- Contributed by
- Warwickshire Libraries Heritage and Trading Standards
- People in story:
- Lt Ken C Leach; Sgt 'Shino' Martin; Colonel Chaytor
- Location of story:
- Chester, the Midlands, Cornwall, Durban, Aden, Suez, Basra, Bagdad, Damascus, Kirkuk
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 10 May 2005
Lt Leach, Austria 1945
In February 1941 I was conscripted into the Royal Artillary and sent to Saigton Camp in Chester. I was trained on Bofor guns and made a Lance Bombadier. We went to various sites in the Midlands, then to the Army Gas School in Trygantle, Cornwell, were I was made Sergeant.
The 79th Lt A/A embarked in the Viceroy of India in 1941 for overseas service. We went to Durban then to Aden, Suez and Iran and Iraq: Basra, Bagdad, Damascus, Kirkuk, a tour of the Middle East one might say.
In 1942 we were at a huge British Aerodrome forming an armythat never fought, the 10th British. We thought the Germans might reach the Caucasus but they didn't. I was in the Seargeant's mess and the phone rang. It was the RSM, 'Shino' Martin. He said "Sgt Leach, you're catching the plane tomorrow 10 o'clock. Colonel Chaytor wants to see you." "Why?" I said. "You'll find out when you come down, and don't come in c**p order, either!" I caught the plane and went to HQ. The Colonel said "Sit down. Have a scotch. I'm sending you to OCTU." I wasn't expecting it.
I was ordered to OCTU at Acre in Palestine, a four months course, then down to Cairo for a conversion course to field artillery.
On a draft to Italy I joined the 61st Heavy Regiment, at that time in the US 5th Army - a change to different food. I was sent as liason officer to the US 10th Mountain Division, who were brilliant. The Regiment returned to the Eighth Army and final battles in Northern Italy.
It was VE Day but we didn't know what it meant, we hadn't heard about it. The war was over as far as we were concerned. South of Padua in Italy we pulled up at a huge farmhouse - it was really huge. A chap called Cararetto owned it. He said "you can use the threshing room floor for the men". 24 hours later he said "we're going to have a celebration - we'll have to have more wine". He offered us 10 bottles a man, but we decided 2 to 3 bottles would be enough! He invited the officers to dinner that night. We asked afterwards which fowl we'd been eating - he said he'd killed two peacocks! (He had about two dozen about the farm.) Lovely! In vita veritas - a few stories came out. A very good night.
At this point we became occupation troops in Austria. I got home leave after three and a half years abroad when I had the good fortune to get married to Eileen, a girl that I'd met on a gun site at Banbury in 1941. WE hadn't seen each other for three and a half years and we got married at Banbury Parish Church on 3rd September 1945. I was finally posted as Troop Commander in the Demonstation Battery in the School of Infantry.
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