Second World War Jeep ride unites for veteran

The Northern Echo: TAKING A RIDE: Joe Swinbank gets to ride in Barnard Castle beat officer Harry Marsh’s WW2 jeep 70 years to the day that he joined troops on the beach of northern France. Picture SARAH CALDECOTT TAKING A RIDE: Joe Swinbank gets to ride in Barnard Castle beat officer Harry Marsh’s WW2 jeep 70 years to the day that he joined troops on the beach of northern France. Picture SARAH CALDECOTT

TWO men with very different connections to the Second World War have taken a drive down memory lane in an authentic army Jeep.

For PC Harry Marsh, taking 97-year-old war veteran Joe Swinbank for a ride in his restored 1942 US Jeep goes down as one of the best days of his life.

Mr Swinbank, of Galgate, Barnard Castle, County Durham, who spent the first few years of the war driving senior officers around in Jeeps, was more than happy to sit back and enjoy a trip around the market town today (June 12) – 70 years to the day since he landed in France.

He served with the 15/19 King’s Royal Hussars and finished up in Palestine. When finally told he could home, the journey took three weeks.

“I started my own shop in 1939 and it was £1 a week in rent,” he said. “I gambled but the war came. I was given ten weeks to sell out.

“I was told to report to Catterick camp and I was a private. I started out on motorbikes but then moved to Jeeps.”

PC Marsh, a beat officer in Barnard Castle, said: “I have had a fascination in the Second World War since I was a young boy and I have travelled all over Europe to learn more about it.

“I always wanted to have a Jeep and it gives me a great deal of delight to take Joe out. It seemed right to do it on the 70th anniversary of when he landed in France.

“It is one of the most special events in my life.”

Mr Swinbank was on duty as a trooper at a compound on the German Danish border at Flensburg in 1945 when a German general drove up in a Mercedes-Benz and surrendered.

Documents later revealed it had been Hitler’s car for much of the war.

He opened a small gents’ outfitters shop in Barnard Castle about a year before he was called up, which meant he had to close.

However, he returned to it after he was demobbed in 1946, moving to larger premises in the town, where he ran his business until he retired aged 59.

Mr Swinbank married Marjorie in 1942 before enjoying a honeymoon in the Lake District.

Inspector Kevin Tuck, of Barnard Castle police, said: “We knew about what Joe had done and Harry was more than happy to help out. It shows a different side and it is a nice thing to do.”

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