A SERIES of “heartbreaking” letters written by a young tank gunner in World War Two have been given to The Tank Museum.

The letters sent by Alan ‘Jim’ Harris to his parents between 1940 and 1943 follow his training and deployment through to this death.

Stuart Wheeler, museum historian, said: “This series of letters are very poignant but ultimately heartbreaking to read.

“They give an insight into how the war starts to impact on Jim’s life and those around him. It was a story all too familiar during the war and is of special interest to us, given that we are Jim’s, and The Royal Tank Regiment’s, Regimental Museum.”

Jim, who was from Kent, was a teenager when he joined up in 1940 during the Blitz, starting as an Air Raid Precautions (ARP) warden in London where he was working in the civil service.

By 1941 he was training with the 60th Training Regiment and became a good radio operator and gunner.

In what turned out to be a decision that would lead to his death, he declined the opportunity to become a gunnery instructor at Lulworth.

He began training with the Royal Tank Regiment at locations across the country.

In early 1943 he finally sets sail for war and before his first action he writes: “I will be taking soon the next step … But don’t worry, keep your chin up and don’t fear for me…"

As he gets closer to action he writes: “God will be with me as the cause is righteous. So don’t worry about me.”

In mid-April 1943 Jim, who mentions a sweetheart Joyce in his letters, was in north-east Algeria with the 12th Royal Tank Regiment as part of the 21st Army tank brigade, which was there to support the 4th Infantry Division in the upcoming Operation Vulcan.

Jim and his ‘A’ Squadron advanced on April 27 - their first time in combat - and attacked Sidi Abdallah Hill, part of strong German defences.

The hill was successful taken but the Germans counter-attacked with the Hermann Goring Division, and Tiger tanks.

Jim was killed instantly at the age of 20 along with one crew member when his Churchill tank took a direct hit from an 88mm anti-tank gun.

Letters his mother sent him after this were returned, stamped with the message “It is regretted that this item could not be delivered because the addressee is reported missing.”

Some months later Jim’s troop leader wrote to his parents telling them how their son’s body had been recovered and buried.

Lieutenant Saunders added: “Your son was an invaluable member of the crew in his capacity as gunner, and on the day of battle he shot and fought magnificently.”

Jim’s body was later moved to the Massicault cemetery in Tunisia.

His nephew John Pullen, who donated the letters to the museum, said: “The letters remind us of the millions who made the sacrifice.”