Doug Cronk was born in September 1919, just two months before the Armistice that ended the Great War. In 1914 his father had received a gunshot wound while serving in France and spent the rest of the war in the UK as a Sergeant in the Bedfordshire Regiment. He had recently been discharged from the army and the family lived in Westcliffe on Sea in Essex. As a teenager young Doug worked as an ice cream salesman and as war in Europe loomed for a second time, he Joined the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire in April 1939 at the age of just 19.
At the outbreak of war Doug found himself in France and experienced the evacuation from Dunkirk. He later volunteered to become part of the clandestine Auxiliary forces who would ‘stay behind’ and carry out a guerrilla war behind the German lines in the event of an invasion. This is probably how he came to the attention of the SAS and following intensive training in Scotland his records suggest that he was in mainland Europe ahead of D Day. By April 1944, at the age of 24, he was a Lance Corporal in the 1st Regiment SAS. Doug was a part of Operation Kipling, working behind enemy lines to carry out reconnaissance, attack supply lines and generally cause mayhem to demoralise the retreating Germans. Of particular interest here, is that later, moving through the lowlands and then into Germany, Doug probably broke the rules in so far as he carried a camera with him. This has provided us with some authentic snaps of him, his comrades and their jeeps on active service with the SAS. Doug later took part in the liberation of Norway where the SAS assisted in rounding up and disarming some 300,000 occupying troops.
Doug Cronk never went to a reunion. He said he no longer wanted anything to do with the war “it’s over, forget about it”. After he was demobbed he moved to Dorset and became a bus driver. He was interviewed by Gavin Mortimer for his book ‘Stirlings men’, which is well worth a read.
Article and images by Steve Favell
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