Kenneth Ward was born Karl Robert Wurzburger on 29th Nov 1922 in Frankfurt. His parents ran a private music school, his father being a well-known organist and composer, Siegfried Wurzburger. As a Jewish boy growing up in Nazi Germany, school became increasingly difficult. His parents took the very hard decision to send him to England on 25th August 1939, through a scheme called “Kindertransport”. The family arranged for a sponsor to put up £50 so that the “kinder” (children) did not become a financial liability once they arrived in England. After starting off in a hostel working 85 hours a week as a house-boy, Ken very soon wanted to get out into the world and make a difference. He became a tailor’s cutter in London before joining the 87th Company Pioneer Corps in May 1942.
In 1943 Ken transferred to the 55th training Regiment RAC at Farnborough and in January 1944 joined the 1st Royal Tank regiment A Squadron,in Brandon, near Thetford, Suffolk. Ken eventually went with his unit to Orwell Park in Suffolk where the tanks were water-proofed, ready to make the difficult journey across the English Channel to Normandy.
This is Ken’s recollection of that day:
The sea was quite rough as we approached the beach. There was a lot of shelling from the shore batteries and the big battleships lying off the beach. There were thousands of ships on the channel opposite the Normandy coast with each ship carrying barrage balloons so that the channel now looked like the defences of London. Flights of bombers were continuously droning overhead towards the French coast, with Spitfires flying in and around the ships defending us from the Messerschmitts and the individual German Dornier bombers that were trying to have a go at the battleships. We were all told to be ready to land after lunch. We strapped all our bedding and equipment on the back of the tank and rushed up to the canteen for a quick last lunch. We were all quite tense but I tried not to show it as I was the only one in the crew who had not yet been in battle. As the LST slowly approached the beach we went into the hold and mounted our tank. There was a smell of oil and fumes in the air and we could hear the shelling, with shells landing on the beach from inside the hull… Suddenly there was a lot of clanging and chain rattling as the front of the LST opened up and the front ramp came down. The Ferry was already there, the plate appeared to clang on to it and as we were first in line, we drove on to the flat ferry which shuddered under our weight, and drove as far forward as we could to allow another tank to get on.
I landed on the 7th June 1944 (D-Day +1) at Arromanches on Gold Beach as a wireless operator on a Sherman Firefly tank. At the disaster outside Villers Bocage on the 11th June, we ran into two German Tiger tanks. We fired at the tanks and hit one of them on the front plate with an A.P. (armoured piercing) shot, but it did not knock the tank out but must have disabled it as he did not fire at us any more. We saw my good friend Albala killed there when he jumped out of his tank to pick up an arial which had dropped off, but we were not allowed to pick him up. We advanced from this field in Ellon in Normandy towards Hamburg, losing four tanks on the way. Another good friend Ralph Parker was badly injured there.
Ken went through to Berlin, where after Germany surrendered he joined the Special Investigation Branch until his final de-mob and moved to England where he lived the rest of his life. Ken passed away in January 2010, aged 87 years. In June 2009 he returned to Normandy with his son Adam to receive a medal commemorating the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings. There he finally found the grave of his long lost friend Albala, in the Bayeux British cemetery, and was also fortunate enough to meet HRH Prince of Wales.
Ken’s autobiography, '...And Then The Music Stopped Playing' was published in 2006 by Braiswick. ISBN 978-1-898030-11-9-00995, and is available on Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk)