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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Experiences in Iceland and Normandy

by historycentre

Contributed by 
historycentre
People in story: 
Gunner T Etwell
Location of story: 
Iceland, Holland and France
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A3094508
Contributed on: 
06 October 2004

I am a volunteer working for the BBC's People's War Project and am writing this story on behalf of Mrs K J Etwell's late husband's experiences.

Gunner T Etwell Joined the Royal Artillery '39 and demobbed Nov '45. After training at Burford was sent to Iceland (Seydisfjord). Only one leave in nearly 2 years. Came back for Normandy landings. Put in charge of water truck to ensure all water was kept purified. In order to chase the enemy, were continually on the move - no time for sleep. On convoy, strict rules to drive over the wheelmarks to avoid land mines.

Through Holland everyone had fatigue as they had to sleep standing up. To get '40 winks' decided to get into the nearest hen coop among the hens. When he woke up, Unit gone, total panic! This is it, a Court Martial!! Fortunately an American Unit was coming by and gave him a lift to his Unit. His Sergeant was calling him names because he had to drive the truck for him. All was well, Sergeant okay and no Court Martial.

Another occasion he found a burning ambulance and he courageously rescued 6 wounded soldiers. He received a Certificate of Commendation from 'Monty' who said "Good Laddie"

When based in Iceland on East Coast, I think on guard, they were ordered at all times to wear a helmet because birds settled on their heads pecking away! When a mug of tea was required, they had to go to the cookhouse, a short distance away. On returning to hut, the tea was frozen solid and to defrost it, would stand it on the stove and wait!

Back in the UK, waiting for orders from 'Monty' he actually got a short but well deserved leave. Orders came and the landings commenced into France and as he called it 'chasing Jerry'. Arriving at a bombed out city shop he found a beautiful china doll, which he kept throughout the war in perfect condition, in his army kit bag, and called her Bokka, which he later gave to his darling daughter. They often saw booby-trapped items hanging on hedges, such as watches, necklaces, etc. They were warned not to touch, but often did, temptation too great.

Sleep became impossible because they were constantly pressing on - as for a change of clothes that too was not on the agenda.

A very sad occasion was seen through the rearview mirrors. While on convoy they saw a lady and family trying hard to get by the single file of trucks, but sadly they did not make it and fell over and over into a field. The soldiers had to drive on and could not stop to help. Very sad!

However, when he was demobbed he was quiet for months because of the trauma.

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British Army Category
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