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Third Time Unlucky or Lucky?

by BBC Scotland

You are browsing in:

Archive List > World > France

Contributed by 
BBC Scotland
People in story: 
Albert Raymond Jones (BEM), Joe Colburn, Harry Edwards
Location of story: 
Normandy, France & Holland
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4389726
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Nadine from the People's war team on behalf of Albert Raymond Jones and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I joined the regular Army in 1942. We landed in France in 1944.

Having fought through France we entered the town of Gent in Belgium. Entering the narrow streets we came under heavy machine gun fire from houses. Orders came to clear the enemy from them. The third house we entered after throwing grenades we were about to climb the stairs, when a stick grenade rolled down the stairs to our feet, but failed to explode, how lucky we were.

The second incident weeks later, after crossing a canal we had to run across an open field to a wood about 200 yards away, during this dash across the field one of my grenades dropped from my belt, I heard the fuse detonator fire, knowing I had only four seconds before the grenade exploded. I ran for a few yards more and shouted “Grenade” as we were taught to do, and fell to the ground. Again, how lucky can one get? This grenade failed to explode; I could not believe we could be so lucky a second time.

The next incident was in Holland during our advance, and crossing many canals the last canal I think was the Waal, after crossing in canvas boats we came under heavy spondau machine gun fire and mortars. Our platoon was ordered to knock out these machine gun positions.
I was ordered to take the section bren gun with instructions to move up a ditch and out-flank the enemy gun and give covering fire when the platoon attacked. The bren gunner
Joe Colburn, Harry Edwards and myself crawled up the ditch to about 150 yards from the German position and was about to open fire when a shower of stick hand grenades landed amongst us. We did not know that German infantry was concealed behind a hedge near to the ditch we were in. The three of us were wounded and ended up in hospital, eventually being flown to Britain. I ended up in Lambert Military Hospital where I was operated on and remained in hospital for 5 months.

A very interesting note about fate, prior to the afore mentioned attack, during a rest period I wrote to my girlfriend Catherine Don of Glasgow asking her if she would marry me the first time I got leave, knowing it would be a long time before any leave would be granted. The next day as fate would have it, I was wounded in action. Catherine came to visit me in hospital, and reminded me that I had proposed in my letter. I was so pleased she said yes!

So my third encounter with grenades was lucky after all. Catherine and I have been married now for 60 years and have celebrated our Diamond Wedding with our family. My good friend Joe Colburn (my section Bren gunner who was wounded with me), I traced after 50 years, he now lives with his wife in Birmingham. We now contact each other every Sunday. I have many interesting stories to tell, some good and a lot of bad memories.

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