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15 October 2014
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My Lucky War Career in the Grenadier Guards.

by derbycsv

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
John Richards
Location of story: 
Ilkeston and various barracks in the UK
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by louise Angell of the CSV Action desk at BBC Radio Derby on behalf of John Richards. The author understands the sites terms and conditions.

I was born on the 19th May, 1926. I was 13 in September 1939 and at school in Ilkeston. We'd been off for the school holidays and were supposed to be going back but we didn't actually return until January 1940 because it took time for shelters to be built for staff and pupils. As a result we had to go and pick up our work each week and drop it off to ber marked.

I left school in March 1941 and worked in the office of the headquarters of the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Electric Power Co. I was just under 15 by this time and was roped in to do firewatch duty at night. I was taken off after a while as I was really too young to be doing it, but I returned to it when I turned 16.

I remember Stanton Ironworks being a target for bombing and being able to see the balloon barrage over Derby and Rolls Royce. There was some sporadic bombing but we were lucky really although we could hear the remnants of the anti aircraft shells as they fell on the roof.

In 1944 I was old enough to enlist. I had a medical at the Assembly Rooms in Derby and all the paperwork was dealt with before my 18th birthday but I didn't get sent off straight away. On 13th July I received my call up notice and had 7 days notice to report to the guards depot, Caterham, Surrey to go into the Grenadier Guards, eventhough I'd asked to be in the navy. I think they decided to put me in the guards as I was tall.

The guards regiment had expanded to twice their size because all of the volunteers. There were 6 battalions in all.

I set off and it was the first time I'd ever been to London and met others in the same situation on the train down there. it was also my first experience on the underground though we got help from the porters. Whilst waiting on the platform in London for a train to Surrey we heard explosions and were told it was the doodlebugs falling on London.

Eventually I arrived at the barracks. The guards chapel in London had taken a direct hit causing a lot of casualties and as a result we weren't allowed to assemble together. We had to collect our food from the canteen and take it back to our billets where they'd set up some trestle tables. it went on like that for 8 weeks as we were right under the flight path for German planes going to London.

I was there training for 3 months and then went on to Victoria barracks, Windsor for another 3 months training. After that I was drafted to Stobs military camp in Scotland. It was like the Arctic there - snow, ice and no running water because it was all frozen. I was there until September and we had Irish guards there too.

During the first week of May 1945 we were on exercises camping at St. Marys Lock. We only spent a night there as the sergeant came and told us to go back to base as VE Day ahd ome and the was in Europe had ended.

We were told that the King and Queen were going to come to Edinburgh for a thanksgiving service and we provided the guard all along Princes Street. We marched up there from Leith in the drizzle. I saw the cavalcade and had my first sighting of the King, Queen and Princesses, though I would see them many times after that.

Our third batallion returned from Italy after suffering casualties and I joined them as they reformed and made ready for the war in the far east. I was still in training when VJ Day came so that was the end of WW2 for me! I had been very lucky not to have seen active service.

I came home from the regiment two years later at Christmas 1947 having spent two years in Palestine.

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