BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

Contributed by 
Marine117570 Arthur Hill
People in story: 
Arthur Hill
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
15 November 2003

Talk about lonely, I was the only one. The train arrived at Lympstone Royal Marine Training Depot, and I was the only one not in uniform to get off the train. I walked into the guardhouse and asked where should I report, and the response was,

“What the bloody hell are you doing here? Nobody comes here this week, its the blank between intakes.”

“Right” I said,”I'll be off home then”.

“Oh no you won't! We've got you and we'll keep you.” And that is how I spent a week in civvies, surrounded by thousands of uniforms, and not a soul to talk to, except the cook, who felt sorry for me, and kept feeding me with bowls of char.

The following week, my intake arrived, and the Colour Sergeant in charge said to me,

“You know your way round, so you can lead them”. Lead them? I couldn't even understand them, not one of them came from south of the Humber, most seemed to be from the borders of Scotland. All week I had been parading around in sports jacket and grey flannels, and having at last been issued with a uniform, I tried putting everything on. Never been so overdressed in my life. The flannels, (underwear) were universal, and big enough for two, the shirt seemed to be lined with sandpaper, and the khaki was stiff enough to stand on its own.

And the BOOTS! I'd never worn boots, and these were like the iron boots out of the torture chamber. In the following six weeks of drill, they rubbed a raw ring around my ankles, and when it came to slow march, the pain was excruciating. By this time we were regarded as fit to be seen in uniform, and were allowed outside the camp, but not far, no leave. Carrie and I had been engaged since the last November, and in a letter home, I thought that as my first leave would be Easter, perhaps that would be as good a time as any to tie the knot.

From that moment on, events were out of my hands entirely. My mum and Carrie started planning immediately, and it took off from there.

Meanwhile, our training had taken on a new aspect, in the field. We were moved to Dulditch, an area that had been shunned by all the other services, as fit for nothing, except perhaps, as a decoy airfield. It rained, we were under canvas, and the whole site was a quagmire, ankle deep in thick red Devon mud. All night long there was a continuously renewed queue at the latrines. In the mornings, a shut-up-pill, and at night an open-again pill. Somewhere in between the sun shone, and we got some intensive field craft training, sometimes up to 20 hour stretches, and when we slept, it was total.

One night, after getting a couple of bottles, one of the blokes flopped out on his back, snoring like a pig. After throwing anything loose at him without result, we decided that more drastic action was needed. So we all surrounded his bed, a hand each, and carried him two miles down the road to the sewerage farm, dumped him by the pond, and left him to sleep it off. He turned up on parade in the morning looking like he had had a good night, though he was still a bit whiffy. The rest of us had also had a good night’s sleep, so who's complaining!
On the last day of the course, we were out on pre-dawn patrol, followed by yet another mock battle. Mid-afternoon we were gathered together for an analysis of the day's mistakes. That is when I took the opportunity to remind the officer in charge that I was off to be married in the morning, and had been granted leave to go a day early.

“Good luck” he said, “you'll have to find your own way back, you'll find your leave pass and ticket in the company office”.

So there I was again, on my own, doing a mad dash. Tickets, best uniform out of a kitbag, local station to Exeter. Now, there are two mainline stations, and as I'd never been this way before, I picked the nearest, St. David’s. Big mistake! Not a direct line; change at Bristol, and having got there, found that there was no train due for another two hours. And that was stopping at all stations.

So that is my excuse for not turning up for my wedding until 10:00 a.m. on the day, looking scruffy. But I did make the Kensington Registry Office on time.

All's well that ends well.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

Love in Wartime Category
Royal Navy Category
Devon Category
London Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy