Of the 47 officers of the 11th (HAC) Regt, RHA – pictured right at Chilton Foliat, near Hungerford, on the occasion of their inspection by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in August 1941, before their embarkation with 1st Armoured Division, destined for the Middle East – 12 were killed in action and many more were wounded, some more than once. Only two returned to the UK unscathed. One was me and the other was Mike Page. Despite criss-crossing the Western Desert twice, fighting at Knightsbridge, Alamein and in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy and winning a Military Cross in the breakthrough of the German's Gothic line in Italy; and despite being blown up in a tank on a bridge in Tunisia when the driver was killed and his Commanding Officer, whose tank it was, was badly injured, Mike Page walked away unharmed.
James Michael Page was born in November 1916. His father was a most able biochemist who was badly wounded in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. After the War he joined an Agricultural Research Station and served the Government at home and abroad. He was honoured with the CMG and OBE.
Mike Page was brought up in a relatively prosperous household; he went to Oundle and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, to read Natural Sciences. An example of an early prank was extinguishing a street light in St James' Street, Cambridge, for which he was fined £1. More serious was his rowing ability. He rowed for his College and it was an abiding passion throughout his life.
In 1939 he was selected to join ICI Dyestuffs Division but the War intervened and Page, having joined the Honorable Artillery Company "because he had heard it was a good outfit" was sent to OCTU (Officer Cadet Training Unit), commissioned and posted back to the 11th Regt.
The regimental history, Regimental Fire, describes how Page earned his Military Cross near Faenza in Italy on 7-8 December 1944: "Captain Page was the Forward Observing Officer with the leading company. His OP (Observation Post) was a house 500 yards from the village and the Germans had no doubt as to its location. Enemy tanks and artillery pounded it all day. From this uncomfortable viewpoint, Page decided smoke was the only answer and laid a screen which enabled the Lancers' tanks to seize the crest without being knocked out. All day, all night and through the next day Captain Page stuck to his OP, the only one the Regiment had been able to establish. It was largely due to him that the enemy failed to dislodge the British riflemen."
Page was demobbed in 1945. He rejoined ICI Dyestuffs and served with ICI and British Nylon Spinners for the next 28 years, all over the world but much of it in India, for which he developed a deep affection. At 57 he embarked on a third career and joined the Red Cross, being put in charge of UK branches. In 1979 he was chosen to take charge of the Red Cross relief operation in Dominica, which had been struck by Hurricane David. He wrote: "it was a fascinating month on this most interesting island with most of the bananas and other crops destroyed and without electricity, water or communications. We coped with a flood of relief goods that arrived from all over the world. We were asked to target the very young and the old. Our communications were operated by a pair of radio 'hams'. Using them we could speak to Red Cross HQ in Geneva and to the neighbouring islands."
Page's work for the Red Cross continued virtually until the day of his death. He retired from full-time work in 1982 but carried on fund-raising and organising events in Somerset.
Page was an extremely handsome man, but this did not spoil him. I said to a fellow officer in the Regt, "he was a good man". The reply came "he was a super man". Above all, in the thick of battle he kept people together. Where Page was, no matter what the circumstances, laughter abounded.
For many people the War saw the height of their achievements. For Mike Page it was indeed "a good war". But it was only a beginning. He went on to deliver all he had promised in his youth. An example of this was his continued membership of the HAC for over 70 years and his homage to his comrades at the planting of a tree at Armoury House in City Road in 2007 in memory of the 90 B Battery prisoners of war who were drowned when their Italian troopship was torpedoed and sunk by an unknowing British submarine.
He leaves his wife of 64 years, Faith, whom he first met as a hospital physiotherapist in Algiers in 1943, a GP son and a daughter in human resources.
James Michael Page, soldier, executive and charity worker: born 16 November 1916; married Faith (one son, one daughter); died 24 October 2010.Reuse content