the farm with fire.  That was a careless order because it would not have burnt down the correct target.  Taking four gallons of petrol my driver and I went over to the farmhouse, we searched for livestock (cattle) and drove it outside, then poured petrol all over the floor and set it alight.  I would like to know whether the whole herd was rescued and whether the farmer can confirm that.  I apologise for that now: I myself was born on a farm."



A REQUEST FOR FORGIVENESS


The farmer from that time will not be able to accept Mr. Mahoney's apology.  He has died.  However, so far as the community of the village have been able to find out, the whole herd was saved thanks to the English soldier.


Wilhelm Bammann says, "We have worked out that three farms went up in flames at the same time in 1945.  From one all the cattle were saved, in another most of the cattle were driven into the open.  One cow with her calf and two horses were killed.  At the third farm all the animals were burnt too.  There are no longer any eyewitnesses.  And the generation that came after the war can scarcely remember."



TRACER SHELLS


From the point of view of the English Gentleman the battle round Elsdorf developed in the following way:  "I drove out from under the autobahn bridge with my tank and fired two shots.  The German artillery replied with four shots.  The shots were so accurate that they killed three of my subordinates."  The came the 'heroic' deed: "Captain Langton of the Irish Guards went up to the village and ordered the inhabitants of the village to come out within twenty minutes.  They didn't.  From my tank stationed under the bridge I was ordered to fire on the village.  I decided to shoot tracer shells into the roofs.  By doing so I hoped to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.  The villagers came out with a white flag.  I earnestly hope that there was little or if no bloodshed.  I had forgotten the so-called battle of Elsdorf, but when I read what I did (what I am alleged to have done) then I thought I would tell you the truth.  I would like to finish by saying 'God bless you all.'



INVITATION TO ELSDORF


The Elsdorfer Community who want to invite the old Gentleman from England to visit believe that probably only one person died.  A woman in a tied cottage was killed.  The community has also found out the whereabouts of the two young women, who A.A. Mahoney could not forget.  One of the two women who mourned her mother died in 1957.  The other daughter now 65 years old lives in Schwanedwede.  Bammann said, "I have sent the letter and prayerbook to Mrs Newuman, nee Kloster.  We want to meet in Elsdorf."


The Elsdorf Community wish the ex-British Soldier a blessed Christmas.  Tied up with the wish is an invitation for A.A. Mahoney to go and see the village together with its inhabitants.  Mayor Wilhelm Bammann says, "We hope the old Gentleman is up to making a journey to the Continent."



ELSDORF WAS THE LAST JOURNEY FOR ENGLISH WAR VETERAN


Arthur Mahoney found seeing it again too much and died from a heart attack.


Elsdorf: Eighty-one year old Arthur Mahoney had only arrived in Germany a few days ago from the English town of Middlesbrough with his companion Frank McElwee, to see again a village called Elsdorf, in whose capture by an Irish Guards Tank battalion in April 1945 he had taken part.  But the visit was too much for Arthur Mahoney.  On the third day of  his stay, which  had been arranged by the family of the Elsdorf Mayor Wilhelm Bammann, he had a heart attack because of the excitement.


During the evening of last Monday the War veteran died in the Zeven Hospital - and left behind a deep sense of shock in Elsdorf.


Arthur Mahoney had looked forward to this visit to Elsdorf for months.  He only succeeded with difficulty in making contact from England with the right village of Elsdorf (there are at lease five villages of the same name in W. Germany).  On the German side, Mayor Wilhelm Bammann and his family, with support of Elsdorf residents, had done everything possible to arrange the meeting and present the English guest and his companion with a well-organised programme for their visit.


Arthur Mahoney and Frank McElwee were picked up from Bremen by the Elsdorf Mayor in person and accommodated at his house.  The two Englishmen were evidently very impressed with the hospitality shown to them by the Bammanns.


With great emotion 81-year-old Arthur Mahoney, carrying a letter in his pocket from the Mayor of his home town, described his war activities in Elsdorf.  It was towards the end of April 1945 when an Irish Tank battalion were driving the last of the SS out of Elsdorf and the surrounding area.  In so doing there was heavy fighting in the course of which three close comrades of the Englishman, who had positioned their tank under a motorway bridge were killed.  (The motorway AI and road intersection).  At least three farms went up in flames - but Arthur Mahoney's tank was also hit.


