- Contributed by
- Researcher 234590
- Location of story:
- UK to Holland
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 06 December 2004
January 1944 STOCKHEATH CAMP HAMPSHIRE
I received a Draft Chit, this was report to drafting office for instructions, I thought this is it a Ship or Radar Course, it was neither, just report here tomorrow with all your kit, as with joining ship there was a routine so with leaving, there was a routine medical this always included Dentists, so this takes a couple hours, during this routine I found out I was on way back to Collingwood. I had been drafted to an outfit with the Code name Partyfunshore, nobody could give us a clue as to what it was all about, there were about ten of us. So off we go back to Fareham and H.M.S. Collingwood only a few miles away ,yes joining routine ,its only a couple of hours since last medical but no way out of it.
We now joined with about thirty others from different places, and in a part of ship away from the trainees. Next day our Naval Blue uniforms and Hammocks were put in store and we were issued with Army kit and Revolvers, we kept our Naval hats and given Royal Navy flashes to sew onto our Battle dress at least I thought still in the Navy and did have Naval Officers in charge. For a few days all we did was fall in outside our huts and along with our Officers would go off on route marches around and about the outskirts of Fareham.We were not very popular with the C.O. of Collingwood and had it drummed into us to behave and keep away from the Trainees. At the end of our route marches we would halt just outside and out of sight of the main gates get a bit tidy and make an impressive entrance past the guardroom. At the end of the first week we were informed we were going to be a Communication outfit and started to get bits and pieces of equipment in the way of radio’s, aerial’s, phone’s, rolls of wire and learning the Phonetic Alphabet, Able, Baker, Charlie and so on. From now on every day we would get in vans with this gear, go off to various sites and set the gear up and talk to each other. After a period we got to know these were V.H.F. Radios and the Aerial’s were directional, we would go over to the Isle of Wight and set up and then by compass fix the Aerials to talk to people on the mainland. Eventually the full picture got painted as our training got more intense, we were going to be involved in the Second Front as it got called when our forces landed on the Continent. We got split up into units of two’s, four’s, the bigger the group the more equipment you had, we were all given party numbers as to be identified by, I was in party 1592 ,we were in groups of Two’s. Our equipment was a trolley ,a pram like vehicle, it was about six feet long and two feet six inches wide, it had two bicycle wheels one either side. In it was a radio transmitter, aerial, lengths of three inch diameter steel tubing about five foot long these were put together so as to stick up the aerial, guy ropes, an electric generator, two five gallon drums of petrol. it took some pushing.After our training period We moved around Hampshire to different Army camps,not being told we were getting sorted out into boatloads. We ended up in an army tented camp in the village of Hambledon and here given some Invasion Money it was some Francs also we were confined to the camp and began to think soon it would be time for some action. Myself with a chap named Banners or Bannaman ended up in Landing Craft at Gosport along with Soldiers of the South Lanc’s regiment. We were spread out among the craft going to the same beach head, It was that, if a boat with only one of us got hit or sunk at least there was a chance that some would get ashore under fire. When ashore we would be deployed by the army to get signals back to the ships for support gunfire from navy. We boarded this craft in the early evening of the 5th of June and went and assembled off the Isle of Wight. During the dark hours we were told our destination was France and off we went. On the way we past close to the big naval craft bombarding the coast and closer to the shore Rocket Launchers were in action, overhead aircraft towing gliders were on their way and it was all hell. It was “D”Day, 6th. June 1944. and at about 9 am we had put ashore in Normandy.
There was plenty going on all around us, some shells were exploding on beach and among the landing craft, the cry was get clear of the beach to make way for others behind you, we pushed up onto the coast road and here we saw a Naval Officer who directed us to some other of our party who were already ashore with their gear working, In the fields just off the road the Army Flail Tanks were clearing Mines and making paths for the troops to move inland ,we were told to go into a small Orchard about 200 yds away , dig a fox hole get in it and wait until called upon, here we stayed the rest of the day and night. We hung about during the morning saw no one of our outfit nearby thought we had better go and investigate. The group had moved from original site, a thirty cwt truck had got ashore with larger and more powerful gear and setup and moved into a village called Hermanville. They were organized did not require us at the moment and sent us to camp at an army site outside the village, here in this field we dug another hole got settled There was some sniper activity in the village and was told of intended tank counter attack it was our second night but told it could be handled and was. Instead of eating our field rations that was in a small cardboard box and consisted of biscuits, tea and milk in cube form a sachet of coffee and bar of chocolate also a fuel tablet that you lit which lasted long enough to boil a mug of water. We were able to take our cans and get food from Army Field Kitchen it was only a tent, set up in an orchard among the trees but there was a change each day but it came from large cases and got warmed up or prepared as need be. One day we were sent down to the beach and collected some gear from HMS Roberts that was close by and they had sent us some fresh bread. Here we became just observers of the situation. The RAF were going over all the while attacking Caen that was a sticking point and not too far away.
I now know it was Sword Beach we had landed on, and the attacks on the beachhead were coming from some coastal guns from LeHarve just along the coast, these eventually got silenced by the R.A.F or the big guns of the Battleships that got used as artillery in the early days of the the invasion. A Field hospital got put up close by and the wounded and dead would be seen arriving all day, it was where the Airborne casualties were brought from their landing areas as well as from beaches and other sites of action .A very large mass grave was dug here. Time passed we were not engaged in anything just reported each day, and as the army moved inland we were able to walk about the village, try to learn a bit of the language and that was it no more action for us. just wait for further orders.
It was in August and the Army had been stuck at the town of Caen the weather also got bad and it was decided to send a few of us back to the U.K. About a dozen of us came back and was sent to Swanage in Dorset ,we were put in tents on a hill above Studland Bay, we stayed for about a fortnight ,then we were paired up again and given a small canvas top truck and a Royal Marine driver and sent back to France, we landed this time via the portable harbour called Mulberry that had been towed across the channel and assembled at Arromanche I cannot remember where we went to from there it may have been Dieppe, but was then put in a large lorry that was a purpose built transmitting set up. this had two large transmitters and we towed a large electric generator, again two of us with a marine driver and this time a radio mechanic, we were sent to get transmitting from LeHarve, We found trouble getting to the selected site as the road we chose had been damaged by the attacks made to put out of action the coastal batteries I mentioned before. The American Naval Personnel were here and were getting to work opening the harbour. We did get to the cliff top and set up all that was needed, it was getting cold now at night so we had a scout round the damaged properties and found a decent wood burning stove to put inside this large van ,had to make a hole in the roof for chimney ,we got it comfortable. One night somebody sabotaged the electric generator, that meant going off air for a while, the Yanks fixed it so we got going again. here we were billeted with the Yanks and were well fed, always Flapjacks for Breakfast and Tomato juice. We had a chance to see the damage that had been inflicted on the German defences. I was amazed of the size and strength of the gun positions and living blockhouses of concrete put up by the forced labour gangs during the occupation. The yanks took us on these unofficial site seeing jaunts and on one these events the jeep I was in ran over a personnel mine or something that exploded there was no serious damage but a piece of shrapnel finished up in my left hand and getting back to our site told by Yankee medic it would do more harm to remove it just plaster it up and in time it would work its own way out. It is still there 57years at time of me copying this from my written story.
We stayed here till just before Christmas and were then sent to Dieppe. When we arrived I met up with Bill Morris again, to our surprise we were sent home to U.K. for leave, I got to Banbury on Christmas Eve, the only thing my parents knew of me was that I was in France and had not got hurt in any way and a letter would follow. So Christmas was spent at home and I was seriously introduced to beer, I think most of my time was at the pub my father used. The Windsor Castle.
