Remembering our Fallen: Geoffrey Merrick

Geoffrey Merrick, who has died aged 91, was awarded an MC in Italy in 1945, and after the war worked for ICI.

On May 1 1945, three German tanks were preventing 7th Battalion the Rifle Brigade (7 RB) crossing the river Tagliamento north of St Vito. Merrick’s platoon of six-pounder anti-tank guns was part of a force that was ordered to destroy them.
There were deep ditches on either side of the road, and it was possible to get only one gun into position. This was highly hazardous, since the platoon was in full view of the enemy; but despite heavy fire, Merrick got the gun into action with such speed that the enemy was forced to pull back, and the way across the river was opened.
That same afternoon Merrick was in charge of an anti-tank gun supporting a small force of carriers which had been sent out to take the surrender of five German tanks which were reported to be ready to give up.
While the surrender was in progress, the enemy tanks treacherously opened fire on the carriers, and three of the tanks charged down the road towards them. Merrick got his gun into action at once and, under intense fire, directed the gun in person.
His retaliation was so effective that the leading tank was knocked out at a range of 100 yards and the others were forced to withdraw. The citation for his award of an Immediate MC paid tribute to the speed and courage Merrick had shown in turning two critical situations into a defeat for the enemy.
Geoffrey Edward Merrick was born at Lewes, Sussex, on September 1 1921 and educated at Winchester. He enlisted in the Army at the outbreak of war and was commissioned into the Rifle Brigade. He saw fierce fighting with the 2nd Battalion in North Africa. In October 1942, during the second battle of El Alamein, after overcoming a German position the battalion fought off determined counter-attacks by two Panzer divisions and disabled much of the enemy armour; 57 tanks were burnt out and many others were immobilised. For his part in the engagement, the commanding officer, Lt-Col Victor Turner, was awarded a VC. In March 1945 Merrick transferred to 7 RB at Cattolica, on the Adriatic coast, for the final phase of the Italian campaign. The advance northwards became a triumphal procession. At each village the church bells rang out, the streets were lined with men, women and children cheering and singing, and the riflemen were showered with flowers. At Udine, 20,000 people gathered to greet them, while several hundred partisans, armed to the teeth, saluted with repeated volleys from their weapons. But north of the town, contact was made with the small group of German tanks which appeared to be willing to surrender. That this was a deceitful ruse became clear when an officer of 7 RB went forward on foot and the leading tank commander shot him. As a general firefight ensued, Merrick brought his gun into action decisively. V-E Day found the battalion across the Austrian border. There Merrick witnessed the forced repatriation of the Cossacks, which greatly distressed him. After being demobilised, he went up to Christchurch, Oxford, for a year to take the Colonial Civil Service Course. He decided, however, to join ICI and worked for the company for the rest of his career. He retired in 1980 and lived at Midhurst, Sussex, before settling at Chichester, where he enjoyed playing golf and going to the theatre. Geoffrey Merrick married, in 1951, Celia Richards, who survives him with their son and daughter. Geoffrey Merrick, born September 1 1921, died January 11 2013 Source: Telegraph.
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