Bucks Second World War hero's possessions donated to UK military museum

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The family of a Second World War hero, who retired to Buckinghamshire, have donated some of his possessions to a popular war museum.

Lt Col Jack Prichard, who lived in Iver after retirement, endured an eventful campaign and ended up living in multiple countries during the 1940s.

He lost an entire squadron of tanks during one mission and his involvement in the conflict spanned two continents.

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His surviving possessions that relate to the Second World War will now be on display in the Tank Museum, Dorset.

A young Prichard and other items donatedA young Prichard and other items donated
A young Prichard and other items donated

Prichard’s war involved fighting Germans in north Africa, capture, escape, fighting with Italian partisans, escaping to Switzerland, swerving internment, and returning to Italy to help finish off the Nazis.

Now his Popeye mascot, which was attached to the front of his tank, swagger stick, sweetheart brooch, fake identity papers along with photos and other documents have been donated by his daughter.

He joined the Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) in the 1930s and served in India before being sent to north Africa after war was declared.

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He was awarded the Military Cross after the Siege of Tobruk.

Prichard's fake Italian ID documentPrichard's fake Italian ID document
Prichard's fake Italian ID document

Lt Prichard lost 17 tanks and the whole regiment was captured, but luckily for Jack the German officer in charge had been a drinking buddy of his in Maidenhead before the war and ensured he and the men had food and water.

Prichard was held in an Italian camp and after the Italian surrender in September 1943 he broke out with almost everyone else.

While his comrades were captured, Prichard hid and moved around Italy for months, living on sweet chestnuts that he loathed for the rest of his life.

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He met with sympathetic Italians, had false documents made, travelled on trains and drank in bars.

Prichard's Popeye mascot and his identity tagPrichard's Popeye mascot and his identity tag
Prichard's Popeye mascot and his identity tag

Finally he ended up fighting with the partisans against the Nazis and fascist Italians.

Ultimately the Germans sent 16,000 troops to the area and Prichard escaped to Switzerland where he was due to be interned for the rest of the war.

Later, he commandeered a lorry of oranges from the US with the intention of giving them to his old partisan pals.

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One Italian thought he was a German spy, and he was subsequently detailed to be shot.

Fortunately Jack’s superiors sorted out the situation and that evening Prichard was drinking with the senior US officer who hours earlier had wanted him executed.

His daughter Lacy who has found the items said: “He was a gregarious man who got on with everyone and that was important in a tank because you were all together in a tiny space.

“When he returned home after escaping our mother Eilleen – his future wife – heard he had come back and knocked on his door.

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“On hearing the knocks he leapt behind the sofa to hide – a hangover from his months on the run.

“When he went on holiday to Italy in the 1960s he stopped at a petrol station and was recognised by one of the partisans he had been fighting with.

“He would never have considered himself a hero, but just someone doing his job. And there were hundreds – if not thousands – of people with similar stories."