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Into Action: Royal Artillery in North Africa

by Mostyn Harris

Contributed by 
Mostyn Harris
People in story: 
Mostyn Harris
Location of story: 
North Africa
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
05 March 2004


We boarded a blacked-out train and were soon on our way. Rumours of our destination were rife. We had recently returned from embarkation leave, so we knew was we on our way somewhere abroad, but none knew where our ultimate destination would be.

We eventually arrived at Liverpool and boarded the Troopship. There was much ribald humour as people tried to climb into bunks and toppled out again! But underneath this coarse joking was a feeling of anxiety mixed with excitement. For many days and nights the ship stood off Liverpool. I would stand at the ship’s rail and look longingly at the dockside buildings; “I could swim that,” I thought," So near and yet so far away!”

We soon settled into the routine of the ship, the incessant lifeboat drills, the card playing, “Crown and Anchor“, “Brag”, the long periods of silent contemplation. The knots of card playing schools would occasionally erupt into angry exchanges or fights. I found that one could be alone in a crowd. For none could intrude on my private thoughts.

At long last there was a flurry of activity on the decks, we on our way to join the convoy! The ship throbbed with excitement and foreboding.

We made our way through the Bay of Biscay, where some of the men were very seasick. The floors of the toilets on the ship were so slippery where people had been sick. It was enough to turn the strongest stomachs!

We eventually transferred to Landing Craft for our entry to North Africa and we landed in Algiers. The next time we would board LCPs would be to cross the Med in order to invade Italy.

After landing there was much activity as we prepared for action. The guns were made ready and dug in.
For the first time in our young lives we experienced the terror of being shelled. I tried to outwardly appear calm and collected while inside I said silent prayers.

We went off in a jeep to set up an Observation Post and look for targets. We set up the OP in an olive grove and when we found the targets, we could not send the fire orders back to the guns. There was no sulphuric acid in the wireless batteries! Someone had forgotten to fill the batteries, so we could not communicate with guns!

I felt a massive feeling of disappointment. But this would to be the first and last time I would feel disappointed at not being able to engage with the enemy in the battles which were to follow.


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