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15 October 2014
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My WWII Experiences: In the Suffolk Regiment

by EDWARD GRAY

Contributed by 
EDWARD GRAY
People in story: 
EDWARD GRAY
Location of story: 
FRANCE
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A2357921
Contributed on: 
27 February 2004

THIS THE STORY OF EDWARD GRAY

I joined the army when I was 18 years old and went into the Suffolk regiment. I decided that the army had to better than living at home where arguments were common place.
We went to France with the British Expeditionary forces and headed by train to the Maginot line, close to the Belgium border and staying near Le Mans.
The Germans came through the lines at the border, so we assembled all our transport and I ended up driving a water carrier.
We headed back to Dunkirk but I got left behind, as my vehicle was slower than the rest, and was stopped by an officer from a Scottish lowland regiment, who demanded that my vehicle go to his detachment as they needed water.
I responded that I had to go to the beaches but he pointed a revolver at my head and said I had to go or else, so I went.
When I got there I lined up for some food but they would not give me any, probably because I was carrying corned beef on the carrier, so I went off and slept, being dog tired, and when I woke up they had all gone . I was alone.
By this time bullets were whistling overhead so I proceeded to head for Dunkirk where, on approaching, I was stopped by Redcaps who told me to push my vehicle off the road and smash up the engine.
I responded that I could not do that as I had to take water to the men on the beaches and so they let me go on.
I headed for the beach and on arriving, parked on top of some sand dunes where I dug a slit trench under the water cart.
I had the corned beef so was able to give some food to the soldiers around me.
Enemy planes were flying overhead firing at the soldiers who were queuing up, waiting for boats to take them out to sea, so I decided to try something else.
I waited three days and made several attempts to swim out to boats but each time I reached a float, other soldiers attempted to get on and the float could not hold the weight.
I decided that the only way I could get out to a boat was to swim so I waited until the tide was on the turn and then walked out as far as I could go.
I saw a destroyer which I thought I could reach, even though it was quite a distance, and swam out to it, where they took me aboard and told me to go down to the hold and being the only one down, I felt a little nervous.
I was exhausted and slept like a baby and when I woke up I saw that somebody had kindly thrown a great coat over me.
I went up on deck and there was nobody about and I realised that the ship had docked and we were in Southampton.
It was then that some W.I. ladies gave me clothing and an odd pair of boots.
After that, I was taken by train to a camp near Swindon and then to a transit camp where my regiment sent a vehicle to collect me.
We then prepared for D.Day and in due course went over again to France in one of the first assault waves.
I was in a landing craft and drove off in a track vehicle which was towing a six pounder anti tank gun.
We proceeded to the outskirts of Caen and on the way advanced on a German fortification but whilst crossing a field, we hit a landmine which blew up our carrier, setting it on fire.
This caused a container of six pounder shells to fall on my head, but fortunately I was wearing a steel helmet and managed to force the container off and jump clear.
The three soldiers who were with me had just vanished, but the six pounder gun was still attached to the burning carrier.
I did my best to try and detach it but I could not do it without help so I went back to join my Company where the Sgt. Major was very surprised to see me as I had been reported dead.
The regiment advanced to the outskirts of Caen where we came to a valley with the Germans on one side and the British on the other.
I was sharing a slit trench with a young lad who was very nervous, so when we had to collect our food from the cookhouse on the hill behind us, I went up to collect both our meals.
I had my meal there and was carrying back the lad's, walking past trenches which had previously been occupied by the Germans, when firing started on the ground all around me.
I looked around for cover and jumped into a trench which, unfortunately for me, had been used as a latrine by the Germans.
I went back to the Sgt. Major, who held his nose and told me to report to the Medical section from where I was taken to a shower unit and given new clothes and three days rest.
After that I rejoined my unit and we advanced towards Falais where I was taken ill and had to be sent back to England for an operation.
When I had recovered, I went back to my depot and in due course joined the Parachute regiment going to the far east via India.
On arrival at Port Swettenham in Malaya , we learnt that the Japanese were on the verge of surrendering so we went on to Singapore and were there when Mountbatten took the surrender.
I remained in the army for another thirty odd years.

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