- Contributed by
- Stockport Libraries
- People in story:
- Harry Blood
- Location of story:
- Stockport, Aldershot, Halifax
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 23 June 2004
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Elizabeth Perez of Stockport Libraries on behalf of Mary Blood, Harry’s widow, and has been added to the site with her permission. She fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
From his call-up into the Army in January 1941 until his ‘demob’, Harry Blood kept a diary. It followed his early progress from Glasgow to Egypt, around the Cape of Good Hope, through the Western Desert to Sicily and Italy. Near the end of his service and his diaries, he had a chance meeting with W.A.A.F. Corporal Mary Pettit at a tram stop in Brussels. Not lacking in graphic and humourous descriptions, there came a happy ending as he and Mary married not long after, having a long and happy marriage. Only minimal editing has been done to exclude one or two brief entries which contained little of interest.
“It begins in June 1940 when I became 20 years old. At the end of that week I received a letter telling me to go for a medical exam at Pendlebury Hall, Stockport. It was not until late December 1940, when I got a note telling me to report to Buller Barracks, Aldershot. Accompanying it was a printed form with a picture of King George VI, saying, ‘Welcome to His Majesty’s Army.’ and stating ‘You are about to become a soldier. This will mean a big change in your life’. They were certainly not joking! Along with many others, it was my first experience of anything like Army life and we found we had to change our attitudes very quickly to adapt to it. It was like a new world to us.
I remember arriving at Aldershot Station on 9th January 1941, being formed up by an N.C.O., and marched, or rather straggled, to Buller Barracks. We were in one of the old barrack blocks there and we were soon kitted out. Each morning anyone wanting to go sick had to parade even earlier than the rest!
On our second day we were allowed out in the evening. I went and, walking down the road, was stopped by an M.P. who asked if I knew I was improperly dressed. I thought I’d left my trousers off, but was informed that the bottom button of my greatcoat was undone. ‘How long have you been in the army?’ asked the M.P. ‘T-t-two days, sir’, said I. ‘Oh, God, you’ll learn’, said he. I did! I never left the Barracks in Aldershot again. I stayed in every evening spitting and polishing ready for the morning’s square-bashing.
On rifle drill, several of us were not smart enough for the sergeant, who watched each individual go through it individually. Luckily I seemed to satisfy him (some of the others took longer), for he said ‘That’s better, I’ll make a soldier of you yet!’ Poor chap, he was good, but rather an optimist – he didn’t have me long enough!
For our first four weeks we were marching, drilling, weapon training, route marching with full packs, etc. It was bitterly cold and halts for hot cocoa were very welcome! There were inspections, fatigues, church parades, gas alerts during which gas masks had to be worn.
Our second four weeks we were training in the Supply Depot, including some heavy work loading lorries and railway vans. We went out into the country as well to deliver foodstuffs, meat, flour, and bread to various units, having first collected it from the Supply Depots, bakeries, etc.
That done, we got 7 days home leave. Shortly after we moved by train to Horton, Bradford for a few days, then to an old mill in Halifax from where we were given 7 days embarkation leave. My people were astonished to see me back again so soon. It would be well over four years before they saw me again. Back at Halifax we were kitted out with tropical kit.
I was the one who had the job of stencilling names and numbers on our kitbags. The Draft letters ‘RHAKO’ are stencilled on my memory – almost as much as my Army number!
I was now Private Blood, H. S/243218 Royal Army Service Corps.”
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