Thetford Forest, and The Desert Rats

All photos can be enlarged for detail, by clicking on them

A short drive out of the market town of Swaffham will take you to the edge of the vast Thetford Forest. Straddling two counties, there are over 47,000 acres of pine forest, the largest of its kind in the UK. This is far from being an ancient site though, as it was created for the production of timber, after 1918. It is now managed by the Forestry Commission, as well as being used by the armed forces for training. Most of the area is accessible to tourists though.

It was so dull and gloomy at 1 pm, that this photo looks almost ghostly.

The walks are well signposted, and the paths are all very easy to manage too. Julie and Ollie were walking ahead, into the gloom among the trees.

Throughout WW2, the 7th Armoured Division had their headquarters in this forest. It was known as the home of the famous ‘Desert Rats’ during this time. Many information boards are dotted around, telling the visitor what life was like for the soldiers back then. They have also erected this striking memorial, close to the main road, and next to the visitor’s car park.

This is an authentic replica of a wartime Mark IV Cromwell Tank, ‘Little Audrey’.

Despite the gloom of the day, we managed a walk of over two hours in the peaceful woodland. Although there are no facilities provided, I recommend you spend some time there, if you are ever in the area. It was a great way to take the edge off of a dull Wednesday, I assure you.

Some photo information, for anyone interested. The woodland photos were shot at f 7, with a high ISO of 800, and a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second. The tank photos were taken at f 5.6, ISO 400, shutter speed 1/160th of a second. I used exposure compensation for the tank shots of +1, due to the dark paintwork.

52 thoughts on “Thetford Forest, and The Desert Rats

  1. The second forest shot was the most ghostly, I think. I enlarged the tank photo and read “Little Audrey I” on the tank before scrolling down and seeing that you mentioned the name. What is the significance of the red square? I’m sure the Russians would like to know!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The outlined red square is the squadron marking for ‘B’ squadron, and the red colour denotes regiment. The square containing the outlined jerboa (the desert rat) is the divisional marking for the 7th Armoured Division. Other squadrons used a triangle for A, a circle for B, and a diamond shape for HQ Squadron. Different regiments in the same division used other colours, such as green or yellow.
      The number, 51, identifies the 1st Royal Tank Regiment.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Some nice pictures, there, Pete. My experience suggests that pine forests can be quite difficult to photograph, especially on a dull day and especially in colour.

    I would second your recommendation of Thetford Forest as a place to visit. We stayed on the edge of it on our visit to Norfolk two years ago. We didn’t see the monument, but we did see lots of trees and a very large female adder. (No picture because it slithered away as soon as it saw/heard us). I also noticed that there was a lot of sand around, which caused a few problems with the mobility scooter in places. Otherwise, the accessibility was mostly very good, though, which adds considerably to the recommendation from my point of view! It’s a great place for collecting pine cones.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad you agree about Thetford Forest, Ros. I only saw one (very stony) path yesterday that might have been impassable for a scooter. There were also signposted routes for wheelchair users, which was good to note. I agree that photographing forests is not the best subject, especially on a day like yesterday, which felt like walking in the clouds.
      We didn’t see any adders, but I have seen a few over on Beetley Meadows, usually on very hot days.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That makes military sense, they put the Desert Rats in the woods, and the Sherwood Foresters were probably based downtown, or in the dunes.
    Good shots of the tank, I’m interested in armored vehicles and have never seen a Cromwell in person. I guess a step up from the Crusader but not by much.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Robert. If you like armoured vehicles, check out these three posts I put up before, about my visit to the local military vehicle collection..
      https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/muckleburgh-part-one-tanks/
      https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/muckleburgh-part-two-armoured-cars-and-artillery/
      https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/muckleburgh-part-three-other-exhibits/
      The Desert Rats were mainly based there just before the D-Day landings. As the name suggests, they had previously been based in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, before crossing to fight in Italy.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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