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15 October 2014
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My Teenage War Years - from Wembley to Singaporeicon for Recommended story

by sarahbateson

Contributed by 
People in story: 
John Dyer
Location of story: 
Wembley, Euston, Whitby, India, Japan, Singapore
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
02 June 2005

This story was submitted to the Peoples War website by Sarah Bateson on behalf of John Dyer.

I was 11 when the war broke out attending Wembley Hill School and often when the registar was call there would be no answer and someone would say 'he was bombed out last night sir'.The school had a direct hit one night just before I was 14 so that was the end of my education.I started work learning plumbing with R.J.Audrey of Kilburn Park Road.One of my first jobs was at Euston Fire Station,I would cycle there from Wembley in the blackout.The crews often worked through the night and would fall asleep on the floor still in their wet uniforms.Another job was at either Caledonian School or the Brecknock installing a sinks and slop hoppers for a mortuary.I often saw the bodies coming in,some had to be hosed down,there were mothers still clutching babies.Everyone had to have a post mortem.The school was still open and the children played in the playground around a pile of clothes from the
bodies.The mortuary attendants coped by being comedians and casual but when I was sent for the sandwiches and tea and gave them brawn they,not surprisingly threw it back at me.They used to try and frighten me with their tales of blood and gore.I also worked at Northolt Aerodrome which was a fighter command at the time.One airman crashed landed and his plane went 15 feet into the ground,I can still see the rescuer's tears when they dug him out.I stole some dark chocolate,a rare treat in the war,but unbeknown to me it was to keep the pilots awake on missions,I didn't sleep for a week.I was still just a kid witnessing unimaginable horrors. About 1940 the IRA bombed the reservoir supplying the water for the cooling station for the Bakerloo Line,it didn't do too much damage but all Wembley had to be evacuated.An aerial torpedo bombed the Grand Union Canal in Wembley where it goes over the road in a viaduct.It caused terrible flooding and many people lost their lives in Tokington Avenue,where I lived.They were drowned in their garden Anderson shelters.I did lots of war damage work in London and I was on a roof in Finchley Road when I saw the doodle bug hit the London Zoo.I worked at many British Restaurants which were subsidised by the government,you could get a good meal and a cup of tea for a shilling (5p).Well then my war began and I was called up and did my initial train ing at Whitby,I enjoyed that as I was trained to be a dispatch driver and had the moors to ride on.Although I had seen some terrible things I was still quite naive.One day,whilst queuing for dinner at the old Metropol Hotel,which was now our canteen,wanting to light my cigarette I asked a girl in the queue if she had a match.When she replied 'yes my face and your a**** I was quite shocked.It was VE day whilst I was there but I can't remember any celebrating,infact we were all quite disappointed we wouldn't be in the war.I was sent to India and had a wonderful tour of the country by rail,I witnessed the beginning of the riots in Calcutta and saw the British Flag come down over India for the last time.I can't leave India without mentioning Curly.He was an ol d soldier who couldn't read or write,he had no teeth but a lovely head of hair.He had lots of girl penfriends and he proposed to them all.We would write the letters he dictated and he even included samples of material for the wedding dress.He would sit on his bed roaring with laughter at the replies saying 'read it again kid'.He received lovely food parcels which he shared among us.If we went out in the evening we had to take condoms with us whether we wanted to or not.A very upperclass officer used to say to us 'if you don't go out with a pecket,you'll come back with a pecket'.I was then sent to Japan with the occupational forces,we had to guard the officers who were considered war criminals.The Japanese civilians were so polite and humble in defeat it wa s impossible to imagine the atrocities they committed.They were starving when we arrived,it wasn't the bomb that finished the war it was the starvation.We had to escort the prisoners to Singapore for the war trials.They were kept in the hold of the ship.One soldier closed his eyes in the heat for a moment and a Japanese officer threw himself on the soldier's fixed bayonet,the blade went through his throat.There was a big enquiry but I don't know the outcome. That was my war and all before I was 21.

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