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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
John Hulse
Location of story: 
Larkhill, Salisbury Plain
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
15 May 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Steven Turner a Peoples War Story gatherer with the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Action Desk. It was submitted at Duxford Museum during their VE celebrations on behalf of John Hulse and has been added to the site with his permission.He fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

"Some people say they were on active service during WW2 but I think I was on inactive! I was medically classified as A2 unfit for service and amongst things I was a store man in a signals store for some of the war, at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain. We used to say that “God made the world in six days and on the seventh he thought of Larkhill!”

When I registered for service I had had an operation for Peritonitis, I didn’t tell anyone. When I had my medical the medical officer passed me as an A2. I had problems with my eyesight anyway. The M.O took no notice of the scar left from my operation. Three weeks later he appeared again and we were asked to parade, chests bare. He saw the scar and asked what grade I was; “What bloody fool passed you as A2?” He asked. “You did Sir”; I replied!

I was the instigator of Operation Portals, which stands for “Presenting Old Railway Tickets at London and Salisbury”. A group of us worked out that we could go to Salisbury Station and buy a ticket to Amesbury or Andover and on the train we’d queue up for a handwriting expert who’d alter the Amesbury to Aylesbury and Andover to Wendover. It took a few months before the Railway got wise to it. We must’ve saved the railway thousands in collecting tickets!

As well as being at Larkhill we were posted to a place near Dover for a while and our job was to use equipment to plot the shells the Germans were firing across the channel and hopefully find the location of their guns. One day several of us had been to the cinema in Folkestone to see “Holiday Inn”. Even now I’m not happy in a thunderstorm, because when we left the cinema these shells started landing! They did a bit of damage to the town.

We did a lot of experimental work. On one exercise we were asked to go out into a field and ring a bell so that the scientists could use their equipment to work out where the sound was coming from. They called it a “Radio Direction Bearing” or R.D.B. Afterward, when we were debriefed, the Colonel pointed to me and enquired “what does R.D.B stand for? I replied “Ring dem bells”, which didn’t go down too well!"

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