- Contributed by
- Huddersfield Local Studies Library
- People in story:
- Mr. E. S. Boocock
- Location of story:
- Malta, Belgium
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 22 April 2004
This story was submitted to the People's War site by Sarah Harding of Kirklees Libraries on behalf of Mr. Boocock and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
December 1943. A batch of young recruits came out to Malta to replace us. On Christmas morning the weather was good, the sun was shining but it was windy. Two of them thought it would be lovely to go down to the sea and swim on Christmas Day. Eventually we agreed and took them down. I dived into deep water and swam away from the rocks, my friend followed and we called for the other young fellows to follow. One jumped into 20 feet of deep water and could not swim. He was obviously in trouble so my friend and I got behind him and a big wave lifted all three of us onto the rocks injuring our knees and elbows. We all recovered.
Our designers produced a very fast reconnaissance aircraft which could not be detected by Radar. It had two Merlin engines but the wings and engines were built entirely of wood and it had to land very gently. He flew from England over Europe, did a reconnaissance at Turin and landed in Malta 4 hours 20 minutes after take off. However he arrived during an air raid and tried to get down quickly. He did not get it just right and crashed at the near end of the runway.
When we arrived at an aerodrome over Brussels I had not had a good bath or shower in warm water for over ten weeks. A local lady offered to do washing for us for which we paid. I asked if I could have a bath without realising she did not have a bathroom but she said "Yes of course". She put a large bowl of water on a wood burning stove, gave me something to eat and when the water was warm she went out of the house and left me to get bathed. Nothing was too much trouble.
Two days later one of the Belgian resistance contacted us, he was still armed and left us in no doubt that he would still use them if he saw any Germans around. He took me home, gave me a good meal, took me to a show in Brussels and gave me a copy of the Porquoi Pas supplement. He left me in no doubt which side he was with.
I was in contact with a laundry which was doing washing for our section. They put cold water in their bath and turned steam into it from the laundry until it was warm enough for me and left me to get bathed.
Our next move was to Eindhoven to support the drive towards the Arnhem Bridge. British forces were allowed to use Phillips sports centre. Some of our army used to have a shower and take a running dive into the swimming pool. One of them went a second time, had his shower and took his running dive into the swimming pool. He found that Phillips had drained all the water off and he was severely injured.
Before I left Malta the big ships of the remaining Italian Navy surrendered, protecting mines in Malta coves were blown up to provide safe anchorage for these ships when they sailed into Malta. Many fish were killed and were collected by boat. We all had fresh fish that day.
December 1944. Eindhoven. The only tools we had apart from those we had been provided with to service the aircraft were those presented to us by the Germans.
We found a petrol generator which the Germans had used for charging aircraft batteries, and put electric light in our tents.
I found a large heavy steel case which the Germans had dropped containing about 50 anti-personnel bombs which were distributed over a wide area by explosive during flight. They did not go off on landing but were lethal to touch as they lay on the ground.
I found one of the steel cases and used it as the basis for constructing a slow combustion stove.I put sheet steel around its intended position and used a German bazooka as a chimney. We kept the stove smouldering all night and were quite warm in spite of the freezing weather.
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