Gunner Titch stood at just 4 feet 11 inches – but he destroyed two Nazi tanks and two submarines in World War Two
Reg Snowling has been awarded France’s highest military honour for his combat heroics
But his combat heroics during the Second World War belied his small stature and last year he was awarded France’s highest military honour.
Speaking for the first time since receiving the Legion D’Honneur, Reg, 96, told his incredible story – including the time he took out two German tanks with a single shell.
The wonder shot came as his Sherman tank crew advanced into Nazi-occupied Europe
Reg recalled: “We looked through a hedge and saw these three tanks. They popped at us and missed, so we reversed.
“We went forward and were face-to-face with them. They fired again and missed, then I popped one off. The shell went right through one tank and into the next.
“The tanks just blew up. When our rifle brigade went up in their half-tracks to have a look, there was nobody alive.
“The officer in charge came belting back to ask who fired the shot. When he found out it was me, he said, ‘Make sure he gets the Military Medal’.”
Reg said three reporters tracked him down a few days later.
He recalled: “They shook my hand so hard they nearly shook me to death – but I never did get the Military Medal.”
On another occasion, during the Allied advance across Holland, Reg blew up two enemy submarines hidden in a canal. He said: “We had stopped on a crossing over a canal and our tank was told to go up a track.
“We spotted a Jerry coming out of a house and then six to eight more came out. We realised they were going to these submarines which we had not previously seen. We were on higher ground, but could just get the gun down.
“My crew were saying, ‘Go on, Titch, shoot, shoot’, so I said, ‘OK’ and fired one high-explosive shell. It blew both submarines and the sailors sky high.”
But the great-grandad-of-seven’s most profound experience came in April 1945, when his crew were the first Brits to reach the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Reg said: “I will remember what I saw for the rest of my days. At the time we didn’t know what a concentration camp was. We had no idea what we were looking at.
“There was not a shot fired on that day. All the Germans just handed their guns to a detachment of Hungarian soldiers. I could see a whole field of people who were dead or dying.
“There must have been 5,000 to 6,000 people there. Two ladies then came running out and one dropped her parcel. It turned out to be a dead baby.”
Reg arrived at the camp after landing in France on D-Day and fighting his way across Belgium and Holland into Germany.
The gunner, serving with the 23rd Hussars cavalry regiment, was ordered to oversee the German surrender at Belsen.
He and his crew had no idea what they were witnessing until days later, when they learnt at least 50,000 people died there.
Reg – one of five brothers – was wounded three times during the war and still carries the shrapnel. He was lucky to survive one attack where his tank was hit by a shell.
After the war the dad-of-three returned to his home town of Ipswich to work as a shop assistant. He later had jobs at a bacon factory, as a delivery van driver and assistant manager of a cash and carry.
His wife Agnes died in 2012 after 70 years of marriage.