Her Royal Highness has recorded excerpts from her father’s own accounts of his time serving with the 12th Royal Lancers during the Second World War, as the nation comes together and reflects on VE Day.
Major Bruce Shand M.C. was commissioned into the 12th Royal Lancers in 1937, earning two Military Crosses and serving in the Army for a decade.
In 1990, Major Shand wrote a book about his experiences in the Second World War which he dedicated to his grandsons. It was based on his letters and diary, as well as two accounts he wrote while a prisoner in the latter half of the war. These accounts were sent to England via the Red Cross, and were kept in the Historical Section of the War Office until 1970.
The Duchess recently spoke about the book, saying:
My father was a soldier in the war and we could never get him to talk about it. But when the grandchildren came along, he started talking about it and we got him to write a small book about it. I think it was a huge load off his mind to be able to tell people about it. I was going to read a few pages of it at the time of VE Day about when he was captured at El Alamein.
In an excerpt from his book Previous Engagements, selected by Her Royal Highness to share on VE Day, Major Shand recalls his time serving in North Africa in 1942 which saw him lose two of his closest comrades during the Battle of El Alamein and taken to Germany as a prisoner of war.
In a second reading, The Duchess recounts her father’s words as he recalls escaping capture in 1945, meeting with American soldiers and returning to Britain.
Major Shand – a short biography
Major Bruce Shand M.C. was commissioned into the 12th Royal Lancers in 1937. Described in his citation for his second Military Cross as a leader of “the first order”, Major Shand served with honour in the Army for ten years. During the early stages of the Second World War he formed part of the British Expeditionary Force in Northern France and along the Belgium Frontier where he led patrols to gather intelligence on enemy dispositions, before proving instrumental in enabling the withdrawal of troops to Dunkirk, whereupon he was awarded his first Military Cross.
Later in the campaign, Major Shand was deployed to North Africa with the 7th Armoured Division where he was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross, along with his half Squadron, he proved successful at protecting the Allied flank and covering the withdrawal of the 1st/6th Rajputana Rifles near Msus, Libya. In November 1942, following an order to advance towards Kalda, south of Mersa Matruh, Egypt, Shand encountered a German column whereupon his vehicle was surrounded and destroyed. His two crewmen were killed, and Major Shand was wounded and taken to Germany as a prisoner of war. Major Shand returned to Britain after escaping capture in 1945 eventually retiring from the Army in 1947.
In 2006, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited Egypt. At Major Shand’s request, Her Royal Highness laid flowers on the graves of her father’s two crewmen, Sergeant Charles Francis and Corporal Edward Plant, who had been killed in 1942.