- Contributed by
- Len (Snowie) Baynes
- People in story:
- Len (Snowie) Baynes
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- 23 October 2003
(This chapter is part of Len Baynes' book '
The Will to Live
', an account of his wartime experiences with the Cambridgeshire Regiment, his capture in Singapore, and the four years he spent as a prisoner of the Japanese.)
There was a long spell when the regiment saw little or no action, and I was getting bored. So when volunteers were asked for to serve in a special force, although not knowing what it entailed, I volunteered, and after a tough medical, was posted to 'No. 11 Independent Company', stationed in bell tents on The Dell Football Ground in Southampton.
We were told that Churchill had decided to form these highly mobile groups to land across the channel, sabotage enemy installations, and return safely (in theory).
The companies were issued with binoculars, compasses, and Thompson Sub Machine Guns, nicknamed Tommy Guns, (all then in very short supply), so there were not enough of these to go round. Captain (Bang Bang) Cannon was our platoon officer, and Corporal Baynes (me) his second in command.
Cannon was a 'wide boy', and several times he sent me out in the middle of the night with a couple of volunteers, to filch equipment from the next platoon, commanded by Capt. Hockey, also from Cambridge (later to be killed in action).
Eventually the penny dropped, and he was heard shouting in the officers' mess tent, something about "Snowie Baynes and his forty f****** thieves."
We trained hard during the daytime and after dark, being taught by the Royal Navy to row a whaleboat fast and silently, as these were the means we were going to use for our landings.
We eventually boarded a ship at Dover with our whaleboats, but before we could sail, we had to disembark, as it was thought Gerry was assembling a fleet to invade across the channel. We were reformed with other similar companies, and renamed No. 1 Commando; yes, the very first one.
Our commando moved into a hotel in Carbis Bay (near St. Ives), in Cornwall, to repel any German attack in that area. There were no sea defences, and we spent the first weeks filling sandbags, and carrying hundreds of them up onto the flat hotel roof, as well as making gun emplacements at ground level.
I was promoted to sergeant, and taught the men unarmed combat, and also weapon training.
After a couple of months the scare died down, and I was able, among other things, to play Rugby with the Redruth Miners Team. Before long, having been warned they were shortly going into action, Major Mapey of our Cambridgeshires sent for me, and I returned to my old regiment.
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