- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Alexander Schufel
- Location of story:
- Africa, and Italy - The Battle of Cassino
- Background to story:
- Royal Army Service Corps
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 26 December 2003
This is my war story - as written for my three grandchildren.
I was 19 years old when I was called up for National Service - it was April 1940. I was sent to a camp near Sheffield for the RASC where I did the usual Army training. I was also taught to drive a 3 ton truck, a motor cycle, and a Valentine tank.
I learnt how to fire a Lee Enfield rifle, a Bren machine gun, and how to handle hand grenades.
After 8 weeks, I was sent home on leave for 10 days, and ordered to report to a barracks at Woolwich. We were taken by train to Liverpool where we boarded a troopship. We joined a convoy, and after 5 weeks travelling, we landed at Algiers in Africa. We marched 24 miles and arrived at a camp where we drove Bedford lorries and joined the eighth army in the desert in Africa.
I was then sent to a tank regiment and during the African campaign, I drove a Valentine tank with a 25 pounder mounted on the back. I was promoted to Lance Corporal at this time. We fought the Italian army in the desert and beat them, but this time Hitler had sent the German army to Africa and we were driven back to Egypt.
Then Churchill sent General Montgomery with reinforcements and we won back all the ground we lost, and at El Alamein we defeated the Germans and drove them out of Africa.
In September 1943 we landed in Italy, and we were transferred to the 1st Army of the 5th Corps. I was promoted to Corporal, and had to drive a huge truck with an enormous 5.5 Gun behind, which fired a 100 pound shell. We handed these over to a Royal Artillery regiment.
The Army was very short of Infantry and we were sent to a regiment of the Royal Fusiliers, and we fought as infantry in the Italian mountains.
We were pinned down at one stage on the side of a hill by a German mortar nest and were losing a lot of men - they were being wounded and killed. The officer in charge of the operation was also killed. The man had got up during the night and tried to shoot Germans from the top of a tree with a rifle. After he had been killed by a German shooting I was put in charge.
We received orders to take 6 men and try to climb the hill and destroy the nest with hand grenades. As I was in charge I went on this operation as the leader. We slowly climbed the hill to get near enough to throw the grenades at the Germans. We were fired upon by machine guns and I was shot in the knee. Luckily enough the bullet only tore my flesh and zoomed past me. I managed to limp up the hill and throw three hand grenades into the pit and destroy the four German soldiers. With this last effort I collapsed on the hillside. The officers recommended me for honours and I was awarded my Military Medal (M.M).
I was in hospital for two weeks and then sent back to the front. I left the Infantry and was transferred to the Royal Artillery and sent back behind the lines for a month where I trained on the use of the 5.5 heavy artillery. It was called the 102 Field Regiment.
I served with them in Italy in charge of 12 men and the gun, till we reached Cassino and were held back by the German Army. My gun was hit by a German shell and a lump of shrapnel hit me in the side and knocked me unconscious. I woke up in hospital and was told that the shrapnel could not be removed as it was in a fold of a muscle and could not be touched as it would cause too much damage. I still have the shrapnel in my body today.
When I recovered, I was sent home on leave for 4 weeks, and during this time I went to Buckingham Palace and was presented with my Military Medal by King George VI.
I returned to Italy and was promoted to Sergeant, and joined a special unit which was used to destroy German munitions dumps. I took a party of six soldiers and we found a dump that was still held by the Germans who did not know that the German troops had left, and we killed one sentry and took 5 prisoners.
I was sent back to my regiment and we were sent to Greece where we worked for Unrra taking lorries of food to the remote villages in the hills, who had been starved by the German army.
In September 1946 I was sent home and left the army. I was mentioned in dispatches for the raid on the munitions dump.
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