I had to report back at Newhaven on New Years Eve before Midnight, this I did and duly sailed across the channel back to Dieppe. From Dieppe we went to Ostende in Belgium . here we were billeted in some ex-german accommadation that had two tier bunk beds a games room semi luxury in fact it was close to the Cathedral had a few days here no duties to do just wait for instructions. On one morning we drove along coast and observed the german E-boats leaving Zeebruge going out on patrol. then on to Antwerp. The stay in Antwerp was quiet an eventful time. The communication side of our tour was forgotten, about six of the outfit I was in, were sent to a large college like building that had been used by the Germans as a barracks, it had a large open centre area and around all the sides were dormitories, it was occupied by all the three services and had a big dining room of which all the walls had comic situation murals painted on them, these involved German troops and civilians it was a very good professional job by somebody. This place was situated in the centre of the city so if not on duty it was no trouble finding some entertainment close by. The naval personnel was about Fifty of us, including marines, the big job at hand was to open the very large docks that was there to enable supplies to be got closer to the front line. The entrance to the docks was by way of the Schelde a waterway from the North Sea. There were still Pockets of resistance around this area and efforts to sabotage the work being done in clearing up the existing damage were happening. The action being taken to try and stop this was that during the dark hours explosive charges would be thrown into the water at intervals hoping to stop any Frogmen or submergible craft coming up this water way and doing any damage. This task was part of the duties of the Duty Watches at the time, at selected times that changed from night to night and hour by hour you would start the fuse walk to the end of a jetty and throw in the charge, after it had exploded you would turn on a searchlight sweep across the water to see if anything or anybody had surfaced, it had happened on occasions that shots had been fired to put out the light. I describe the explosive charges as a packet of soap powder in shape, and as with different times of throwing these things so did the size and therefore the weight of them. The fuses were about two feet long, you struck the end of the tube that ignited the powder and you know the rest .On one night I threw the big charge and it only just cleared the jetty it was a mighty bang and the jetty shook, items at the end of it ended up in the water, I was lucky nothing come of it. The reason we think why nothing was said was because that during the twenty-four hour period Flying Bombs and Rockets had fallen close by as Germans attacked the dock area as they did often at the time, The Flying Bombs you could see coming or going but with the Rockets they just fell out of the sky. The Bombs were known as V1’s and the Rockets V2’s. During the day I had a job in the Confidential Book Office,
The Officer in charge was the film star Ian Hunter, I call it a job it was just cutting strips of Paper and sticking them over old codes and sticking in new ones, as I said we did have the worry of the Rockets. As in the past ,as the Army advanced so did our units, we mainly followed the coastlines, and got set up to allow communications across the channel, The further we got away from the U.K. the bigger and more powerful was our equipment, we would get set up, then all the land lines would be fed in and we just had to monitor the system .The war was now in our favour and the Army had advanced well, they had entered Holland by now and a unit would be sent into the country, About twenty of us were sent to Flushing, our billet was The North Sea Boulevard Hotel on the seafront. The aerials were put on the high roof and the top floor bedrooms were taken over by us ,Netherlands Forces took the lower section of the hotel. It was as good as you could get in wartime for accommodation I suppose. From Flushing we could see the vapour trails of the German rockets on their way to England it was a sort of relief when a large air raid took place and destroyed the rocket site. We were stationed here for about two months and the army were close to the crossing of the river Rhine when we got moved back into Belgium close to Antwerp, a place called Schoten I think we pronounced it Sottingen anyway we were billeted in a factory this time, so we had come down to earth with a bang from our hotel in Flushing , and here we met up with many of the parties that had started off from Collingwood before D Day. We had a week in this place and many experiences were revealed and tales told. we had no duties to perform, we just went out to the Bars for drinks at night , and waited for all to assemble. I had been in Naval Parties No’s 1592. to start, 1724 at Courselle’s. 1686 at Dieppe, 1501 at Ostend, 1501 Antwerp, Royal Athelstan ,as the college place at Antwerp was called 3007, at Flushing.1733, Sottingen, also Navy 934 with the Yanks at LeHarve. It was now March 1945 and these Parties were about to be disbanded. We left Belgium via Ostend and landed at Tilbury in London and went to R.N.B.Portsmouth. This was now 31-3-45. We handed in all the Army kit got back our Blues and Hammocks and back in the Navy so to speak. It was also time for a spot of home leave. 14 Days of this duly arrived a week later. I had a very good leave,
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