A Tank Buster’s Tale: Commemorating D-Day Through a Personal Diary

As we commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, we would like to share with you a unique piece of history from our very own family.

Sensei Donna’s grandfather, Frederic “Freddie” Robey, served valiantly as a “tank buster” during WW2. He flew a Hawker Hurricane, a British single-seat fighter aircraft known for its role in the Battle of Britain and subsequently in the North African campaign. The Hawker Hurricane was renowned for its ruggedness and reliability, making it a formidable weapon in the harsh conditions of North Africa. Its adaptability made it an ideal choice for ground-attack missions, like those Freddie undertook.

In honour of his service and to provide you with a glimpse into the past, we share excerpts from his personal diary entries.

May his words inspire and remind us of the bravery and dedication of those who fought for our freedom.

1943

Tuesday March 23rd

Weather quite good. No news of Johnny. The others are safe. Two cables of congratulatory nature from Coningham & Broadhurst and a message from Freyburg via Montgomery. Wrote to Mary, Mother & Father. Nothing much else doing.

Wednesday March 24th

S/Lt awarded D.S.O. Heard that Johnny was safe. “A” flight had a party today (not me). Bob Mercer & Harris missing so far. Went on a show in the afternoon. N.Z’s sent a message back before we landed “Best show they had seen”. Wally & Day forced lobbed.

Thursday March 25th

We had another party this morning. Ten went out, four came back. Pete, Zog, Paton, Orchard, Raddy forced landed. Dennis landed at Bengardane with 15 inches off one prop & his tail wheel half off. Of those shot down, the only two we haven’t heard about so far are Wally & Harris. The others are all safe. Patton broke the back of my a/c, had splinters in his leg & a head wound. Jones was slightly wounded in the leg, being shot down by a 109. Johnny landed among the Ities, hid in a wadi & at night walked 15 miles through a minefield & regained our lines. Bob Mercer landed at 220 mph as half his wing was shot away. Day landed wheels down, turned over and was badly burnt as the plane caught fire. In the evening, we had a slap-up dinner given in our honour by the cooks showing their appreciation for the work we have been doing. An excellent fine gesture.

Friday March 26th

Nothing doing in the morning. On standby. At 3 PM, we took off on an anti-tank sortie. We arrived over the target & made a run. Didn’t see anything so we made a second run. I was hit in the engine by light machine gun fire. Immediately smoke poured out & glycol covered the windscreen so I turned south and landed between the lines. The a/c was cat II & owing to the shelling which Jerry started I beat a hasty retreat & joined the 28 Brigade Maori’s N.Z. As the battle was due to start at 4PM I stayed for a while & watched. However, as it was getting a bit hot, I retired to the 5th Brigade, where I was welcomed by a Brigadier with a tot of whiskey & a cup of tea. The attack was going very well & the 1st Armoured Division were lining up to go in at 7 PM. I was then passed back to an A.D.S. On the way Jerry started a bit of dive-bombing which was rather close for my liking. Stayed the night at 4 M.D.S, where I saw some of the bad casualty cases and Jerry & Itie prisoners. Hastings down as well.


Saturday March 27th

In the morning met two American pilots who had baled out yesterday. We all got a lift down to Ksar Tarcine L.G. Two more pilots were there. Managed to get a lift back in a Bombay to Senem L.G. A most disgusting ride as the stench from the wounded was rather shocking & the bumping was pretty awful. Spent a quiet afternoon & had a very welcome shave & wash. No mail waiting for me.