With the Mayor the two Englishmen followed the route taken by Arthur Mahoney's tank four decades previously.  The English war veteran remembered in detail the events in Elsdorf and the surrounding area and knew exactly which farm he had been ordered to fire on.  "Why did so many people, often young people have to be sacrificed?"  Arthur Mahoney asked at a loss for an answer.  He liked the people he had met just a few days before in Elsdorf and found them no different from people back home.


The 81-year-old was not destined to find the graves of his three comrades who had lost their lives in Elsdorf.  Although a visit to Bergen was planned for the fourth day of his visit the day before Arthur Mahoney suffered a heart attack.


Although the host family called the doctor immediately and the old man from England was taken to the Zeven Hospital he died during the evening.  The population of Elsdorf who had only known Arthur Mahoney for a short time were shocked by his death.  Frank McElwee his companion is also very sad.  Mayor Bammann said goodbye to him on Saturday and gave him a book about the Rotenburg region.



From Middlesborough Gazette:


“PEACE MISSION ENDS IN TRAGEDY


War hero dies on poignant trip


by David Lee


An old soldier has died on a poignant return to a German town where he fought in the Second World War.


Arthur 'Tabs' Mahoney travelled from his Middlesbrough home to make peace with the people of Elsdorf.


But just two days into his visit, the 80-year-old suffered a heart attack and died in his sleep.


Tabs, who lived in Gower Close, fought as a Sergeant in the Irish Guards at Elsdorf - and cherished a dream to return.


"It's tragic, but I think in some ways, it's what he would have wanted," said son Danny, of Dixon's Ban, Marton.  "He desperately wanted to go."


"I think he was over-excited in the build-up.  It seems to have got on top of him and he suffered a heart attack and passed away in his sleep."


In an interview in the Gazette in March, Tabs made it clear he wanted to go to Elsdorf:  "People say you're mad, you're 80, you had a heart attack last year. But I've GOT to go."


Tabs received a special medal from the people of Elsdorf, which he said would always be close to his heart.


Danny thinks his father probably got over-excited after meeting up with Margarete, whose mother Frau Neumann died in the battle of Elsdorf.


A shell aimed at Tabs' tank passed through Frau Neumann's heart, but in the heat of the battle, Tabs buried the woman, read a prayer and comforted Margarete and her sister.


When Tabs wrote to the Mayor of Elsdorf asking to make his peace with the town, Margarete read about his letter in a local paper and remembered the soldier and his act of kindness.


In a letter to Tabs, Margarete described him as "a good, charitable and godly man who did good at a time of evil."


Former Irish Guards colleague Frank McElwee, of Castle Road, Redcar, travelled to Elsdorf with Tabs.


"He went out with an old colleague and he's coming back on his own.  That's quite tragic in itself," said Danny."



Images of Tabs’ records listing the details of courses, promotions, and when wounded are shown above.


For a transcript of the War Diary for the 2nd Armd Battalion in 1945, click here.

For a transcript of the Historical Reports for the 1st Battalion in 1947, in which Tabs is listed as in No. 3 Company, click here.

Also:

“1949 January 21

A list of awards for services in PALESTINE was published in Battalion Part One Orders, last night as follows:-

The under mentioned Officers and Other Ranks have been Mentioned for recognition of gallant and distinguished services in PALESTINE


For period 27th September 1947 to 27th March 1948,

2717157 C.S.M. A MAHONEY”



Correspondence, dated August 2011:

“This collection of images around the legendary Tabs Mahoney is wonderful to see. In case you should be interested, the Officers of the escort to the (Regimental) colour on parade at Kasr El Nil Barracks in Egypt in 1936 in which Tabs, presumably then either a Guardsman or Junior Non-Commissioned Officer, was righthand man, were :

Captain - Major C.L.J. (John) Bowen, subsequently KIA on 15 May 1940 on the way to Narvik for the ill-fated Norwegian campaign in command of No 2 Coy Ist Bn Irish Guards,

Lieutenant - Captain B.O.P. (Basil) Eugster, subsequently General Sir Basil, KCB, KCVO, CBE,DSO, MC and Bar, Sixth Colonel of the Regiment, and

Ensign - Lieutenant G.S. (George) Brodrick.

Tabs was a particular favourite of my late Father-in-Law, Brigadier M.J.P.O'Cock, CBE, MC and was, I believe, his Squadron Sergeant Major in No 2 Sqn, 2IG.

With my good wishes.

Yours faithfully,

Robert Corbett.”




Quis Separabit


Source: TNA; History of IG in WW2, by FitzGerald; Middlesborough Gazette; BBC People’s War; Zevener Zeitung

Photos: D. Mahoney; J.M. & S. McNally