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Michael Alan Pratt #2

This story and photos are shared by the Trust with kind permission from Chris Sharpe, one of  Michael Pratt's first cousins once removed

Michael Alan Pratt was the only child of Gertude and Oscar Pratt, my father's Uncle and Aunt and my late father's 1st cousin.

He served as a Lieutenant, in the 23rd Hussars, Royal Armoured Corps, service number 247458 and I have a fine photograph (portrait) of him in uniform professionally taken by Brigham of Bridlington (where he had been based apparently) sometime prior to D Day.

The 23rd Hussars was formed in December 1940 and for the next three years they trained for the return to Europe. I recently found a history of his unit in which he was mentioned a few times as they fought around Caen. They landed in Normandy a week after D-Day and the first mention of Michael in the history was when the Hussars were ordered to advance through Mondrainville in mid-July after a bridge over the Odon had been found to be intact. Despite a heavy German presence "Lieut Pratt, showing a great deal of skill and contempt for the enemy, found a way round and the Squadron going with great dash reached the bridge and crossed." After clearing the Germans from Mondrainville the Hussars advanced and Michael is mentioned again "Lieut. Pratt got his tank to within three hundred yards of an enemy Panther or Tiger and disabled it."

The last mention of him is in a recap of the fighting that the unit had been involved in south of Caen on July 18th in which Lt Pratt was killed. "We had lost two fine officers in Major Seymour and Major Shebbeare, both very old friends of the Regiment and extremely able Squadron Leaders. We had lost Lieut. Pratt and Lieut. Cochrane, both gallant troop leaders, and a great many others besides. A large number of our best N.C.Os and men had gone, and there is not sufficient space to pay them all the tributes they so richly deserve....The regiment has fought many battles since then, but none will be remembered more vivdly than the action we call the "Battle of Caen".

My late Uncle Arthur had kept letters sent home by two men who served with Michael. Major Cecil Blacker, Michael's commanding officer until two days before the battle, wrote to his father on 23 July 1944. At this point Michael was posted as Missing and he wrote to provide hope and reassurance about him. The letter reveals the close bond of comradeship they had.

"You will have probably been informed by now that Mike is either missing or has been evacuated wounded. I am afraid we have no trace of him at the moment, but if he has been evacuated unknown to us you should know by now. If not, and he is still missing, this is the story as far as I know....He was, as usual, leading his troop in the forefront of a particularly sticky battle when his tank was hit at very short range by an anti-tank gun. His driver and co-driver were killed instantly, but his gunner and operator got out, badly burnt and have been evacuated. No one saw Mike get out and at first things looked bad. I went up to his tank later and made a very close examination and I am certain that it was most unlikely he was hit by the shell itself and everything points to the fact that he got out, particularly as his operator and gunner did so, which would have been difficult if he had still been in....I am trying to get in touch with the operator and gunner who may be able to say definitively if he got out or not but they were too badly hurt to answer questions at this time. So I am afraid its 9sic) not very satisfactory but you may be sure that I am far too fond of Mike ever to give up searching and hoping for the best.

I am not being in the slightest untruthful when I assure you that no officer in this regiment has shown himself in to be more brave, skillful and successful than Mike has done. He has been quite outstanding, and I was proud when I commanded the squadron to have him as a troop leader...

I'd like you to know that we have recommended him for the M.C. and even if it doesn't come through (which will be a scandal and most unlikely) you have this proof of our very high opinion and respect of Mike."

His father also received letters from men of his unit. One of them was a letter from Sgt Craig, Michael's Troop Sgt, who had been told about Michael by Major Blacker's wife.

Another letter, from Cpl Baird, is referenced by Major Blacker in a letter he sent in September. We don't have a copy of it but it suggested that the words Major Blacker gave at first may have been too hopeful. "Certainly your report from Cpl. Baird was the reverse of encouraging and things certainly don't look quite so good. I shall feel very guilty if I had raised your hopes unduly, but I still cannot see how he was killed if he was." He then goes on to explain what can happen if a tank is hit and the chances of survival. It seems luck plays a big part!

Michael was eventually reported Presumed Killed in Action. His body was never found so he is now commemorated on the Bayeux Memorial to the Missing.

British Normandy Memorial - Additional Information

The MC that Michael had been recommended for was changed to Mentioned in Despatches.

FALLEN HEROES

  • MICHAEL ALAN PRATT

    Army • LIEUTENANT

    Royal Armoured Corps
    23rd Hussars

    DIED | 18 July 1944

    AGE | 24

    SERVICE NO. | 247458

FALLEN HEROES

  • MICHAEL ALAN PRATT

    Army • LIEUTENANT

    Royal Armoured Corps
    23rd Hussars

    DIED | 18 July 1944

    AGE | 24

    SERVICE NO. | 247458

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